More than six decades have passed since North Korean tanks rumbled across the 38th Parallel into South Korea on a quiet Sunday morning — June 25, 1950 — and set off another war just five years after the end of World War II. Three years of fighting followed, brutality matched only by the icy savagery of several remarkably cruel winters. Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of an armistice in Panmunjom that established a demilitarized zone to separate the two Koreas. The armistice silenced the guns, but not the angry words in a standoff that survives to the present day.
The Korean War has been called “the Forgotten War,” but the sacrifices of the boys of the summer of 1950 saved millions of lives and thwarted the North’s attempt to seize the entire peninsula. South Korea dug out of the rubble of its cities and built an industrial and technology powerhouse, home of the likes of Samsung, LG and Hyundai.
The North would burrow into the crevices of a dark and sinister age, mired in dead Marxism, its people saved from starvation only by the charity of other nations. Sixty years on, the North’s per-capita income would barely reach $1,800, just 5 percent of the South’s. Life expectancy would be 10 years shorter than in the South, the grim consequence of hunger and malnutrition. Only last month, the United Nations approved an additional $200 million in food shipments.
South Korea boasts the world’s fastest Internet speeds, and in North Korea only the elites — “the 0.1 percent” — have access to the Internet. The regime controls all access to the outside world, and all information about everything. Say the wrong thing, listen to a radio station outside North Korea (if you can find a radio capable of bringing in such a station) or pay insufficient homage to the country’s leader, and you and your family could be dispatched to a concentration camp where the daily portion would be torture, starvation and slavery.
North Korea ranks at the bottom of international surveys of human rights, corruption and freedom of expression. South Korea is one of the most prosperous nations on earth, with strong democratic institutions to nurture freedom of expression and ambition. The Forgotten War, with all the madness of war itself, made this freedom and prosperity possible in the South. Soldiers and Marines from nearly 20 nations rescued South Korea, by far most of them from the United States. The British were the first to join the Americans, followed swiftly by token contingents from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand and Turkey. Denmark, India, Norway and Sweden sent medical units, and Italy, though not a member of the U.N., sent a field hospital.
The Forgotten War, officially fought under the name of the United Nations Command under Gen. Douglas MacArthur, turned out to be one of the most successful military interventions in American history. Until the day the whole peninsula is unified with freedom and justice for all, the divide between north and south serves as the needed reminder of the debt of gratitude the free world owes to the soldiers, sailors and Marines, now passing into history, who saved a nation 60 years ago.
The Washington Times