Youths take lead on recalling warWars of the past are recorded as tragedies. However, the next generation might not necessarily remember them as tragedies. When you get over a tragedy, it is no longer tragic.
It was busy in Washington, D.C., as the 60th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War was celebrated. In June, about a month before the event, third-generation descendents of Korean War veterans visited Washington from all over the world. Five students from Cheongshim International Academy were members of a student group named the Forgotten No Longer Project.
The students brought an English-language booklet they created based on interviews with South Korean veterans to their meeting with Maj. Guillermo Canedo, a member of the Pentagon’s Korean War Commemoration Committee. The group has been working nonstop to make sure the war is not forgotten. Lee Kyung-eun, one of the students, said that the war is a part of Korean history that should never be forgotten. Canedo was impressed that students are publicizing the war, a war their parents’ generation often fail to remember.
The veterans’ descendants met at a hotel near Washington on July 25, two days before the commemoration event. Twenty-six grandchildren of American, Thai and Ethiopian veterans launched the Youth Volunteer Corps of the Descendants of Korean War Veterans. Dayne Weber, a granddaughter of retired Col. William Weber, who lost his arm and leg in the war, is heading the group. Weber said you can’t learn about the Korean War from textbooks and she’d like to publicize what the war was about and how Korea achieved its model growth.
Just as the nickname Forgotten War suggests, American history textbooks do not cover the Korean War in depth, as it occurred between World War II and the Vietnam War. While the Vietnam War is explained over six to seven pages, the Korean War is described in several sentences. It tersely explains that war broke out, Chinese forces got involved and the Allied Forces drove away Communists.
I was deeply impressed by the initiatives of the Cheongshim International Academy students and Weber. The Korean War has become a thing of the past. But the younger generations don’t remember the Korean War as just history. Unlike the older generations, they don’t just talk about the tragedy of war; they include the history of accomplishments. Their grandparents’ and parents’ generations may have felt rather awkward when dealing with pro- and anti-American sentiments. But the grandchildren openly express their appreciation and put their arms around each other.
When one side unilaterally gives or receives in an alliance, the relationship often becomes uncomfortable. That’s how the Korea-U.S. alliance had been viewed by the older generations.
However, that has changed. As I covered the 60th anniversary of the armistice, it was refreshingly surprising to discover the confidence of the grandchildren generation.
*The author is the JoongAng Ilbo Washington bureau chief.
by PARK SUNG-HEE