This saying never leaves my mind. I remember being an American visitor to the Korean War Memorial, the DMZ and the Joint Security Area. I went to Dorosan Station, and the newly renovated rails that connect North and South Korea. But it remains empty, only with future hope where men, women and children can travel freely back and forth across the present forbidden lines.Koreans on both sides exist without the freedom to truly live. Some of the south desperately long to see loved ones in the north. They leave their notes, thoughts and prayers at the bridge in remembrance.
Externally South Koreans know how much freedom costs, seeing barren northern mountains knowing that loved ones are not physically, spiritually or mentally free.
And I know that America was a big part of that sacrifice with of over 30,000 casualties of war. While other countries were significant in their help, we sent the most help and lost the most.
Walking the streets in Pohang, South Korea, old Korean men would stop and bow, thanking me as an American, for our sacrifices to their freedom.
Men and women go to war. Families sacrifice. Goverment spends money. But where does the decision to spend the money to defend freedom come from?
I wonder if it starts with the heart or the mind? Or maybe it starts with the mouth, with the ability to speak and then to do what is right, morally and ethically right, in the face of adversity and oppression. Money doesn't buy freedom, it only strengthens the choices made when they are made so that people can have the human rights they were endowed with.Once people have chosen to invest in truth, freedom will come, but it may be very costly. Yet what is expensive is usually worth it, especially when it preserves the intangibles of life and human dignity.
I will never forget the discussion I had when I was teaching there in 2008. I met a man from South Korea who had been to America. He asked me how I liked South Korea. I told him I had felt very safe in his country. I moved to and fro without fear of being acousted...much different than in the united states. He looked at me and said "I feel safer in the United States." I looked at him puzzled and then thought about the fact that they are on a Peninsula in South Korea and have a hositle neighbor. In the United States there are internal threats but many options for protection. Hmmm..individuals oppressing you or government oppressing you? While the United States is not perfect...I realized how blessed I was...and my prayers go out to those in North and South Korea.
South Korea 2008