Over 33,000 Americans lost their lives in
Korea. 8,177 Americans were declared Missing In Action, unaccounted for body not recovered.. Countless Koreans died. The most brutal question is, was this sacrifice worth it?
For many years, I have been
haunted by a photograph taken in 1950 by Associated Press photographer Max Desfor. The photograph depicts two Korean babies crying by the side of a road, their mother beneath them, her body twisted in death,
caught in a crossfire.
In the South Korea of 1989, I saw hundreds of laughing and joking children in a schoolyard at Chip-yong-ni, where 38 years earlier at that exact spot helicopters landed to
evacuate wounded soldiers, and the dead lay in lines on the ground.
In the South Korea of 1989, by a river, I saw old women practicing beautiful rituals of an ancient Buddhist culture. The water's edge
was below me, and two elderly women struggled up the embankment. I held out my hand, and each in turn grasped me tightly. I helped them to sure ground. We made silent contact, and I shall always remember
Korea from their smiles.
Wherever I traveled in Korea outside Seoul, people came up to me to talk, often in broken English. Many apologized for the student riots.
I spoke with an old Korean man who had
survived the war. He told me he had seen both good and evil from the Americans. He waved his arms before me, and pointed to the people around us and said, "We are alive now, and we have freedom we have
never had before. Without America, we would have no chance to go our own way, right or wrong."
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All Photos Copyright Hal Barker, 1989.