The Korean Miracle


Seoul, South Korea
The Korean Miracle

USA – -( Callista and I spent last weekend in Seoul, South Korea on a whirlwind trip from Rome.

The experience reminded me what a miracle modern South Korea is.

I spoke to the Washington Times-sponsored Universal Peace Federation’s World Summit.

The conference itself was fascinating, having drawn more than 2,000 people including current and former heads of state. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and I talked at the opening plenary session. Former Congressman Dan Burton, who also attended, is playing a leadership role in developing an international parliamentary group dedicated to finding ways to improve the prospects for peace.

Even more impressive than the conference was the city of Seoul itself. The Seoul metropolitan area has more than 25,600,000 people – about half the population of South Korea. Based on GDP, it is the fourth largest urban economy in the world. It is also just over 35 miles from North Korea.

The modern skyscrapers, fancy cars, and world-class hotels and restaurants all exist within artillery range of the Korean People’s Army (what North Korea calls its military). This closeness makes it vitally important to avoid war on the Korean Peninsula. The human cost of the first hour of conflict in Seoul – even during a conventional war – would be horrendous. The sheer number of North Korean artillery and rockets located within easy range of this enormous concentration of people and wealth is sobering.

I always feel a little emotional visiting Seoul because my father fought here in the Army in 1953 and served again in the late 1960s to help defend the country. One of the souvenirs he brought home from his second tour was a carving of a farmer in traditional Korean clothing. The farmer is leading an ox pulling a honey wagon. In Korea, human wastes were collected in honey buckets, and this kind of wagon would go from house to house gathering up the buckets of excrement. The waste collectors would then sell their gathered product to farmers to use for natural fertilizer. People had used human waste as fertilizer for centuries, and in the mid-20th century it was still a part of life in some areas of South Korea.

Every time I visit Seoul, I wonder what my dad would have thought of this economic and political miracle that his generation helped launch through their courage and sacrifice.

Callista and I had an opportunity to visit Camp Bonifas next to the Demilitarized Zone. The camp houses the actual table the negotiators sat at to sign the Korean War Armistice on July 27, 1953. It felt like we were witnesses to history when they allowed us to sit at that table as they briefed us on the Demilitarized Zone and the Korean War which preceded it.

The war had begun on June 25, 1950, when the Communists in North Korea launched a surprise attack on South Korea. This attack had been approved by both Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong in Communist China. The North Korean dictator at the time, Kim Il-sung, was convinced that the South Korean military was too weak to resist his Soviet-equipped and trained professional army and that the conflict would be over so quickly that the Americans wouldn’t be able to intervene.

President Harry Truman had served in the U.S. Army in World War I and had become president during World War II. He was instantly convinced that doing nothing would send a signal of weakness, which might lead to further communist aggression in Europe and elsewhere. He ordered American forces to intervene just two days after the attack began.

Truman was prepared to fight alone, but he knew it would be better to have a coalition under the United Nations. In a grandly ironic moment, the Soviets were boycotting the UN Security Council meetings because the Chinese Nationalists in Taiwan still represented China. The Soviet Union argued that the Communists had won the civil war, now occupied all the mainland and should have the Chinese seat on the Security Council (the PRC Communists would ultimately replace the ROC Nationalists in 1971). If the Soviets had been attending the Security Council meetings, they could have vetoed the resolution to defend South Korea. Yet, they were absent, so the United Nations Command was formed.

It took three long, painful years of combat to fight the North Koreans and then the Chinese Communists to exhaustion. The Chinese had come in because they saw North Korea as a key buffer zone to defend their own country. As many as 5 million people may have been killed during the war, more than half of these were Korean civilians. Civilian casualties were largely caused by the fighting, starvation, and the cold. It was a horrible and brutal war. U.S. forces lost 33,651 people in battle and another 3,262 to illness, accident, and other causes in the Korean War.

We concluded that it was not worth the cost. The Chinese later discovered that they could not drive the American-led UN forces out of Korea. Armistice talks began as early as July 10, 1951. Yet, the fighting and dying continued for two more years. A long, bitter stalemate led to the Armistice signing a little more than two years after the negotiations began.

One of the miracles of South Korea is that, with American support, the armistice has lasted 66 years. No one involved in the fighting and the negotiations in the 1950s would have thought it likely that the peninsula could live in relative peace for two generations.

Another South Korean miracle is its emergence as a world-class technological and economic power.

Callista and I had the opportunity to visit Samsung and see just how advanced South Korea has become in communications.

Already, South Korea has far more – and better – broadband access than we do in the United States. This spring, Samsung is going to roll out 5G technology in Korea. By the end of the year, 100 percent of South Korea’s area will be covered by high-speed internet infrastructure (I will write more about this in a future newsletter).

