Moon commemorates alliance with visit to memorial for Korean War battle
The new South Korean leader arrived in Washington earlier in the day for his first summit meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump later in the week.
Following his arrival, Moon and his wife Kim Jung-sook headed directly to the recently revealed memorial for the Jangjin Lake Campaign in Quantico, Virginia.
The 1950 battle around Jangjin Lake was what had temporarily stopped an eventual southward advance of North Korean and Chinese forces, allowing some 100,000 civilians, including Moon's own parents, to evacuate from what is now Hungnam, North Korea.
The battle is considered to be one of the fiercest in the 1950-53 Korean War.
"Numerous people were able to start a new life thanks to the Hungnam Evacuation, and those people included my parents," Moon said in his memorial day speech on Saturday.
After laying a wreath before the memorial, the South Korean president said his country will not forget what many U.S. troops did for a country they did not know and also people they did not know.
"The Republic of Korea remembers your and your parents' sacrifice and dedication. Its memory of gratitude and respect will continue forever," he said, referring to South Korea by its official name.
Moon was accompanied by many Korean War veterans and their descendants, including those who took part in the Jangjin Lake Campaign and the 1950 evacuation, code-named Christmas Cargo.
Briefly touching on his family's memory of the emotional event, the South Korean president said his mother used to tell him that American troops had handed out candies as Christmas gifts to some 14,000 Korean refugees aboard the Meredith Victory, a merchant marine ship.
The ship arrived on what is now South Korea's Geoje Island at the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula on Dec. 25, 1950.
"Two years later, I was born on Geoje Island, where the Victory had let the people off," Moon said.
"Without the success of the Hungnam Evacuation, my life would not have started. I, as I am today, would not have been," he added.
Moon's visit to the memorial apparently sought to highlight the importance of the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
South Korean officials from Cheong Wa Dae said one of the most important agenda items for Moon's upcoming talks with his U.S. counterpart was to develop the alliance into a "greater" one.
The Korea-U.S. alliance was forged in blood under the fire of the war. It is not a mere promise made with a signature on a few pieces of paper. Also, as it is to my life, the Korea-U.S. alliance is strongly connected to each and every one of the people in our two countries," Moon said.
The South Korean president was also set to pay a visit to the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington during his four-day stay here.
The United States deployed some 480,000 troops to Korea during the Korean War, making up the largest part of the 16-nation United Nations Command that fought in defense of South Korea.
The U.S. continues to maintain 28,500 troops in South Korea as part of a joint deterrence against communist North Korea.