July 16, 2020 13:50
Korean War hero Gen. Paik Sun-yup was laid to rest on Wednesday at the National Cemetery in Daejeon, about 140 km south of Seoul. He died on Friday at the age of 100. Paik's life epitomized South Korea's complicated struggle for freedom and prosperity. He led a ragtag army of just 8,000 South Korean soldiers and miraculously fended off an offensive by 20,000 North Korean troops when the allied forces were cornered in a small enclave in the southeast during the Korean War. Lt. Gen. Song Young-keun of the Army Reserves said in his eulogy, "If we had been defeated then, [South Korea] today would not exist and we would not be here." That is no exaggeration. A look at the oppressed North Koreans living under the tyranny of the Kim dynasty is a daily reminder of the blessings Gen. Paik helped forge by risking his life.
But President Moon Jae-in refused to attend the funeral. Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling Minjoo Party could not even bring themselves to issue a simple statement honoring Paik and did not send any representative to the funeral. They are too wrapped up in their narrow view of South Korea's history. It is unhelpful to pass off Paik, a fanatical anti-Communist who as a young man was a Japanese army lieutenant in the puppet state of Manchukuo and later held senior positions under South Korean strongmen, as merely a traitor to democracy and Japanese sympathizer. He also played a vital role in modernizing the South Korean Army.
It fell to the U.S. to fill the empty space created by Cheong Wa Dae and the rest of the government. The White House and State Department issued condolences of Paik's death, while former and incumbent commanders of U.S. Forces Korea voiced their respect and gratitude to the late general. How could this happen? The task Paik had made his own remains the same today -- to protect South Korea. Some young South Koreans did what the government failed to do and set up a memorial altar in Seoul, where tens of thousands of people paid their last respects to the old war horse in the streaming rain. It offers some consolation to see that there are still people with common sense and decency left in this country.
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