Members of a parachute unit salute the statues of fallen soldiers at the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan, Seoul, Thursday. Today marks the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War.
/ Korea Times photo by Kim Ju-sung
By Jane Han
Korea Times correspondent
NEW YORK ― On a strip of the I-85 freeway near downtown Atlanta, a tall billboard reads "Thank you America!" Look closer and it says "Americans died to defend South Koreans' Freedom."
The sign, set up last week by a local Korean American, is just one of many ways ethnic Koreans in the U.S. are commemorating the Korean War's 60th anniversary and expressing gratitude to the thousands of American and Korean veterans who fought.
"I can't help but thank the U.S. soldiers for their noble sacrifice," Sunny Park, who sponsored the billboard, said in a media interview. "Korea's development today would be impossible with their support and sacrifice."
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, more than 36,000 American service members lost their lives during the Korean War, with more than 92,000 wounded and 8,000 missing in action.
Dozens of Korean associations, church and military veteran groups have been hosting various events in the run-up to June 25 as a gesture of appreciation.
At the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., members of the Korea Marine Corps Veterans Association and other military groups visited throughout last week to pay respect to the men who died from 1950-1953 war.
"It's our duty to express thanks to all the brave soldiers and remember the lesson left from the conflict," said Kim Hwa-seong, head of a local veterans group.
"In the next five to 10 years, those who actually survived the war are going to pass away," he said, "so this means we only have little time remaining to hear first-hand accounts of the war."
In New York and California, special reunions have been organized to invite and treat Korean and American war survivors with dinners, concerts and a time to share their experience with the younger generation.
"As Koreans in the U.S., we feel that it's one of our biggest responsibilities and roles to remember and commemorate the Korean War," said Joon Chang, leader of a regional Korean-Association in California. "Our generation's efforts are crucial in passing on history to the upcoming generation."
At the University of Southern California, its Korean Studies Institute is hosting a major academic conference to discuss the legacy and lessons of the Korean War in the context of the U.S. and Korea's security alliance.
"We believe that ordinary citizens can help to further build the bilateral alliance between Korea and U.S.," said Kim of the war veterans group.
미국 곳곳에서 한국전쟁 기념 행사
뉴욕 -- 애틀랜타 시내 인근 1-85 고속도로 길가에 큰 간판에 “미국이여 감사합니다!”라고 쓰여있다. 더 가까이서 보면 “한국인들의 자유를 위해 미국인들이 죽다.”라고 쓰여있다.
현지 한 한국 교민이 지난 주 세운 이 간판은 미국 교포들이 한국전 발발 60주년을 기념하고 그 때 같이 싸운 미국인 및 한국인 참전 용사 수천 명에게 감사를 표하기 위한 여러 방법 중 하나다.
간판 세우는데 돈을 댄 서니 박씨는 언론과의 인터뷰에서 “ 미국들의 숭고한 희생정신에 감사를 드리지 않을 수 없다”며 “오늘날 한국의 발전은 이들의 지지와 희생이 없었다면 불가능했을 것”이라고 말했다.
미 국무부에 따르면 3만 6,000 여명의 미군이 한국전쟁 중 목숨을 잃었으며 9만 2,00여명이 부상당했으며 8,000여명이 실종된 것으로 알려졌다. 수 십 개의 단체, 교회 및 참전용사 단체들이 감사의 표시로 6월 25일까지 각종 행사를 열고 있다.