As a way to honor those who served in the Korean War, one woman is traveling across the country thanking veterans for their service.
Korean War activist Hannah Kim was in Carson City on Tuesday — during her 90-day, 50-state tour — to visit the Korean War Memorial at Riverview Park and to lay a ceremonial wreath as a thank you to the vets.
“As a Korean-American I didn’t know much about the Korean War, so I saw a chance to thank those who fought in the forgotten war,” Kim said. “I wanted to go in person ... because their war never ended.”
The Korean War was fought between North and South Korea from June 1950 to July 1953 when an armistice was signed to create the Korean Demilitarized Zone, separating the two nations. In the United States, it was known as the Forgotten War because of the lack of public attention it gained during and after. Though the fighting ended, no peace treaty has been signed and the countries technically remain at war to this day.
“I want to urge Americans to remember the heroes from the forgotten war and thank them when I meet them in town,” Kim said. “That is all they want, is to be remembered ... I thought I had to do something so it will no longer be known as the Forgotten War and for it to get more than just a paragraph in the history books because they deserve more than that.”
Kim established the Remember727 organization, dedicated to honoring Korean War veterans, and began lobbying to establish July 27 as national Korean War Veterans Armistice Day. Kim also helped cosponsor the Korean War Veteran Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 36,000 vets who died and 8,000 POW/MIA. She’s also an honorary member of the Korean War Veterans Association and in 2017 traveled the world visiting every country that was part of the UN effort during the war.
“I vowed to collect the story of veterans before it is too late because most of them are already 90 years old,” Kim said. “I was blown away because every vet told me how they wanted to see stability on the peninsula.”
Kim said the purpose of the tour is to make sure those who fought in the Korean War aren’t forgotten, since until recently there wasn’t a sign of peace.
“They died for my freedom, but they won’t be forgotten,” Kim said. “Freedom isn’t free.”
“As a Korean American, I would walk the halls of Congress and have to pinch myself and say how in the world is this possible?” Kim said. “Because if they didn’t fight in Korea I wouldn’t be here.”
Dozens of people were in attendance Tuesday as the Korean War Veterans Association hosted a ceremony to welcome Kim and lay a ceremonial wreath at the memorial.
“I wanted to go to all 50 states because each suffered a casualty,” Kim said. “All across America the veterans are excited that I am visiting.”
Kim said she calls each veteran “Grandpa.” “I am so happy I get to come here and give you hugs and kisses because I want you to remember that, though at the time you didn’t know what you were signing up for and 70 years later you are able to see the fruits of your labor,” Kim said. “And I want to say thank you.”
At the ceremony, Kim talked to each veteran who attended, learning more about their service during the war. In attendance was one of the few female Korean veterans and a Prisoner of War who was held for 33 months.
Larry Osborne, secretary for the Korean War Veterans Association Carson City chapter, talked about the memorial as well as what being a veteran means.
“A veteran is someone who at some time signed a blank check, payable to the United States of America for an amount up to their life,” Osborne said. “We want to honor those Nevadans who had that check cashed.”
The veterans talked about the memorial that sits at Riverview Park and the importance it represents for the community. The Chapter also presented Kim with the Rose of Sharon — the national flower of South Korea, a certificate of appreciation and a membership to the Carson City chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association.
The tour comes at a critical part, as North and South Korea finally work on peace negotiations.
“This is timely as we see for the first time in 65 years peace may be coming to the peninsula,” Osborne said. “There is a lot to be done yet, but we can all cross our fingers and hope and pray they sign a document to end the war.”
And by having the peace treaty in the media, it brings attention to a group, often overlooked in the public’s eye.
“To me, I am so happy today that all of America will finally learn about the Korean War,” Kim said.
Every state has a memorial,but Kim said, like the vets, the memorials are often overlooked.
“People pass by them all of the time on their commute, but they never pay attention to them,” Kim said. “They don’t have to travel like me to all 50 states and 15,000 miles to say thanks. They can go to their own memorial and pay tribute and honor and remember.”