It’s unbelievable that sixty years ago, on June 25, 1950, the Korean War erupted. On June 27, 1950, President Truman ordered US air and sea forces to help the South Korean régime. And on June 27, 1950, the UN Security Council published Resolution 83 recommending member state military assistance to the Republic of Korea.
This, indeed, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Every time I meet a Korean War Veteran I’m told something I can hardly believe. Over and over again, Korean War Veterans tell me that Korea is the only country that appreciates their efforts, or least continues to express its gratitude year after year. While I know your sacrifices are deeply appreciated around the globe, I can only speak for Korea. Please understand that when we express our gratitude every year, we do it with heavy hearts. We do it knowing that we would not be here today without your sacrifices. We do it because we know you lost something precious when you came to a country you knew so little about.
A soldier who must fight for freedom and democracy carries a burden like no other; he is subject to the evils of war, the unknown, violence and despair. Despite the terrible hardships he does his best to stay on course and pursue the ultimate goal.
Korea is an awesome example of that effort–the fruits of the soldiers’ blood, sweat and toil. We thank you every year not because we can, but because we must. It is in our hearts and minds to be grateful for all you have done. It is who we are.
We Koreans have the highest respect and admiration for American soldiers. As it is engraved on the base of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, the Korean War was a battle in which America’s “sons and daughters answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”
Although the cost of defending freedom and peace was great, the sacrifice was not in vain; you inspired the struggle for the realization of freedom worldwide.
Firmly based on the alliance and friendship, Korea-US relations have come a long way since the days of the Korean War. Korea’s rapid economic growth has been made possible by US assistance and open markets. The United States has also been a source of inspiration for the growth of democratic values and market principles in Korea. Now, Korea and the United States are major trading partners and like-minded devotees of democracy and market economy. All of this progress would not have been possible without the help of the United States during and after the Korean War.
Without the dedicated sacrifices of the Korean War veterans, who came to my country sixty years ago, South Korea would not have achieved the economic prosperity we are enjoying today. As you may have heard, we are ranked as the 12th largest economy in the world. And Korea’s hosting of the G20 Summit in Seoul yesterday and today, has been an invaluable opportunity for our nation to stand firmly at the center of the international arena, as both a leader and innovator. As a host country, Korea has been bestowed with a great honor, as well as garnering practical benefits that come from sharpening our national image and solidifying our status as a mediator for the global community.
I cannot emphasize enough that all Koreans are indebted to the Korean War veterans’ sublime devotion to ensuring freedom and democracy in our country. We will never forget your tremendous sacrifices and sufferings.
Once again, I’d like to give my utmost gratitude to the Korean War veterans and their families who are with us today, both in presence and in spirit.
I’d like to end with a quote from the brilliant British statesman, Winston Churchill, “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed to so few by so many.”
Thank you and God Bless you all.
Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Los Angeles