Remembering the warToday marks the 65th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, which began with North Korea’s surprise attack on the South at 4 a.m. on June 25, 1950. The North’s aggression led to one of the saddest tragedies of the world. The war literally devastated the entire Korean Peninsula with more than 3 million people, military and civilian, dead on both sides until the armistice took effect on July 27, 1953.
South Korea, a hopeless country at the time of the truce - with its gross national product (GNP) reaching a meager $1.3 billion and per capita income hitting only $67 - has since joined the ranks of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the global club of advanced economies, with its $1.4 trillion GNP and $28,000 per capita income. The country, which fell into an abyss of despair six decades ago, has emerged as an exemplary model for development after working out an economic miracle and political democratization at the same time. The remarkable transition is credited to the blood, sweat and tears of our older generations.
However, it is deplorable that such a proud history of hard work, devotion to principles and the memories of war are being forgotten by our young generation. In a survey by Job Korea covering 1,193 males and females over the age of 20, 45.7 percent of the respondents in their 20s said the war began with the South’s invasion. The results of another survey by Gallup Korea also confound us: 36 percent of 1,000 Korean adults didn’t really know when the war broke out.
Under such embarrassing circumstances, North Korea Wednesday denounced the governments of South Korea and the United States for “provoking the war.” The Rodong Sinmun, the North’s mouthpiece and the newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea, argued in an editorial that the Korean War, which was triggered by “a South Korean puppet regime under the aegis of Uncle Sam,” was the most barbaric and unprecedented act of aggression in humankind’s history. Our young generation’s misperceptions of the war also stem from a lopsided history education promoted by misguided ideologues in the South.
No doubt our history must not regress because of a paranoiac focus with the war. Yet we must not forget its hard-earned lessons. The surprise MERS attack further deepens our economic slowdown. We must remember all the pain of the war to overcome the indelible scars and achieve reunification. It is time to wage a war on obliviousness.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 25, Page 30