Jun Dishes

verb/diSH/ : food or sex or gossip or fiction in real life

The Korean War: 60 Years Later

A good Twitter friend recently asked me why I thought The Korean War is so much a forgotten war, in general, because it is. Forgotten is a harsh word, because we should never forget the lives lost and loves buried in bloody battle and honor. Having grown up in America, and having listened to the stories my grandparents told me I don’t blame them for wanting to forget that war. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of The Korean War, and there are commemorating events happening right now in many parts of the world.

The thing with Korea is…it was split in half the first time in 1945, as a result of World War II. Koreans didn’t even get a say in it then, because Korea got no respect as a country in times of war. Korea was easy pickings because it’s a peninsula. So when The Korean War broke out five years later, North Korea had China and Soviet Union in their corner while the U.N. backed South Korea. Obvious. The United States swept in and fought for South Korea, and saved the day, and in the end Korea was split in two all over again. That’s the pretty summary.

The ugly reality is well over a million people died in total, during The Korean War. Babies bled-out and mass children were orphaned. Some people lost limbs and minds at the same rate that they lost weight. Virginity was wasted on prostitution camps popping up around army bases, and there was a whole subset of Korean children of mixed race conceived for a decade at least. Most soldiers never even knew or denied they’d fathered a Korean child, and those children grew up fatherless and brutally branded bastards by the Korean community. Some soldiers married their Korean baby mamas and gave them a new life in America, and U.S. citizenship. Those marriages didn’t always work out, and in the ugliest ways. War is not kind before or during or after, just never.

When North Korea first advanced south in attack, South Koreans fled further south. We know this because of film footage and photos and textbooks in school, but I know this because my grandparents used to tell it to me. They never told me enough, but they shared in flashes and snippets. The only reason my grandparents had gotten married in the first place, was to strengthen their two already-powerful families so they’d be richer after the war. They’d planned ahead, but they hadn’t planned on seeing so many dead people around them year after year as the war raged on. Most everyone they knew they never saw again, once the dust settled.

When the war ended in 1953, it didn’t mean a better life for anyone right away not even the rich. My grandparents and parents, and aunts and uncles, come from a generation where unpleasantries are not talked about but best forgotten. They certainly would never blog about it.  This is my attempt at answering the question as to why The Korean War seems so distant from the spot light. The Korean people, as a whole, bury things deep and I’m not just talking about kimchi.

As a newer generation Korean, I’m thankful for all the stories and memories and veterans who helped keep my family line alive 60 years ago. I’m sorry that things are the way they are between the two Koreas, and that so much blood shed couldn’t reunify the country I was born in. I’m grateful and proud to have been raised in America, but Korea is my birthplace and motherland.

 

Grandparents

 

I took this photo with my grandparents in 2010 and although my grandmother is still with us, my grandfather passed away just four months after taking this photo. I miss him. I will never forget any of his stories.

Always dishing,

Jun

Posted under: Reality Dishes

Tagged as: , , , , , , , ,

11 comments

  • Have you seen the documentary Chosin? It is interviews with American Vets from that battle. It was very enlightening to me. If you have I would be interested to know you take on it. It was and is not a war I am very familiar with and I intend to rectify that. It almost seems like a forgotten war.

    • I saw it when I was younger. Thanks for reminding me. i’d like to watch it again now as an adult…I have more appreciation now for everything. :) It does seem like a forgotten war doesn’t it? I think it’s just a quiet one…

  • My father was in the naval reserves and was called to active duty during the Korean ‘Crisis,’ I think they called it, at the time, either just before or after I was born. The military gave him a two-week delay to bond with me.

    Poor Dad, when he returned home, I was bonded to my uncles and the photo of Dad I’d been repeatedly told was my Dad. That must have taken a lot of patience, but my Dad was quite a kind, loving and positive man, and I was truly blessed to have such a wonderful father. He was also quite handsome, and most of my girlfriends, during my teen years, always had a slight crush on my Dad. He was very sweet-natured, and none of my school projects would have been nearly as successful, if it hadn’t been for my Dad. Plus he typed all my school reports for me and gladly suffered through all my memorized recitations and oral book report rehearsals.

    Dad died in Jan. of this year. At that time, we read letters he sent my Mom and me while serving in the Navy. We also viewed the many photos he sent, as well. My Dad was one of those people who doesn’t say anything if it can’t be positive, so we never heard the stories you mentioned, but war is so filled with atrocities, I do not doubt these horrendous things happened to good people

    I’m a new devotee to your blog and appreciate your openness, soul-bearing and honesty, which makes you vulnerable, yet you nicely deflect the barbs!

    • My goodness thank you for sharing your story like this. You and your dad sound much like me and mine…

      I’m sorry for your loss. Losing your father is like nothing else…I miss mine. Your words are beautiful, and I’m grateful to know more about you :)

  • I was a very young child and the only reference I had about the Korean War was the fact that my oldest sister’s boyfriend fought in it. Frank survived the war but not life after.

    How lucky you were/are to have known your grandparents and they shared even the barest bits of information. It is your history too.

    I hate war.

  • My dad and 2 of his uncles are Korean War vets. One of my great uncles was among the first 400 American troops who arrived in Korea to confront the massive North Korean attack. He was killed in fighting around the 38th parallel when we drove the Chinese and North Koreans back across it after the 2nd breakout from Pusan. I never met him, but everyone talks (even now) about what a great guy he was.

    His brother who served there was the polar opposite. He was the grumpiest and meanest person (next to my ex wife) I ever met. Despite that, whenever I visited south Louisiana I would go see him. I kept in touch as many times his petty feuds would alienate everyone else. NO doubt he suffered from PTSD – we didn’t know that then. We had never heard of it. He was in some of the most brutal fighting of the war. He was in the Chosin retreat/breakout. He lost his brother and many of the friends he had in his unit. He was very bitter.

    However, when he spoke of his brother and his friends who had fought and died there (he only used last names like ‘Baker’ or ‘Powell’) his eyes would moisten, his jaw would unclench and his voice would become softer. This also happened when he spoke of the Korean people. He loved them. He spoke of the hardships they faced. He spoke of their bravery. He spoke of their friendship and love.

    He told a story once of fighting house to house in a town/village. As he paused at a building corner to survey what was ahead, he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was an older woman with a damp cloth who immediately held it to his cheek. I can still hear his voice cracking with emotion and still see the tears in his eyes as he emphasized, ‘while we were still fighting!’

    That, he said, was what we were fighting for in Korea. He always said he’d do it again.

    He’s gone now. But I still visit him when I go home. And when I do, I always put a small American & South Korean flag among the flowers I leave on his grave. Dad says he would have liked that.

Feel Free to Dish!