As soon as my brother heard of the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, he told our family that he will join the United Nations Peacekeeping forces (division 7). His age at the time was only 19, a fifth grader at Gyeongnam Middle School. After a month of training in Japan, my brother returned to the military base in Busan. In October of that year, my brother visited home with his U.S military superior and four of his comrades. My mother prepared a meal and we all exchanged friendly conversations throughout the afternoon. Before heading north he took a photo with his colleagues; a photo that ended up being his last. All of us at the time had no idea that the afternoon spent together would be the last memories of my brother.
My brother headed north, past Incheon to the Jangjin Lake, where he fought against the Communist Chinese army. In early December, my brother died in battle, surrounded by 300 thousand Chinese soldiers in the cold of 40 degrees below zero.
Many families were damaged and broken as a result of the Korean War. Many were killed and injured. But in the mist of all the agony and terrible trauma, there were young soldiers willing to fight and sacrifice for world peace, for this country Korea that many have not even heard of. I want to express my utmost gratitude and condolences for the soldiers of our ally countries who participated in the Korean War.
Our family were informed of my brother’s passing, but my mother at the time was unable to accept the fact. Only after a long time has passed in 2012 were we able to report and confirm his death.
For 60 years the search for my brother was an unfinished and continuous task that stayed with me. Last year in 2017, I heard from a friend in Maryland that she saw an article in the local newspaper about a passing of one of the soldiers from my brother’s picture. I immediately flew to America in hopes of finding traces of my brother. While I was there, I met with the survivors and veterans of the Korean War in Washington D.C and visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial Park.
After 6 years of continuous efforts to communicate with the Ministry of National Defense, we were finally told on July 19th, 2018 that my brother’s grave has been settled in the National Cemetery under the unaffiliated section. It was 68 years after his death, and 61 years since his burial that I was finally able to find where my brother rests. Today my brother lies besides the grave of the first president of South Korea, Syungman Rhee. Moreover, the fact that my brother’s death was officially recognized on the anniversary date of our president’s passing gives me pride and comfort.
A long time has passed since his death, but being able to reunite with my brother was the blessing of God and a miracle that I am sincerely thankful for. I now know that our everyday is a gift of miracle.