S. Koreans raise funds for statue of American Korean War general
SEOUL — A group of South Koreans say they want to remind their fellow citizens about past sacrifices and forgiveness between the U.S. and South Korea by erecting a statue of an American general who died during the Korean War, according to the group’s president.
The Republic of Korea-U.S. Alliance Friendship Society is using about $500,000 in private donations to cast the statue of Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, the namesake of Camp Walker near Daegu, according to Seo Jin-sup, the group’s chairman.
Walker commanded U.S. and South Korean ground troops in the early months of the Korean War. The three-star general — who earned a Silver Star in World War I and the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II — was killed in a jeep accident near Uijeongbu on Dec. 23, 1950, as his vehicle tried to pass several stalled South Korean vehicles, according to the Pentagon’s Web site.
At the time, the South Korean soldier who contributed to the accident was publicly criticized, and some even talked of executing him, Seo said Monday through a translator.
That never happened, he said. But Seo and some of the society members were reminded of those feelings three years ago when two South Korean schoolgirls were killed in a vehicle accident involving American soldiers. That accident, also near Uijeongbu, unleashed torrents of grief for the girls and sometimes-violent protests against Americans throughout the peninsula.
Seo said he hopes Walker’s statue would help younger Koreans think about other incidents, even tragic ones, involving U.S. servicemembers here.
“I hope the young Korean generation will learn something,” he said during a telephone interview.
Seo also realizes the statue might spark some protests of its own. In recent years, many South Koreans have called for the removal of the statue of Gen. Douglas MacArthur at Incheon.
“But there are also a great number of the Koreans who support and cheer our plan” for Walker’s statue, he said.
It was not clear early this week where the statue would go. Seo said he was working with the Daegu city officials to determine a place, possibly the city’s war memorial.
U.S. Forces Korea officials had no specific information on the proposed memorial or details surrounding the dedication ceremony, according to a USFK spokesman on Monday.