By Major Van Harl USAF Ret
Wisconsin -(Ammoland.com)- It was January 1983 and I was in downtown Seoul, Korea waiting for a cab to take my Air Force wife and I to a restaurant for dinner.
We had been in country all of a week and it was 1 degree (F) outside as we waited for our ride.
My wife’s father had fought on that peninsula during the Korean War and was not really impressed with her decision to volunteer to be stationed on the ROC (Republic of Korea).
As we waited in the cold I started to understand his reluctance not to have his daughter in a place he only remembered with dread. Korea is just a nasty place to conduct a war, winter or summer.
It is now September 2015 and the Korean War started 65 years ago.
This week I was reading an old book (published 1986) On To The Yalu by Edwin P Hoyt and realized it was the 65th anniversary of our retaking South Korean from the communists of the north.
In September of 1950 the last, large and successful amphibious invasion by US military forces was conducted at Inchon, Korea. It broke the military hold on South Korea that the North Koreans had, ending a bloody and most assuredly atrocity filled military occupation that North Korea had begun three months earlier.
Now, I must admit that when it comes to atrocities there is no simple: North Koreans are the bad guys and South Koreans are the good guys. General William Westmoreland of Vietnam War fame was quoted to have said “life is cheap in the orient,” in reference to his command time in Vietnam. In this day and age he would be attacked for being too politically insensitive, but I would suggest he formulated his personal ideas on life and death in Asia while fighting in the Korean War.
The North Koreans would slaughter their fellow Koreans who only a few years earlier were countrymen and the South Koreans would do the same to Koreans who were from the north. The corruption on both sides of the 38th Parallel was widely known, expected and even sometimes condoned.
After US forces would drive the North Koreans out of a South Korean town they turned a blind eye as the South Korean military conducted a “mopping up action.” An action which usually meant as close to total destruction (as could be accomplished) of remaining North Koreans or even South Koreans who may or may not have shown too much perceived support for their brutal northern subjugators.
Corruption in the south kept ROC soldiers from getting food and resulted in starvation. People on both sides of the Koreas switched sides if it suited them for political reasons, or just person survivability. 65 years later modern South Korea is a major industrial, financial and political powerhouse in Asia, and for that matter the rest of the world.
Hopefully life is much more valuable in Korea today, at least in South Korea.
There is still life vs. actual value of life issues festering in North Korea. To this day the North is very effective at killing its own people for perceived minor violations.
Always watch modern North Korea in the winter time. If they ever actually plan to march south again and try to reunite that peninsula, it has to be when the rice patties are frozen so they can drive their tanks into Seoul.
However, things have changed and it really is about money and making more of it. At times there can be 100,000 Chinese nationals in South Korea conducting business. Sometimes there are that many Vietnamese and Filipinos and other Asia nationalities there to conduct business. None of these people, let along the US, wants the North Koreans coming south and screwing up business. Another war in Korea will be bad for the making of money and I suspect China keeps trying to remind North Korea of that very fact.
There is however much hatred on both sides of the Korea border and there is limited communications and dissemination of current world affairs information for the average North Korean citizen (read-they are clueless of the real world). An overnight attack on the south will start a new round of North Korean on South Korean atrocities that will lead the ROC to retaliate in kind.
Only this time there will be modern media and instant cell phone photos that will travel around the internet in seconds and the world will have to uncomfortably re-examine the issue of “cheap life.” And it will all be in color this time — blood red.
Like all Asian countries both North and South Korea refuse to allow their citizens to own firearms. It is always easier to control the masses, communist or capitalist if they cannot shoot back to protect themselves.
Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:
Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School. A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI. His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training. He believes “evil hates organization.” [email protected]