Honorable Korean War veterans and bereaved families,
Yesterday, I visited Arlington National Cemetery and witnessed the firm core of the United States, a country that respects individual lives and repaysthose dedicated to the nation and its communities with the utmost honor and esteem. I encountered the American spirit that has steered the world forward through freedom and peace. Seventy one years ago, young Americans rushed to a Korean Peninsula engulfed in gun smoke. These sons and daughters of the United States fought in the Korean War to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met. They were the descendants of the great founders of a nation. Thanks to their dedication and sacrifices, the Republic of Korea could protect freedom and peace and has been able to achieve the prosperityenjoyed today. However, we had to bid a final farewell to countless heroes. The Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance, for which we will break ground with the first shovels today, will be engraved with the names of 43,769 fallen soldiers. We will remember the valor and devotion of those heroes forever.
In 2018, I made a promise to United Nations Korean War veterans that a memorial wall of remembrancewould be constructed. Today, three years later, I am filled with deep emotion as I can finally honor that promise. I extend my profound respect to the Korean War veterans, including retired Colonel William Bill Weber who is joining us today. As President of the Republic of Korea, let me make it clear that the sacrifices of those heroes have never been in vain. My deepest sympathy also goes to the bereaved families who still long for their beloved. I am deeply grateful to Board Chairman John Tilelli of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation and relevant officials for pushing the project to build the Memorial Wall of Remembrance despite difficulties. My appreciation also goes to those who pooled their strength for the project: the Korean Veterans Association, relevant organizations, businesses, the Korean American Women’s Association and the members of Korean communities here. I also thank Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as well asMaryland Governor Larry Hogan and his wife Yumi for honoring us with their presence at this event.
Korean War veterans and bereaved families,
Today, I think of a great America that leads by the power of example, not the example of power, as noted by President Biden in his inaugural address. The United States has changed the world through the power of values. The founding ideas of the United States – that a country is ruled by its people and everyone should be free and equal without discrimination – have become the world’s universal values.
On the strength of those values, the Republic of Korea was also able to overcome colonization, war, dictatorships and poverty and write stories of hope, not fear. Korean War veterans stood beside us in the most challenging moments of the war and postwar reconstruction. The late General Richard S. Whitcomb firmly held the hands of our people as they committed themselves to rising from the ashes of war. General Whitcomb received a standing ovation from lawmakers when he told the U.S. Congress that war is not done by swords and rifles alone, and victory is never complete unless the people of the country have been cared for. They passed a resolution to increase relief supplies and aid funds. General Whitcomb impressed Koreans greatlyand is now laid to rest along with 39 of his comrades who loved Korea at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery. It is in my hometown Busan and is the only U.N. memorial cemetery in the world.
The ROK-U.S. alliance, which was born from the blood, sweat, friendship and dedication of Korean War veterans, has advanced while being cementedinto a strong bond between our two peoples and their values. Successors are following the ways of their predecessors. The ROK-U.S. alliance is goingbeyond a military alliance to evolve into a comprehensive one that encompasses politics, the economy, society and culture. The Republic of Korea is moving toward the greatest and most exemplary alliance in history, safeguarding the common values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
The world now faces the common crises of infectious diseases and climate change. However, we have the power of solidarity and cooperation, and this power allows us to continually express hope. The Build Back Better Agenda is becoming a source of hope forall of humanity, not just the United States. Our two countries have always been together through painfulas well as glorious chapters of history. Going forward, the Republic of Korea will always stand together with the United States at any moment when the strength of the alliance is needed.
Korean War veterans and bereaved relatives,
I visited the Jangjin Reservoir Battle Monument on my first overseas trip following my inauguration. The peoples of our two countries became one by deeply empathizing with the courage and noble sacrifices of the heroes of that battle. They have encouraged and comforted each other. Last year, the Republic of Korea repatriated the remains of five newly excavated heroes to the United States with the utmost courtesy possible. The act of returning war heroes to the arms of their loved ones also greatly moved and comforted the Korean people. The Korean Government will do all it can until theremains of the last hero have been returned to his hometown and the arms of beloved relatives.
For two years now, numerous people have been deployed to search for the remains of fallen soldiers from the Korean War – logging 100,000 man-days this year in 41 areas, including the Demilitarized Zone. Some 74 people have been identified among the 55 boxes of remains that North Korea has repatriated to the United States since the first U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore in 2018. We will continue our endeavor for dialogue with North Korea, so the soldiers who fell in the North can also return to the arms of their relatives.
Inscribed on an Arlington National Cemetery bench dedicated to the memory of Americans lost in the Korean War is the phrase “The beginning of the end of the war lies in remembrance.” We can never forget the noble sacrifices of heroes. We will also remember the sorrow of bereaved relatives. I hope that future generations of the United States and the Republic of Korea will read the ordinary but great names uponthe Memorial Wall of Remembrance that will stand before us in 2022.
The name of a soldier who – with nothing but patriotism and love for humanity – ushered in a path toward freedom and peace in a foreign land in 1950 will long remain part of a great history.
The Republic of Korea will continue to prove how valuable the sacrifices of those veterans are. May the heroes rest in peace, and I wish everyone attending this event good health and happiness.