As a functioning democracy, a world leader in technology, and an industrial powerhouse, South Korea is a tribute to both the Korean people and the American people who have been their allies and helped shield them from the dangers of attack.

It was a truly inspiring weekend in Seoul.

Your Friend,

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

P.S. My new book, Trump's America: The Truth About Our Nation's Great Comeback is out and available for order.

About Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is well-known as the architect of the “Contract with America” that led the Republican Party to victory in 1994 by capturing the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. After he was elected Speaker, he disrupted the status quo by moving power out of Washington and back to the American people.

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  • 12 thoughts on “The Korean Miracle

    1. I thank you all who served in Korea. I am here today because of sacrifices made by these veterans. As a little child, i lived under the dictatorship in 80s, therefore, I willl continue to support the freedom I enjoy everyday here in US. Once again, thank you all to our military servicemen/women.

    2. While my son served with the US Army in Korea for four years, we visited S. Korea twice. The first was with the Korean American Friendship Association (KAFA). The second visit was on our own for three weeks. The people are respectful, helpful and generous. Samsung funded many of their parks and helped subsidize the subway (which is far cleaner and more efficient than any in the US). Crime in S. Korea is nil. Had we won over the Communists in Vietnam, South Vietnam may very well have risen to the same prosperity.

    3. They may be the only country that we have helped that truly appreciates Uncle Sam. They treated the Korean Honor Flight (not sure if that’s what the program was called) guys like kings. They flew them over and waited on them hand and foot. They fed them and put them up in 4-star hotels as their way of showing gratitude. They honored our Korean vets in the finest way they could and treated them as saviors (which they absolutely were). I am glad that my old friend, mentor, and member of the Chosin Few was able to make the trip a couple of years before he passed away. I, for one, am happy for the success in the south. It’s there for all to see as a vivid contrast of what a capitalist/democratic society can achieve versus the socialist/Communists a few miles to the north.

    4. South Korea needs to defend their border with North Korea 100% with their money and their army – and they need to seek reunification. It’s long overdue, and out troops need to come home.

        1. For what? Target practice for the Chinese? You DO know how many troops are in the Chinese military compared to South Korea, correct? THINK before you post.

          1. I see the coming war with China like this: China goes after Taiwan, but needs the Ryukakus, which sucks Japan and America into the war. America would use ROK army to reinforce Taiwan and the ROK navy in conjunction with the US and Japanese navies to defend the Taiwan straights. So the Chinese send PRK to negate ROK.
            China uses cyber to negate American electric grids and thus negate American manufacturing.

          2. Clark Kent, its 2:00a.m. on an empty street and you and your buddy are walking toward a parking lot, dreading the 3 hour drive home after visiting an old friend. 5 guys come around the corner from the next block up, coming your way. You then also notice a guy, smaller that you come out of a business and turn around to lock the door. Your situational awareness tells you that guy is likely not a threat, but as you have finished that thought, 2 of the 5 guys are looking your way exclaiming that “those are those guys that were taking pictures of my little sister last week, lets kick the shit out of them” The stranger looks at you and you tell him “We dont even live here, we live 170 miles away” The guy(lets say he represents South Korea) says ‘I may be smaller than you but I will fight along side you”. Do you tell the guy no thanks just because he is not as big as you, because this is your analogy?

    5. I spent 1995-1997 in Korea as a teacher in Seoul. It is truly miraculous how the country went from a war torn poverty stricken starving country,recovering from a 45 year brutal Japanese conquest and occupation to what it is today, all in the span of 3 generations!
      However some of this was done under American protection and willfully ignoring the threat that North Korea poses. The elderly remember that the USA was there dying for them, while the young people only see the Americans as an obstacle to peace. They do not realize that within a few dozen miles was a 1950 style Soviet army of starving men dying to savage them. They pretend it doesn’t exist because the daily thought of it hanging over them would horrify them. They have convinced themselves that because they are so technologically advanced that the North Koreans are merely a bogeyman story from Grandpa to frighten children.

    6. To Tomcat…..Yes, and don’t forget the hundreds of billions of dollars spent, much of it going INTO South Korea, on military protection for them in the 66 or so years since the ‘conflict’, after pulling their gonads out of the north’s wringer in the 1950’s.

    7. That is all well and good but he forgot to mention that the US has propped the S. Koreans up time after time. We have made it very lucrative for them to sell their cars and other products here. The large appliances made there are short lasting, pure junk. Given them all that, we are in a mode to buy American and bring the jobs back here, rightfully so.
      In other words I believe we have bought their independence into a free society.

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