My friends, we go together

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My friends, we go together

I could not be more pleased to hear that the United States Ambassador to South Korea, Mark W. Lippert, is in stable condition after being attacked by a knife-wielding man. Despite the traumatic ordeal, Ambassador Lippert displayed extraordinary grace and professionalism by tweeting: “Doing well&in great spirits! Robyn, Sejun, Grigsby & I - deeply moved by the support! Will be back ASAP to advance U.S.-ROK alliance! Gachigapsida! (Let’s go together!)”

While I am disconcerted by the atrocious attack on our ambassador, I know that every society has its ills and the assailant does not represent the South Korean people. The United States and the Republic of Korea share an unyielding bond that spawns decades of mutual interest and respect. This understanding is deeply rooted in our unbreakable bloodshed alliance strengthened since the Korean War.

I almost died on November 30, 1950, in the battle of Kunuri, in which ninety percent of my unit was killed. About two million Americans served over the course of three years, with at least 54,000 killed, 100,000 wounded and more than 8,000 missing or captured. At the time, most of us had no idea where Korea was and for what we were fighting - my comrades and I today are proud that the Republic of Korea has made to become a shining example of one of the most successful democracies in the world.

South Korea has emerged from the ashes of war into a vibrant democracy, a dynamic economy, and a true world leader in the 21st century. Seoul’s skyscrapers, booming businesses and rising apartment buildings are a testament to the resiliency and determination of the Korean people. The United States remains steadfast in solidifying our friendship, as we stand strong together against global threats and continue to work on enhancing our economic and cultural ties.

However, the grotesque attack on Ambassador Lippert is a reminder that we have unfinished work to do. It is tragic that the two Koreas still remain divided and the 38th parallel separates more than ten million Korean families, including hundreds of thousands of Korean Americans, who have never seen their loved ones since the Korean War. There is great pain that has lingered for more than sixty years. My resolution in Congress to encourage reunions of divided Korean American families is my effort to help heal some wounds and foster reconciliation in the Peninsula.

I have been in Congress since 1971 and have been a longtime advocate of Korea, fighting for the KORUS FTA in 2007 when I was Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. I am proud that in 2010 President Barack Obama signed my bill (H.J.Res.86) recognizing the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War and reaffirming the U.S.-Korea Alliance; in 2013 both the House and Senate passed my bill (H.Con.Res.41) encouraging peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.

As we mark the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence, there is no doubt that the United States and the Republic of Korea will continue our close partnership as we recommit to promote peace in Korea. I am honored to have been a part of this great country’s story and seen it blossom into a world superpower and one of our closest allies. I love Korea and the Korean people. My friends: “We Go Together.”

The author is serving his 23rd term in U.S. Congress, representing New York’s 13th congressional district, which includes Harlem and the Bronx. He is a decorated Korean War veteran with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.

by Charles B. Rangel

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