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Mayor's Hope Journal

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  • Veterans and their patriotic devotion to the country
    [Mayor Park Won Soon’s Hope Journal 105]

  • SMG 1131

    Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon sings Seouleui Changga (Seoul Anthem) at a special event for veterans.

    The other day, I gave a congratulatory speech at a periodical meeting of the Seoul Veterans Association. I heard that some of the members shed tears upon hearing my speech. I thought that it would be worthwhile to share the contents of my speech with those who are interested, thinking that we should appreciate and respect them for their devotion to the country.

    ———————— Chairman Shin Sang-tae and other distinguished guests, you look very nice today in your veterans’ uniform of dark-blue jacket and grey pants. May I also join you in wearing that uniform next time? Here are my congratulations for those who have received a commendation in recognition of your national security-related exploits.

    Once again we are reminded of the importance of national security in the wake of North Korea’s third nuclear test. Despite condemnations from all over the world, the North is talking about its plan for an additional nuclear test and a test launch of long-range missiles. The North must desist from such provocative acts once and for all. No nuclear weapons should be allowed on the Korean Peninsula. National security is a prerequisite for peace and economic reinvigoration. We can tolerate no military provocation by the North, including its nuclear program, and should be well prepared against its provocation, particularly in connection with the fact that Seoul, a city with a population of 10 million, is only 40km away from the DMZ.

    Following the North’s third nuclear test, Seoul City is operating a round-the-clock contingency team to deal with a potential crisis situation. We are also taking diverse steps to protect residents and important facilities in the city in cooperation with the relevant institutions, including the Capital Defense Command, while stepping up our civil defense posture.

    On Memorial Day last year, I paid visits to the families of those killed in action during the Korean War, to wounded veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the victims of toxic herbicide used during the Vietnam War. I felt very sorry, as there were limits to what I could do for them. Mr. Kang Mun-gu, a veteran of the Vietnamese War, was eking out a miserable living with no family to take care of him. As one of his fellow Koreans, I felt ashamed and terribly sorry for him.

    While studying in the United Kingdom in my early days, I noticed that they ran veterans’ clubs in local areas as an expression of gratitude for those who had fought for the country. Veterans gathered there from time to time, encouraging each other. As for the United States, it has taken some steps to show that the nation will always remember the patriotic contribution made by old soldiers, such as establishing Veterans’ Day and opening veterans’ hospitals. Looking at what these countries are doing to express their gratitude to those who performed heroic services for the country, I feel ashamed that this country has failed to provide sufficient compensation for our veterans.

    On the occasion of Liberation Day on August 15 last year, I announced a series of measures to be taken by Seoul City for veterans based on what I had seen on visits to veterans’ organizations. These measures include the provision of financial, medical and housing support. It was a result of my belief that we should do something more to help veterans and their families feel a sense of pride about those men who made such outstanding contributions to the country, although more fundamental policies and measures need to be taken by the central government.

    The peace and prosperity we enjoy today would not be possible without the contributions and sacrifices of our brave veterans, including all those who are here with us today. I can tell you now that Seoul City will lead others in remembering and honoring veterans and their families. Mr. Shin Sang-tae just said that the Seoul Veterans Association is considering running a program under which young people – say about 2,000 people a year – would pay a visit to areas close to the DMZ to see the stark reality of the country’s national security situation first-hand. I agreed that this is an important and worthwhile thing to do, and to that end Seoul City has earmarked 220 million, which is 70 million more than last year, for the said program this year. Seoul City will also provide the funds required for refurbishing the building of the Seoul Veterans’ Association.

    We at Seoul City will continue to cooperate with you veterans in matters related to the security and wellbeing of Seoulites. Thank you.