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2017-10-29 16:40
By Maija Rhee Devine



To millions, a nuclear cloud hovers over the “Land of Morning Calm.”  Verbal missiles volley, “total destruction” from President Trump and the “highest measures against Washington” from N. Korea.  A South Korean anti-American faction hammers away 24/7.  An antidote, anyone?

 Affection!  I take a dose of the affection Korean Navy seaman Soon-bak Rhee, my older brother, kept glowing from the age of 17 for General Douglas MacArthur.  Millions of South Koreans also fanned idolatry-like admiration for the General during the War and afterwards — for his Incheon Landing and pushing northerly to seize reunification.

Had Soon-bak, the young Navy equivalent of “Radar” in M*A*S*H, lived, he would have visited the Freedom Park in Incheon on September 15, the 67th anniversary of the Incheon Landing.  There, he paid homage to General MacArthur twice a month for 55 years — ever since General’s statue was dedicated October 3, 1957.

“Communications Specialist Rhee Soon-bak reporting, sir!”  Then, he snapped a salute, his heart knocking again his rib cage, proud of having fought under the magic wand of General MacArthur during the pre-landing operations on Yonghung-do Island.  There, in September, 1950, South Korean Marines, fighting alongside Soon-bak, took the island and planted their national flag.  Soon-bak returned to his PC703, one of 261vessels deployed for the Operation Chromite, for his midnight shift.  At dawn, news tore his heart.  After Incheon’s 30-foot tide receded, N. Korean soldiers treaded across the mudflats and killed all the Marines Soon-bak left behind.  He lived another 60 years, agonizing about what he could accomplish that was worthy of his fallen comrades. 

On September 11, 2005, four days before the 55th anniversary of the Incheon Landing, demonstrators intent on smashing down the MacArthur statue violently clashed with police.  Soon-bak and his fellow veterans kept a vigil and protected the General’s image from being axed, as Stalin’s was in 1989. 

Once, I watched Soon-bak place white mums at the base of the statue.  He poured makkolli rice wine into a cup for the General and bowed.

 “Affection’s burning in you,” I said.

He poured makkoli into his own cup and sipped it. 

“Affection?  Gen. Mac was the greatest, brilliant man!  How dare you say he is the object of emotion from my puny little heart?”

Then he talked to the American General, Soon-bak’s voice mellow, as he asked his hero’s opinion of the candidates in an upcoming ROK presidential race.

“The best for our country?” my brother asked.  “A man like you, who’d die trying to reunite our two Koreas.”

When he asked the General to watch over his grand baby’s safe birth, as though the General’s brilliance covered obstetrics, I smiled. 

In the movie I produce in my mind, the ROK and UNC troops take full-body blood baths, the Korean Marines get tomahawked out of existence while celebrating their victory, and in his heart, Soon-bak takes the General to his grave, because the General desired reunification for Korea in the WORST way — as much as South Koreans did.  As my movie ends, I say, “Affection.”


Maija Rhee Devine (www. MaijaRheeDevine. com) authored an autobiographical novel about living through her parents' son-preference-motivated polygamy and the Korean War, "The Voices of Heaven," and a poetry book, "Long Walks on Short Days."


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