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2017-11-06 17:18
By Kim Jong-wook



As chairman of the KATUSA Veterans Association, I have high hopes for U.S. President Donald Trump’s first two-day visit to Korea starting Nov. 7.

Trump will be the first U.S. president to make a state visit to Korea in 25 years since former President George H. Walker Bush did so in January 1992.

He is expected to manage a very busy schedule that will include holding a Korea-U.S. summit with President Moon Jae-in, issuing a joint post-summit statement and addressing the National Assembly.

However, as Trump is not likely to visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjeom, I would like to respectfully propose that he change the plan and visit the scene of division as someone who served military service under the KATUSA program, which is regarded as a successful example of the ROK-U.S. alliance.

The DMZ is a historic site, where in the past, both Korean and U.S. troops sacrificed themselves for fighting for freedom against communist aggression shoulder to shoulder. At present, it is an ideological border, across which North Korea could resort to provocation beyond the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) at any time. In the future, it will be a symbol of the blood alliance, where he could witness the right direction for the alliance to take.

If Trump does visit the DMZ, it, needless to say, could become the highlight of his South Korea visit and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to defending its key ally in Asia against North Korean threats.

Beginning with Dwight Eisenhower's visit to the front lines of wartime Korea in 1952, U.S. leaders, including Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, traveled to the DMZ as commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces. The senior Bush visited there as vice president.

Vice President Mike Pence also visited the historic site last April and sent a strong warning message to North Korea.

As chairman of the KATUSA Veterans Association, I hope that President Trump, on his visit to Camp Humphreys, where KATUSA soldiers work with American troops, will have opportunity to reflect on the KATUSA's role of bridging the ROK-U.S. alliance.

The United States dispatched 1.78 million troops to the Korean War, some 130,000 of whom died, injured or were held as prisoners of war.

Next to them, some 43,000 KATUSA soldiers also participated in fierce battles and assisted the U.S. and United Nations (U.N.)' military operations such as the Battle of Inchon, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir and the Battle of Punchbowl.

Their contributions gain recognition as an unparalleled military alliance in the world's war history.

In fact, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell praised the ability of KATUSAs in his memoir.

“Of all the soldiers who were under my command, the ROK KATUSAs were the most elite group of soldiers," said Powell, who also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea(USFK), Eighth Army Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal and Vandal's predecessor Bernard Champoux also join Powell to recognize the KATUSA's role for the alliance. 

As shown above, the KATUSA program has served as a military diplomat between the U.S. and Korea for 67 years since the Korean War and it served as the cornerstone of the establishment of the Korea Defense Veterans Association in May. It is comprised of 3.5 million former USFK commanders and veterans as well as former KATUSA soldiers.

Lastly, if time permits, I would like to ask President Trump to pay a visit to the U.N. Memorial Cemetery in Busan, where 36 American war veterans and as many KATUSA veterans along with the U.N. troops are buried, shedding light on the history of the ROK-U.S. alliance.


Kim Jong-wook is chairman of the KATUSA Veterans Association.


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