Korean War hero calls for stronger alliance with US
This is the first in a series of articles to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. The Korea Times interviewed retired Army General Paik Sun-yup who led the ROK military during the 1950-53 war.
By Jung Sung-ki
The country's first four-star general has called for a stronger combined defense posture in South Korea's alliance with the United States, which he said is the best way to deter continuing North Korean provocations.
"The thing is how strong is the combined defense capability of the ROK and U.S. militaries and how solid is their alliance," said Paik Sun-yup, 90, who served as the chief of staff of the Republic of Korea Army during the 1950-53 Korean War.
Paik, credited with brilliant feats throughout the fratricidal war, was seemingly referring to the North Korean provocation in the sinking of a South Korean Navy ship in the West Sea on March 26.
"We should take stern measures in retaliation for the ship sinking with the invocation of the use of self defense," the war veteran said in an interview with The Korea Times at the War Memorial of Korea, Seoul, May 25, citing President Lee Myung-bak's pledge a day earlier.
In a nationally televised address at the memorial, Lee said the government will use its right of self-defense, should the North make incursions into South Korean territory. The President announced a set of countermeasures, including cutting trade ties with the North and resuming psychological warfare near the inter-Korean border.
Paik said the planned transition of wartime operational control of South Korean troops from the U.S. military to the ROK armed forces in 2012 should be delayed for the time being.
Meanwhile, Paik recalled that during the Korean War, The Korea Times played a key role in informing the outside world of the situation in Korea as well as to bridge the language gap between South Korean and U.N. forces.
"The Korea Times was the only English newspaper at that time," he said. "Since being liberated from Japan's colonial rule in 1945 following the end of World War II, the country was under the control of the U.S. military until 1948."
He continued, "At that time, 'Corea' was hardly known to the outside world. So the Syngman Rhee government made the utmost effort to introduce the country abroad. I remember that the founding of The Korea Times was part of those efforts."
Communication with U.S. and other foreign allied forces was pivotal in conducting joint operations during the war, the retired general said.
"Some ROK commanders were fluent in speaking English, while those who were not so good at English received help from interpreter officers," he said. "I remember many U.N. forces got to know about the ROK situation and policies through The Korea Times, so the newspaper's role was very important during wartime."
Kim Hwal-lan (1899-1970), also known as Helen Kim, was chosen by the nation's first President Syngman Rhee to serve as minister of public information after the North Korean invasion on June 25, 1950.
Kim, the country's first female Ph.D. holder and the first Korean president of Ewha College, the predecessor of Ewha Womans University, founded The Korea Times and published the first issue on Nov. 1, 1950.