Translated by SeungYoun Woo
The Korean War broke out 61 years ago, when he was 29. After the war occurred, the senior advisor Paik Lin (Boston Institute of Korean Historical Studies) had to live in hiding for 3 months in the basement of his house in Seoul. After the Recapture of Seoul on September 28th, he finally escaped from the basement, but he caught pneumonia. During the days of the 1.4(January 4th) Retreat, he fled to Busan with books from Kyu-jang-gak, and protected the books safely.
Paik Lin (90), who went through the Korean War and has worked as a librarian at Harvard-Yenching Library, has lived in the U.S. for about half a century. He says that “Now we need to consider the Korean War with a new view.”Paik Lin, studying Korean history, thinks that it is important to let Koreans in the Korean Peninsula know Korean-Americans’ distinctive views.
Paik’s other thought is that the Korean War should not be considered just as an historical fact, but the cause and prediction of the war needs to be considered in both the past, present, and future historical contexts.
The interview with Paik Lin was held in the Boston Korea office. Because of his hearing difficulty, some major questions had to be written by hand, and we had to be satisfied with a relatively brief interview.There are many different opinions about the causes of the Korean War. What exactly are the causes of and the responsibility for the Korean War?
Professor Dae-Soo Seo in Hawaii defined the cause of the war as Il-sung Kim’s failure to push forward the reunification of North and South Korea by using military force. Il-Sung Kim is responsible for the cause, but Stalin is the one who induced the war. The Korean War (June 25th Incident of Korea) was the delegate war instead of a confrontation between the Soviet Union and the U.S. The Cold War of the East and the West erupted in the Korean Peninsula. Right before the war, Il-sung Kim actually visited Stalin to get approval for the war. I do not know the exact date but it is mentioned in a Soviet document.
On July 8th, 1951, a Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs, Marco, asked for a ceasefire; however, the ceasefire talks took 2 years and a month. This was for the Soviet Union to make the U.S., the representative of the UN forces, to lose the desire to fight. Nevertheless, when Stalin died in May 1953, the ceasefire talks suddenly made rapid progress. On July 27th, 1953, the ceasefire was finally valid. From here, we can see Stalin’s purpose .There are still divergent opinions about the cause of the Korean War breaking out, such as the inducement of South Korea.
That is not true. A professor at Chicago University, Bruce Cummings is wrongly informed. According to a document from the Soviet Union, North Korea induced the war but South Korea attacked. The reason South Korea carried out the inducement is that President Syngman Rhee (Seung-man Yi) tried too hard to bring about South-led -unification policy .
South Korea did not know much about North Korea. North Korea was already prepared completely for the armed unification of North and South Korea within 5 years after the liberation from Japan. (According to the documents the advisor Paik Lin produced, North Korea had 248 tanks but South Korea had none. North Korea had 11,700 artilleries but South Korea had only 1,200. North Korea possessed 150 Soviet warplanes but South Korea had 10 training planes. From these facts, we can understand the truth of South-led-unification policy.)What was the purpose of the Korean War?
The purpose of the war was unification. Is it possible for the unification to occur without wars? The Korean War is a failure. The war has not ended yet but we still are in the middle of a truce. The unification of North and South Korea is our nation’s important mission; thus, the goal of unification cannot be given up. Is peaceful unification possible? Chung-hee Park used the phrase, “peaceful unification.” It would not be established without any action. North and South Korea have different interpretations of the word. Il-sung Kim says a peaceful unification means an armed unification and South Korea currently says that a peaceful unification is an absorbing unification. What was the result of the Korean War?
The Korean War greatly affected Japan. Japan fished in troubled waters. Japan almost perished after World War II; however, the Korean War revived the Japanese economy. Japan could achieve independence through Los Angeles peace talks, and their industrial world rose again by repairing all the war goods. The Japanese say that the Korean War is the grace of God. The war did nothing for Koreans, but the Japanese gained from it.What will happen if there is another Korean War?
If another Korean War breaks out, it will definitely be a nuclear war that leads to a World War. It is because North Korea has nuclear weapons. At that point, most countries will disappear including North Korea itself and China. We continuously have to think that the war is not just between North and South Korea, but that it matters all over the world. Any poor policy should not be carried out. What can we do to prevent a Korean War? Will there be an irritated attack from North that is similar to the one on Yeonpyeong Island?
We have to maintain the status quo. Let us not rush the unification but just wait. The unification is our nation’s wish; however, the reality is not as easy as we think. At least since the U.S. absolutely supports South Korea, and China supports North Korea, war will not break out easily. If there is a war, then the world perishes. We restrained our anger well during the recent Yeonpyeong Isand attack. How will South Korea respond if there are continuous small provocations from North Korea such as the Yeonpyeong Island attack?
If we attack them like we did in the past, then we will be forced into a corner. We do not have to stimulate North Korea with every single minor problem. We have to maintain patience. South Korea needs to expand its arms to have an ability to repulse North Korea back right away from their position. All that matters is waiting. There is nothing else we can do. Is the unification still far away?
The unification will be either absorbing unification or armed unification. To achieve it, North Korea has to collapse or we have to go through a war. Historically, there was not any unification with any other ways.
Thus, we have to wait for the moment to be unified. The unification will occur itself after several generations. If a dictator, who seizes power like Syngman Rhee does, appears in South Korea and opposition forces increase rapidly, then South Korea will be ruined first.
Commemorating the 61sst anniversary of the Korean War, Paik Lin, the advisor of Boston Institute of Korean Historical Studies, suggests now is the time to consider the unification realistically and view the Korean War in different ways.
ⓒ 보스톤코리아(http://www.bostonkorea.com), 무단전재 및 재배포 금지