South Korea commemorates Memorial Day on June 6 and marks the entire month in commemoration of fallen patriots and war veterans. This year’s Memorial Day is all the more significant in the aftermath of two North Korean military provocations last year, which are still fresh in our memories.
The North’s armed aggressions—the sinking of the Cheonan warship and the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island—resulted in numerous victims. We honor those who made the supreme sacrifice for this country and once again express our gratitude to them.
South Korea endured various hardships throughout modern history. During Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th century, countless patriots struggled to achieve independence at the cost of their lives. So many soldiers were sacrificed during the Korean War in the early 1950s, recorded as one of the most tragic wars in modern history. Later on, there were countless sacrifices in the long road to economic development and democratization. Rooted in these noble sacrifices, South Korea has now become one of the world’s top ten economies and has entered the inner circle of global governance as a member of the Group of 20 major economies. The sacrifices of those before us cannot be respected and appreciated enough.
In this vein, it is only proper that an excavation team has been unearthing the lost remains of South Korean soldiers who died in the Korean War more than six decades ago. It is true that the remains of many fallen soldiers were neglected in the past, as the nation couldn’t afford to carry out the task economically and socially. It is worth mentioning, though belatedly, that the excavation team began to recover the remains of the fallen soldiers and present them to their families. It is important to uncover these remains, but more significantly, the excavation work symbolizes that the sacrifice of the war dead will be honored forever.
Today, the Korean Peninsula is in a subtle and complicated diplomatic situation. The deadlock in inter-Korean dialogue continues, with North Korea showing no signs of slowing its nuclear weapons development. Regional diplomacy has seen a series of fierce diplomatic tug-of-wars influenced by major powers. In this precarious situation, it is uncertain what crises ahead Korea may face and when and how the nation may request its people to make sacrifices in the future.
Also, there is always a danger of devastating natural disasters, as seen in the recent massive earthquake in Japan and the ensuing tsunami, as well as the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. South Korea has been engaging in more activities in the international community, and the nation has many important missions to fulfill for the sake of peace and welfare of mankind.
When the nation dutifully protects its people, shares responsibility for their sacrifice and honors them to the end, people will make greater contributions to their country and toward the common prosperity of the global community. This is what we can learn from Memorial Day and the month of Fallen Patriots and War Veterans.