Obama says Korean War veterans ‘deserved better’

DAYS OF YOUTH::The US president said that despite returning troops being greeted by neither parades nor protests at the time, people should recall their ‘shining deeds’


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 - Page 7

Six decades after the Korean War ended, US President Barack Obama on Saturday said that US veterans deserved a better homecoming from a war-weary nation and that their legacy is the 50 million people who live freely in a democratic South Korea.

“Here in America, no war should ever be forgotten, and no veteran should ever be overlooked,” he said in a speech at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, where ceremonies marked the 60th anniversary of the end of hostilities on the peninsula.

Obama said the conflict did not unite or divide the US the same way World War II or the Vietnam War did respectively, and that US veterans came home to neither parades nor protests because “there was, it seemed, a desire to forget, to move on” by a US tired of battle.

However, they “deserved better,” Obama said, adding that, on Saturday’s anniversary, “perhaps the highest tribute we can offer our veterans of Korea is to do what should have been done the day you came home.”

He appealed for people to pause and let these veterans “carry us back to the days of their youth and let us be awed by their shining deeds.”

In the audience of several thousand on a sunny and humid morning were dozens of US and Korean veterans of the war. Obama asked them to stand and be recognized.

The 1950 to 1953 war had North Korean and Chinese troops on one side against US-led UN and South Korean forces. It ended on July 27, 1953, with the signing of an armistice.

A formal peace treaty was never signed, leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war and divided at the 38th parallel between its communist north and democratic south. More than 36,000 Americans were killed in the conflict. The US still has 28,500 troops based in the South.

Yet the costs of the war continue to mount even amid relative peace.

Hostility remains between the two Koreas and between North Korea and the US, which still has no formal diplomatic relations with the communist nation. That antagonism is rooted in the US commitment to take a lead role in defending South Korea should war again break out on the peninsula.

Washington also has tried to wean its ally off its dependence on the US military, setting and then delaying target dates for switching to South Korean control of forces that would defend against a possible new attack from the North.

Another legacy is the challenge of accounting for the roughly 7,900 US servicemen still listed as missing in action.

Obama said the war is a reminder that a country’s obligation to its fallen and their families endures long after battle. He pledged that the US would not rest “until we give these families a full accounting of their loved ones.”

Obama also alluded to the Korean War sometimes being called the “forgotten war” and noted long-standing suggestions that it was fought for naught, summed up in the phrase “die for tie.”

He disputed that characterization, saying: “Today, we can say with confidence that war was no tie. Korea was a victory.”

When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom in stark contrast to the dire conditions endured by their countrymen in the North, “that’s a victory. That’s your legacy,” he said.