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February 1989. Prayer For Peace. Lunar New Year at Paltung Reservoir.

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Boats at Paltung Reservoir.

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Lunar New Year 1989.

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"I held out my hand, and each in turn grasped me tightly. I helped them to sure ground."

My new friends.

 

Additional Photographs From The
Lunar New Year

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Ridge

A Journey Into The Past
 

Rituals

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.

 

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