History becomes ‘alive’ in book on Korean War

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History becomes ‘alive’ in book on Korean War

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At a press event held at the British Embassy in Jung District, central Seoul, on Friday, author Andrew Salmon, left, holds his books about the 1950-53 Korean War. British Ambassador Charles Hay is pictured right. By Park Sang-moon

British Ambassador Charles Hay welcomed the release of the Korean translation of “Scorched Earth, Black Snow: Britain and Australia in the Korean War, 1950” on Friday at the British Embassy in Jung District, central Seoul, expressing optimism that the book will help boost public awareness here and in the United Kingdom of a battle he suggests is being forgotten.

“When we look back over the relationship of the U.K. and Korea since the establishment of diplomatic relations, one of the most important events is the U.K. contribution in the [1950-53] Korean War,” said Hay.

“Unfortunately, as global history developed, the Korean War tends to be largely overlooked in the U.K.,” continued Hay, adding that the phenomenon seems “very strange” to witness from a country where it is deemed such an important part of history.

Hay, who served for five years in the British Army, commended the author of the 735-page book for bringing the war “alive” through personal interviews with British and Australian soldiers who took part in the three-year battle, saying the record of those memories seemed to have “captured the reality.”

In a press conference organized by the British Embassy, the author of the book, a freelance journalist from the United Kingdom named Andrew Salmon, recalled the 93 interviews he conducted over two years with British, Korean, U.S. and Australian survivors.

“Many of them have never spoken about the war before,” said Salmon, who covers the Korean Peninsula for media outlets including Al Jazeera, the Daily Telegraph, Forbes, and the South China Morning Post.

“They were very tough guys, [but during the interviews] got very excited,” so much that one sent his coffee flying across the table while narrating his dramatic moments on the battlefield.

“After I finished talking to him, his wife came up to me and said she wouldn’t be sleeping that night. I asked her, ‘Why not?’ And she answered: ‘He’ll be punching and kicking me all night [in his dreams].’”

In providing a translated version of a book that was originally published in English in 2011, Salmon hinted about his anticipation for the compilation to recover memories of that period, and to remind locals that the 1910-45 Japanese colonial period shouldn’t overshadow the historical significance of the Korean War.

Far more people were killed during the three-year war than in the 35 years under Japanese colonialism, but Koreans tend to focus more on the latter period because it seems to be used to instill nationalism, the author claimed.

“The Korean War isn’t a convenient vehicle for national identity because it was a national war between the North and the South,” he said.

“Scorched Earth, Black Snow” is a prequel to Salmon’s first publication, “To the Last Round: The Epic British Stand on the Imjin River, Korea, 1951,” which was originally published in London in 2009 and translated into Korean the year after.

“To the Last Round” was chosen by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 10 books on Korea in 2010, and won the inaugural Hampshire Libraries Special Collections Award for The Best Military Book of 2009.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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