U.S., South Koreans honor soldier killed in 1984 DMZ shootout
PANMUNJOM, South Korea — Soldiers from the U.S. and South Korean militaries gathered in the Demilitarized Zone’s Joint Security Area on Wednesday to honor a fallen comrade.
As they have every year since 1984, members of the United Nations Command Security Battalion gathered at a small memorial outside Freedom House to lay wreaths, play taps and conduct last roll call for South Korean army Cpl. Jang Myoung-ki.
“The late Corporal Jang is one of our heroes, who have made it possible for the Republic of Korea to be in existence today,” said Lt. Col. Jeon Dong-jin, battalion deputy commander. “Thus after 20 years from the day of his death, his name is still deeply engraved in our hearts.”
Jang, a Korean Augmentee to the U.S. Army, was killed Nov. 23, 1984, when Soviet citizen Vasiliy Matusak fled a communist-led DMZ tour, running into South Korea.
North Korean soldiers pursued him across the border while firing their weapons.
The UNC quick-reaction force returned fire, and a 21-minute gunbattle ensued.
Jang and three North Korean soldiers were killed.
U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Stephen Tharp said the memorial service is held annually the day before Thanksgiving.
“Today, the whole world should stop and honor Corporal Jang, not as a gesture of endorsing any nation or its current political policy, but rather in honor of all brave men who gave their lives for others,” said battalion commander Lt. Col. Michael Anastasia. “Twenty-three years ago, on this sacred ground, Corporal Jang did his duty and fought so a stranger could live his life free from oppression, injustice and brutality.”
Members of Jang’s family attended the ceremony.
Jang’s father, Jang Dae-yoon, said his family is grateful for the annual ceremony.
“He was not a hero, but he did what he needed to do as a soldier,” he said. “We’re proud of him.”