The president of South Korea thanked a group of local Korean War veterans for helping set the cornerstone of a 60-year partnership between her country and the United States during a dinner Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Les Bishop, commander of Antietam Chapter 312 of the Korean War Veterans Association, said 27 members of the organization were among about 500 people who were invited to attend the event with South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
He said the theme of Park’s speech centered on the partnership between the United States and South Korea in the years since the Korean War ended 60 years ago.
In addition to Park, who is the first woman South Korean president, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke at the event.
“I just can’t use the proper words to explain how honored we were,” Bishop said.
Twenty-seven local Korean War veterans and 12 of their wives made the bus trip from Hagerstown to
Washington, D.C., on Tuesday afternoon, Bishop said. The bus and the dinner, which included an entree of ginger-scallion crusted snapper over shitake mushrooms, were provided by the South Korean government.
According to Bishop, Park said South Korea’s prosperity wouldn’t have been possible without the sacrifice of American military personnel who served in the war from 1950-53.
South Korea now has one of the world’s largest economies.
“Both Park and Hagel kind of emphasized that all of this that has happened in South Korea to date wouldn’t be possible without American involvement in the war,” Bishop said.
The Korean War started on June 25, 1950, when North Korea attacked its neighbor to the south.
Early in the fighting, South Korean defenses were pushed back to a small pocket of resistance on the southeast coast of the country until United Nations forces, led by U.S. troops, mounted a successful counterattack in September 1950.
The war lasted until July 27, 1953, when both sides agreed to end hostilities. The two Koreas remain divided today.
The U.S. Department of Defense estimates that nearly 37,000 Americans were killed during the conflict.
Published press reports about the meeting said the leaders discussed continuing the partnership between the two countries, and Obama vowed to defend South Korea with “the full range of capabilities available, including the deterrence provided by our conventional and nuclear forces,” in the wake of recent threats from North Korea.