Therese Park

September is an important month in Korean-American History

The month of September is an important month in modern American History as well as the history of many Asian countries, including my motherland Korea. And this year, 2016, is an important year for me, a Korean-American, because it marks the 50th anniversary of my discovery of America at age 25. The older I get, the more I realize that my personal history is closely linked to both American and Korean modern history, for I grew up in Korea during the Korean War (1950-1953,) one of America's major wars, and witnessed many American troops sacrifices as I child and saw over the years how my native country grew from it. Who said, "The tree of liberty grows from the blood of patriots”?
On September 2nd, 1945, Douglas MacArthur, then the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Far East, read his speech to all on board USS Missouri anchored on the Tokyo Bay, in the presence of the representatives of the Allied Powers as well as the Japanese leaders, accepting Japan's "unconditional surrender to the allied forces" two weeks earlier and concluding with, "Let us pray that peace now be restored to the world, and that God will preserve it always."
On September 8th, six days after the Tokyo Bay Surrender Ceremony, the first American troops landed on Korean soil to prevent the Russians from taking the entire peninsula. Russia had declared war against Japan a month earlier on August 8th, and its troops entered North Korea to "disarm" Japanese Occupation Forces, while Hiroshima and Nagasaki was still smoldering from the U.S. atomic bombs dropped there--on Hiroshima on the 6th and on Nagasaki on the 8th--- and cries of the dying and of the mourners still lingered over the burning towns.
Gen. MacArthur, with President Truman's urging, established the Temporary U.S Army Military Government in Korea, in Seoul, and declared that everything that had belonged to Japan during the past 40 years now belonged to the United States and that the Koreans working for the government must learn English. Riots erupted daily by the Koreans--the conscripts who fought against Allied Forces, wearing Japanese Uniforms or the forced laborers, and the sex-slaves Japanese military used behind barbed-wire fences. And there were underground communist activists, too.
Overland Park resident John Hanse, 91, didn't serve in the Temporary US military government. He had been stationed in Japan as a Navy officer, and in January, 1946, he and his crew were on board USS LST 1039 heading for Saipan for an unusual mission--to rescue thousands of Koreans abandoned by their Japanese masters, like war-debris. Of more than tens of thousands Korean left on that island, Hanse' group brought back about 650 of the Koreans and some Japanese soldiers, who had been hiding in deep caves, still worshiping their deity-like Emperor Hirohito not knowing that the war had ended--and delivered them to their beloved homelands.
The U.S. military government in Korea ended in 1949 and the American troops evacuated from Korea and returned to the United States, while Russian troops too returned to their homeland as they had agreed in Postdam Conference.
North Koreans, 95,000 Russian trained troops using 150 Russian tanks, launched a surprise attack across the 38th Parallel, 155 mile-long and 2 mile-wide, terrorizing 2 million people in sheer terror, on June 25th, 1950. President Truman declared the U.S. support of Korea on July 1st, and the two American infantry divisions in Occupied Japan, the 24th and 25th rushed over to Korea on July 5th to stop the "Korean conflict."
Hanse wasn't called back to Korea until December 1952, to a seaport town that served as the base for the U.S. Navy and Air Forces. By then the peace talk between the U.S. and Chinese delegates was in progress, Hanse and his military colleagues, including a medical doctor, spent much time at an orphanage founded and operated by a French missionary priest, Father Louis Deslandes, showering the children with human warmth and gifts of food, clothes, and medical attentions.
The war ended with the armistice on September 30th, 1953, after 3 billion American dollars had been spent and 54,000 American lives were lost. On Sept. 30, 1953, two months after the armistice was signed by the American and Chinese leaders, the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Korea was established. This was initiated by General Paik Sun-yup, the first general of the Republic of Korea, it was a profound expression of South Korean leaders undying loyalty toward the American government and military, promising them the the Korean troops would fight along side American troops in future wars as long as their service would promote global peace, and six decades later the U.S. and South Korea still conduct military drills together, in Korea, every two years, causing the North Korea leader Kim Jong-un's agitation.
The difference between South Korea and North Korea today is as clear as light and darkness. With American's continuous help, South Koreans made speedy progress during the past decades, with their sense of gratitude, but North Koreans slaved under the rigid "One leader, one nation, and one people," policy.
South Korea today gives thanks to all who fought to preserve peace in their country at the cost of their lives.

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