Subscribe
Retired South Korean Gen. Paik Sun-yup gives a Korean War briefing Tuesday on Yongsan Garrison.

Retired South Korean Gen. Paik Sun-yup gives a Korean War briefing Tuesday on Yongsan Garrison. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

Retired South Korean Gen. Paik Sun-yup gives a Korean War briefing Tuesday on Yongsan Garrison.

Retired South Korean Gen. Paik Sun-yup gives a Korean War briefing Tuesday on Yongsan Garrison. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

Retired South Korean Gen. Paik Sun-yup autographs his book, "From Pusan to Panmunjom," for Commander Naval Forces Korea Chief of Staff Capt. Gary Waring Tuesday on Yongsan Garrison.

Retired South Korean Gen. Paik Sun-yup autographs his book, "From Pusan to Panmunjom," for Commander Naval Forces Korea Chief of Staff Capt. Gary Waring Tuesday on Yongsan Garrison. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — History came to life for a group of sailors and Marines on Tuesday afternoon.

Retired South Korean Gen. Paik Sun-yup, famous for leading South Korea’s 1st Infantry Division as a colonel during the Korean War, briefed members of Commander Naval Forces Korea and Marine Forces Korea at the request of CNFK commander Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup.

Black-and-white photos of famous battles, famous military leaders and even a U.S. president-elect were flashed across a screen. In many of the photos, including one that ran in Time magazine, the then-30-year-old Paik was briefing generals, shaking hands with admirals and posing with other members of the armistice commission.

Paik brought laughs as he peppered the presentation with humorous anecdotes.

Using a laser pointer, Paik traced a red circle on a photo of the grenade Gen. Matthew Ridgway always wore on his vest. Ridgway was the 8th U.S. Army commander who took control of the United Nations Command after President Truman relieved Gen. Douglas MacArthur of the command.

“He always wore a hand grenade … very dangerous,” Paik joked.

Of interest to many of the sailors in the room was the story about the fire support Paik received while commanding forces along the coast.

He told the sailors that he met with Rear Adm. Arleigh Burke, who told Paik, “I am your artillery commander.”

Paik encouraged the admiral to send sailors on land so they could act as forward observers and “call for fire” from the Navy.

He said he also was thankful for Navy doctors, who diagnosed and treated his malaria during the war.

Navy Chief Petty Officer Thomas Steward said it was exciting to attend the Korean War briefing. He’d studied the war in high school and during the 20 months he’s been stationed in South Korea and said Paik “shed a lot of light” and “answered a lot of my questions.”

“The subject matter expert was fantastic,” he said.

Wisecup said having a “legend and a national hero” speak to the naval forces in South Korea was ideal.

“I felt it was very important … to hear from him directly,” Wisecup said.

The admiral said people sailors know only from history books were Paik’s friends, allies and acquaintances.

Paik told Stars and Stripes that he devoted his life to strengthening the U.S.-South Korea alliance.

“I hope U.S. troops serving in Korea are trying to learn … about the customs, traditions and culture,” he said. “Through mutual understanding and respect about each other, the alliance between two nations can stand strong.”

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

About Gen. Paik ...

Retired South Korean Army Gen. Paik Sun-yup became the first South Korean to earn the rank of four-star general.

He participated in all 10 major campaigns during the Korean War and served as South Korea’s initial representative to the armistice.

He served twice as South Korea’s Chief of Staff and was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He retired in 1960 as the country’s most highly decorated soldier, earning two Taeguk Medals (Korea’s highest award), in addition to seven U.S. medals including the Silver Star and four Legions of Merit.

He served as ambassador to Taiwan in 1960 and to France (and concurrently 160 other European and African nations) and Canada in 1965.

He was South Korea’s Minster of Transportation from 1969 to 1971 and president of South Korea’s largest chemical company from 1971 to 1980.

From 1989 to 2003, he was chairman of the ROK 50th Anniversary of the Korean War committee and now serves as chairman of the advisory committee for the Military History Compilation Institute.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now