Blood, sweat and tearsThe Korean War broke out 70 years ago today. The 37-month war left 2.5 million South Koreans dead or injured, including 137,000 soldiers killed, until the Armistice in July 1953. Some 10 million members of families were separated. The Korean Peninsula was devastated. In the seven decades since, South Korea achieved rags-to-riches development through industrialization. Our people must not forget that those accomplishments were possible owing to much blood, sweat and tears.
However, a joint survey by the JoongAng Ilbo, the 70th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee and the Korean Political Science Association shows that a growing number of people are shockingly ignorant. Asked who was most responsible for the war, only 44.1 percent of respondents in their 20s singled out North Korea. Only 35.7 percent of all respondents knew exactly when the war broke out.
On top of that, many people have forgotten the grim reality of South and North Korea confronting each other across the 155-mile border. Over the past seven decades, a countless number of dialogues and efforts at cooperation took place between them — some quite successful. But a chain of recent incidents shows that such accomplishments can turn into a house of cards at any time.
A slackening sense of security leads to a weakening defense posture, as seen in the fatal dearth of discipline in our military. Most of the responsibility falls on the Moon Jae-in administration’s confusing North Korea policy. The government has persistently turned a blind eye to the North’s endless provocations. It is overly engrossed in getting legislative approval for the Panmunjom Declaration between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. In the meantime, North Korea has reneged on the declaration, scrapped the Sept. 19, 2018 military agreement, and demolished the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong.
The government and military seem shell shocked. Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said the destruction of the inter-Korean office did not violate the military agreement, showing his unique aloofness even after the detonation of a building that cost us 17 billion won ($14 million). In a farcical turn, Rep. Song Young-gil, new chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, said he was glad the building had not been destroyed by guns.
George Washington famously said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” That’s the lesson we must learn from the Korea War. There is no free ride in keeping peace. We hope the government and Defense Ministry deeply reflect on the lesson of 70 years ago.