SALT LAKE CITY — One woman's efforts to commemorate the military service of thousands of veterans of the 'Forgotten War' is sparking interest from Utah leaders who are also eager to recognize their sacrifice for duty to peace and country.
Two years ago, Hannah Kim, 35, launched an endeavor to raise awareness of the men and women who served in the Korean War more than 60 years ago. After lobbying Congress to pass the Wall of Remembrance Act in 2016, she came up with the idea to take her notion to every state in the union.
From April 27 to July 27, Kim has embarked on a three-month journey to visit Korean War memorials in all 50 states to meet and acknowledge Korean War veterans, along with reminding the public about the grave cost of war.
"Many of the Korean War veterans came back and nobody asked them where they were?" she said. "They didn't get the 'hero's welcome' others got after World War II."
The goal of this journey is to raise awareness and money to help build the Wall of Remembrance at the National Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. The monument would honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and remind people that “freedom is not free,” Kim said.
The goal is for the wall to be built as soon as possible so that as many Korean War Veterans can attend the dedication ceremony, according to her website Remember727.org.
"I want all of America to remember," she said. "The Korean War really did stop the spread of communism."
Utah was the ninth state on her itinerary. Joined Wednesday by Utah veterans and military advocates, she participated in a ceremony at the Korean War Memorial in Memory Grove Park in Salt Lake City.
"I may be biased because I'm Korean-American and have a special place in my heart for the veterans of the Korean War," Kim said. "It's our job to at least remember them and thank them for their service."
Among the veterans on-hand for Wednesday's ceremony was John Cole, 91, who served in Korea during his eight-year stint in the U.S. Marines. He noted that while people in the United States may not have the same reverence for the Korean War as other historic military conflicts, the people in South Korea consider it quite differently.
"They see it as a remembered war because they still have a nation, a very prosperous nation," he explained.
According to History.com, the Korean War began in June 1950 when soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army marched across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on the north and the Republic of Korea to the south. The invasion was considered the first military action of the Cold War.
The next month, American troops entered the war in support of South Korea in an attempt to prevent the encroachment of international communism, the website stated.
With troops from both sides fighting back-and-forth, casualties mounted with neither side gaining a distinct advantage. Meanwhile, American officials worked anxiously to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans, fearing the alternative of a potentially growing war with communist allies Russia and China who backed North Korea.Comment on this story
The Korean War came to an end in July 1953 with approximately 5 million military members and civilians losing their lives during the conflict, the website stated. Today, the Korean peninsula remains divided, though recent talks between leaders from North Korea and South Korea have prompted guarded optimism that a peace accord could be on the horizon as well as conceivable reunification.
Speaking on the current peace negotiations, Cole was upbeat about the potential.
"Hope is what's going on today. Hope that they get something concrete done so that the peninsula of Korea becomes whole again and not divided," he said. "It would be great because they are (all) still the same people like we were the same people during the (U.S.) Civil War."