When he thanked me, he was thanking all the Americans
and allied troops who had fought for South Korea
helping save this small country from communist domination.
At the time I served, I did not fully understand
why I was in Korea.
I had a wife in California, and a baby son whom
I had never seen. I did not think that Korea was
ready for democracy, and I wondered what would happen
to this country when the American military left?
What we had left was a germ of freedom, and that
germ grew into what has become one of the most beautiful
and commercial countries in the world.
Less than half the size of California, it has very
cold winters and mild summers.
Korea is like a sister country to America because
so many Americans lost their lives here.
A large bronze statue commemorates the brotherhood
of an American soldier assisting a Korean soldier
as a focal point of the Korean War Memorial.
Korea has been invaded by different powers for 1,000
years, and lived under the yoke of both Japanese
and Chinese invaders.
Only after World War II did Korea have a brief period
of peace, but that did not last long as the Russian
communists took hold of the north, and with the
help of the Chinese, overran the south. Had it not
been for the American military, there would be an
entire communist nation of Korea today.
However our country had enough of all out war, and
tried to limit the war to the boundary of Korea,
instead of cutting off the supplies coming in from
Eventually the American military pushed the North
Koreans back across the 38th parallel while paying
a terrible price. After five years of all out war,
North and South Korea signed a limited peace agreement
at the DMZ Demilitarized zone.
Limited, because as late as 1972, North Korea was
tunneling under the DMZ to prepare for another attack,
and today North Korea threatens South Korea with
their rockets, and the bomb.
Despite this, South Korea has created beautiful
modern cities like Seoul, the capital, and has an
excellent tourism industry. It is also on commercial
and industrial par with the United States, Japan
It’s population is made up of a large portion
of young people who are energetic, style conscious,
and walk around with their cell phones plugged into
The cities in Korea are young, born after the war,
and designed for modern travel, which in this case
means 10 lane boulevards going down the main sections
of Seoul, and subways that run deep in the earth
to all parts of the city and its suburbs.
It is this kind of a city that local members of
the Rotary Club came to attend their International
Few other cities have a convention center as large
as the one at Kintex, and the number of modern hotels
to serve those Rotarians who are in attendance from
all over the world.
It also has a very modern international airport,
with high speed rail to and from the airport to
We are staying in the middle of the city, in a Guest
House or Youth Hostel full of world travelers. Many
of these people are on vacations or on business
trips — a wine merchant from Japan who was
born in California, a teacher in Guam with his mother
from the Philippines, and students from the university
Our area is crowded with clothing boutiques and
restaurants which come alive after 5 o’clock
and go on until after midnight.
The men and women are slim, and very well proportioned
from all the walking they do. Fashions are cheap
and come straight out of Paris. They will arrive
in California next year.
There are historic treasures here in Seoul like
all the palaces of past overlords. These have been
very well maintained by the Korean people.
As the subway train moved on, the Korean who thanked
us for America’s role in the war said he would
insist on getting off the train to walk us to our
next destination. Even though we were somewhat lost,
we thanked him, and said we will surely find our
We joined the other Rotarians that day, but planned
a trip to the DMZ, and the place where the peace
talks had taken place.