Obama could speak at Korean War memorial

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Obama could speak at Korean War memorial

President Barack Obama is expected to speak at an event in Washington next Saturday commemorating the 60th anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Should Obama attend, he would be the first sitting U.S. president to take part in a Korean War armistice ceremony.

Obama has issued a statement annually on the anniversary of the Korean War armistice since taking office in 2009. If Obama does not attend the ceremony due to his schedule, Vice President Joe Biden is expected to take his place.

Senior U.S. military officials, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, South Korean leaders and thousands of veterans from all branches of the military will participate in the ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on July 27.

President Park Geun-hye will send a delegation of veterans’ affairs, foreign affairs and defense officials from Korea to attend the Washington ceremony, led by special envoy Kim Jung-hoon, Saenuri Party representative and chair of the National Assembly’s National Policy Committee, according to the Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.

Kim plans to host a luncheon for some 500 Korean and American war veterans after the ceremony, including retired U.S. four-star general and former commander of United Nations, Walter Sharp.

Paik Sun-yup, the 92-year-old Korean War hero and oldest living Korean four-star general, will also attend the ceremony.

Some 1.8 million Americans soldiers served in the Korean War according to the Korean government, the largest number of troops by any South Korean ally.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was opened in 1995 to honor those who served in the Korean War, including the 36,940 U.S. troops killed in action, 3,737 mission in action and 92,123 wounded.

The ceremony on Saturday will include a laying of wreaths, paying special tributes and recognizing United Nations allies who provided combat troops and medical support, according to the Korean War Committee. Sources say that the U.S. government has allocated upward of $2 million for the ceremony.

Colonel David Clark, chair of the Korean War Committee, said in a statement earlier this month that the Saturday event, “will be the highlight of a week of activities planned for Korean War Veterans” by the Pentagon in Washington.

These events also include the U.S. Army’s Twilight Tattoo, an outdoors military pageant on Wednesday, a U.S. Marine Corps’ Evening Parade, a performance of a play titled “Unforgettable: Letters from Korea” based on letters written by infantry platoon leader during the war and a dedication ceremony on Friday for a memorial statue to Staff Sgt. Reckless, a Mongolian mare that served in the U.S. Marine Corps and eventually was awarded two Purple Hearts.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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