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Saturday, February 16, 2013


Yesterday at the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific a granite stone memorial donated by the South Korean government was unveiled as part of the 60th anniversary commemoration of the war armistice (actually signed on 27July1953).  Note that the Korean War is not yet over.  Armistice means temporary cessation of hostilities to discuss peace terms.  Incidentally, while not called an armistice, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are also still "not over."

This was a significant war, as up to 2.5 million might have died, although the most scholarly number places deaths, including civilians, at 1.2 million.  The numbers are pure guesses.  Same for the Vietnam War, which showed total dead between 1 and 4 million. WWII, in comparison, was estimated to have killed between 50 and 70 million.  From Wars of the 20th Century:

The total Iraq-Afghanistan Wars over the past decade killed anywhere from 100,000 to more than a million, depending on who you ask, while the Afghanistan portion accounting perhaps for 30,000.

But back to the Korean War, it was North Korea, Soviet Union air power and Chinese ground troops against South Korea, the USA and United Nations.  The Russian MIG-15 Fagot versus the American F-86 Sabre.  While the Sabre downed Fagots at a 10:1 ratio, this comparison was not fair, as the MIGs went after bombers, and might have destroyed as many (perhaps a thousand) as they totally lost.  

In only a few weeks from the initial attack, the South was squeezed down to Pusan when General Douglas MacArthur turned the war around with the Incheon landing.  The city was decimated, but the region is now home to a state-of-the-art international airport.  However, MacArthur never spent a night in Korea, operating out of Tokyo, was difficult to control, and contemplated using nuclear weapons, when he was fired by President Harry Truman on 11April1951 (war began on 25June1950 and went on for 3 years).  The great fear was escalation into a nuclear war.  This and the Cuban Missile Crisis a decade later were the closest Humanity was to destroying ourselves.

So from almost losing the war in August of 1950 to today, what a difference for South Korea, as the country has become a world leader in consumer electronics and is with China the leading world shipyard (they keep changing #1 status).  A 21-year old from the South is 2.4 inches taller than from the North.  Per capita, South Koreans:
  • consume 64 times more oil,
  • make 16 times more money
  • live 15 years longer
  • have 40% fewer babies and
  • produce 17 times more in economic output.

In comparison,  most of North Koreans are in poverty, 200,000 are politically imprisoned in gulags and their young leader, Kim Jong Un, seems mostly interested in testing missiles and nuclear weapons.  

Yet, it is of interest to note that while South Korea (left) has the second HIGHEST suicide rate in the world (31.7 per thousand--Lithuana is at 45.6 and the USA is #34 with 12.0), North Korea (right) has the LOWEST (Syria is #102 with 0.1 and Egypt #103 with 0.1) Why?  Suicide is considered as treason in the Hermit Kingdom (South Korea is the "Land of the Morning Calm"), and the whole family is purged, whatever that means.  But AlphARelief reports that the suicide rate is skyrocketing in North Korea.  Well, so what if South Korea lost the war?  They would have a lower suicide rate, but such is the price of success.

When I visit South Korea, something I have almost annually for the past two decades, and will be there in a few weeks again, I remain a tad at edge for fear of some irrational act, as Seoul is but 31 miles from the border.  Only eight months ago I had my most memorable (and expensive) lunch in my life.  I might return to Paul Gagnaire at the top of the Lotte Hotel.

For the record, there is another Lotte Hotel in Seoul, located across the river in Gangnam, which is a good excuse to, for hopefully the final time, foist on you Psy and his Gangnam Style (which is up to 1,328,725,396 views):

Note, that is more than a billion, and I must  have been responsible for at least a million of them through this web site.  I confess I finally watched the whole thing for the first time today, all 4 minutes and 13 seconds.  The tally:


officialpsyofficialpsy·47 videos
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