June 25, 2008, A Personal Reflection - 이한중

    I was watching CNBC business channel.
    The number one topic all day was what
    the Federal Reserve will do to the interest rate.
    I learned that it kept the rate same at 2 percent.
    Then I watched CNN for the presidential candidate,
    Obama’s press conference.
    Not even once he mentioned
    what happened 58 years ago.
    No one asked him what happened 58 years ago,
    which was before he was born.
    Then I flipped the remote control to the next channel,
    where a woman anchor was making 
    a brief presentation of what happened 58 years ago,
    i.e. Korean War.
    There was a portrait of president Truman and
    a few seconds of the beginning of his radio message
    to the American people,
    “ Today, what happened in a little country,
    Korea, in Far East is an important event
    to every American, etc. ....”

    I felt
    that has to be one of a few understatements of the 20th century.
    Then there were brief interviews
    with two surviving Korean War vets
    and one Korean-American young man.
    The first vet stated,
    “Every bit of freedom Americans are enjoying now
    has been paid for dearly by all the lives killed in wars,
    including the lives of 3,7000 American soldiers
    during Korean War.”
    The second vet said,
    “Look at South Korea now and see
    what Koreans have achieved in 58 years.
    The lives of 37,000 American soldiers lost in that war
    brought on that miracle.”
    The Korean-American young man stated,
    “The least I could do on this day is
    to come here at this Korean War Memorial
    in Washington, DC, and
    to pay my respect to those 37,000 soldiers
    killed in that war.
    Without their sacrifices
    my parents couldn’t possibly immigrate to America and
    fulfill their dreams, and
    I couldn’t possibly be part of the American dream.”

    I worked a half day in the office and
    came home early in the afternoon.
    Nowadays I’m pacing myself not to overwork myself
    as a semi-retired senior physician.
    Ever since I woke up this morning my mind has been racing
    all day going back 50 some years to 1950 and
    the subsequent years.
    I was 10 years old and in the 4th grade.
    On the morning the War broke out
    it was just another peaceful, early summer day,
    except I heard the constant cannon firings and
    machine gun sounds from the north.
    My hometown was only 4 kilometers from the 38 parallel,
    the north of which is North Korea then.

    President Truman, the two vets and
    the Korean young man spoke the truths, I felt.
    Every word they uttered resonated with my heart.
    They said 3,7000 American soldiers were killed in the War.
    They said millions of Koreans died in the War.
    The one thing I learned quickly as a ten year old boy
    was the fact that
    war is an animal act of humans like that of beasts in the jungle.
    That was the only way I could understand what the war is.
    Otherwise, I couldn’t understand why
    humans want to kill other humans and
    why soldiers want to rape women at the battle front.
    I was convinced that
    war also turns most humans into animals
    so that they are ready to fight for their lives.
    This realization for a ten year old boy was a fateful one,
    which changed his life for the rest of his life.
    I became a determined young man who
    had decided to focus on his inner world, which
    he could control, and ever since,
    has avoided at all cost whatever has to do
    with politics of any kind in outside or external world.
    My going to medical school was
    part of my earlier determination and realization.
    Quite the contrary my older brother took the opposite decision
    and succeeded in becoming a good politician in many ways.

    The Korean War was indeed a fateful event for me and
    millions of other Koreans in one way or another.
    If I remember correctly off hand,
    the philosopher, Aristotle, stated that
    the happiest man on Earth is the man who
    has freedom of thinking, freedom of speech
    and freedom of act.
    According to the definition, I
    as well as millions of other Koreans
    have been able to live a happy life,
    thanks to the tens of thousands of American young men
    killed in action and
    all those Korean young men fought in that War.

    What else can I say on this day other than saying,
    “Thank you all
    from the deepest bottom of my heart for your sacrifices!”
    Somehow I feel so inadequate after saying those words.
    Words can’t certainly express the gratitude enough
    because they sound too cheap and
    don’t seem to have any measurable weight
    in face of the gravity of the meaning of all their sacrifices.

    Once again as I often do, as I get older, perhaps I can only pray,
    “Thanks be to God for all the mysterious works YOU do all the time.”
    We creatures will never be able to figure out how He works.
    We can only pray to HIM “with all our hearts, all our minds and
    all our souls.”

Text by Hahn Joong Lee, Webpage by Sukjoo, June 25, 2008

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