Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How Not to Forget

From afar, he looks like another Korean grandpa, but as the old saying goes, looks can be deceiving.

In the United States, the Korean War is sometimes tagged 'the Forgotten War'. I realized this past week,  it would be impossible to forget this war if we could only put a face to it.  On November 25th, Mr. Yoo Young Bok, author of the memoir "Tears of Blood", became that face for me.   I had the privilege of meeting and hearing Mr. Yoo speak at the 10 Magazine's Book Club Event in Seoul this past weekend.

Mr Yoo is one of hundreds of thousands detained by North Korea as a prisoner of war. Only two months before the ceasefire was announced in 1953, Mr. Yoo was captured by Chinese soldiers, who then turned him over to the north.  He then spent 50+ years mistreated and abused in the Stalinist state until his escape over the China-NK border at 72 years old.  

Since his return to South Korea, he has dedicated the remainder of his life to bringing awareness to the injustice experienced by the POWs in the North.  Although the majority have already passed away, the remaining POWs would be in their 80s now. Mr. Yoo hopes the South Korean government will take a stand and demand that these soldiers who are still alive to be released, as is required by international law, and can be returned once and for all back to their homeland.

This book was recently translated into English by a Mr. Paul T. Kim and is now available on Amazon.com in the US
It is amazing to me the will power this man had to survive despite all the tragedy he experienced.   Separated from his family, shamed by society for being 'one of the enemy', mistreated and forgotten by the South, it's a story that is almost too incredible to believe.

If you're interested at all in North Korea, the Korean War or human rights issues, I would highly recommend picking up this book.  Since 1994, 80 POWs have returned to South Korea, none of them through the help of the SK government.  The profits of this book, go to help fundinging these courageous people and their families.

If you'd like to read more about Mr. Yoo, here's another article.

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