Willful Ignorance of Korean War Must Stop

      March 26, 2010 13:16

      Texas A&M University has decided to set up a bronze statue on its campus in November to honor South Korean and American soldiers who died in the Korean War to mark the 60th anniversary of its outbreak this year. The statue will be financed from donations by the university, Korean Americans including former South Korean general Paik Sun-yup, and American veterans.

      Established in 1876, Texas A&M University has a reputation for agriculture and petroleum engineering studies. The university also graduates around 2,000 members of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps each year. In fact, the plan to build the statue first came about to commemorate its 57 ROTC alumni who fought in the Korean War. It also plans to open a Korean War museum on campus.

      As the university was announcing the plans, the Chosun Ilbo reported a Gallup poll in Korea that showed 62.9 percent of teens and 58.2 percent in their 20s did not know when the Korean War broke out. Also, only 43.9 percent of those surveyed said North Korea is to blame for starting the Korean War, with the figure among teenagers 38 percent and 36 percent for 20-somethings. Some 18 percent of teens and 25 percent of those in their 20s said both North and South Korea are responsible.

      Until just a few years ago, some teachers who are members of the hardline Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union have been teaching that the Korean War was a battle for liberation led by the North. During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, a state-run broadcaster aired a documentary on Memorial Day praising China's Mao Zedong, who backed the North in the Korean War.

      The previous administration enacted a series of laws to review the past history and compensate victims. This has led to millions of won being handed out even to people who had been convicted for praising former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung's "Juche" ideology of self-reliance. But the politicians dragged their feet for years and only earlier this month ratified a law to investigate the bizarre kidnappings of South Koreans by North Korea.

      The South Korean government and military are also finally erecting a statue to honor the achievements of Gen. Paik Sun-yup, the South Korean army chief of staff during the Korean War, this year, 60 years after the Korean War broke out. The foolish actions of the government, politicians, media and civic groups must be blamed for the ignorance of young Koreans about the war. South Koreans should take a moment and wonder what the soldiers who made such sacrifices to protect this country must feel when they see such ignorance.

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