This month (Saturday, July 27, specifically) marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, with ceremonies across the nation.
In Clark County, the Korean War Veteran Medal Ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, at the Armed Forces Reserve Center, 15005 N.E. 65th St. Also, two local Korean War veterans -- Carl Hissman and James Mead -- were scheduled to visit South Korea this month as representatives of the local chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association. "I always wanted to go back and see how it improved," Hissman said, describing South Korea, in a July 19 Columbian story. And therein lies the most effective way of judging the outcome of the Korean War: Compare the country in the southern part of the peninsula to the country to the north.
Conventional wisdom maintains that no one won this war. After all, there was no formal surrender, and the 38th parallel separating North and South Korea remains heavily fortified. But it's important for Americans to recognize what exists today on each side of the 2.5-mile-wide Korean Demilitarized Zone. We owe that full awareness to the U.S. military service members who served during those three years, ending with the signing of the cease-fire on July 27, 1953.
In these six volatile decades on the peninsula, South Korea has emerged as Asia's fourth-largest economy. The nation boasts the 12th-largest economy in the world, in terms of purchasing power, according to an International Monetary Fund report. This impressive prosperity is governed by a presidential republic. A diverse network of manufacturing activities includes automobiles as South Korea has risen to challenge Japan as one of the busiest auto exporters in Asia.
On the other side of the DMZ is found nothing of the sort. The News Tribune of Tacoma, in a Friday editorial, argued that "North Koreans lost the war in every way that matters. Their worst catastrophe was the survival of their government, one of the most inhuman dictatorships in history."
North Korea is ruled by Kim Jong Un, grandson of Kim Il Sung (the aggressor in the Korean War). And as the Tacoma newspaper pointed out, the dynasty has "repeatedly let their subjects starve as they diverted fortunes into a ridiculously large army. The have also presided over a system of slave camps that may be more cruel than Stalin's gulags. … entire families of political prisoners, including children and grandchildren, have been enslaved for decades in wretched conditions."
That such destitution could exist less than three miles from the world's 12th most prosperous nation is stark testimony to the failures of North Korea's dictatorship.
And that success in South Korea is in large part why those who served in this war deserve the full appreciation and support of all Americans.
Another measure of their success is the fact that -- as North Korea has continually threatened its neighbor -- the U.S. has counted South Korea among its strongest allies for six decades. More than 28,000 U.S. troops serve there today.
One of the best online sources of information about this 60th anniversary is http://www.koreanwar60.com, which explains that this conflict "is often referred as 'The Forgotten War.' The events and battles of the war are little known by the American public today."
May our nation gain a fuller appreciation of the service and sacrifices of those American heroes.