It now appears that a proposed Korean War memorial will not be placed near the Korean Friendship Bell at Angels Gate Park in San Pedro. The reason for this is that many people are opposed to the warlike nature of the proposed sculpture, which depicts larger-than-life soldiers in fighting stances and positions with their weapons in a simulated battle scene. These people say that such a memorial would glorify war and destory the peaceful nature of the bell and surrounding park.
The bell was given by the government and people of South Korea as an expression of friendship to the government and people of the United States on the occasion of our 1976 Bicentennial. The bell is truly a wonderful gift and a fitting symbol of the good will and harmony between our two nations.
However, I wonder how many people ever give thought to how it was that a free, sovereign and friendly South Korea existed in 1976 to give such a gift to this country. It is only because nearly 40 years ago American soldiers and Marines, along with South Koreans, British and other United Nations troops, took up the fighting stances and weapons that the proposed sculpture depicts and accepted the hardships, injuries, death and all the horrors of war in order to keep South Korea a free and independent nation.
I suppose it is more pleasant to think only of the bell and its peaceful surroundings, and not have to be reminded that men once left their homes, and all that was dear to them, to fight a war that made it possible for people today to enjoy the beauty of the bell in its peaceful setting. Yes, peace is a wonderful thing, and people talk about it as if it is a very natural and permanent part of life. And war, and guns, and fighting are awful things, and have nothing whatsoever to do with peace.
The reality, however, is that the peace and freedom that people enjoy today are here because people yesterday fought for them. No one wants to glorify war, but neither should we forget that men fought and died to ensure that there would be peace.
It is regrettable that the Korean War memorial will not be placed in close proximity to the bell, because there is a powerful and symbolic connection between the two. But I say that the Korean War memorial, wherever it will eventually be placed, should be as the veterans who fought that war want it, so that people will look upon it and understand what men had to do those long years ago that made it possible for a free South Korea and the gift of its bell to exist today.
Rancho Palos Verdes