POSCO CEO Ohjoon Kwon received the 2016 Van Fleet Award on May 18 in New York in recognition of his contributions to the economic cooperation and promotion of friendly relations between Korea and the U.S.
The James A. Van Fleet Award was established by The Korea Society in 1995 to honor the late General James Van Fleet, who was commander of the U.S. Eighth Army during the Korean War. It is given annually to an individual or organization who has contributed to the promotion of U.S.-Korea relations.
The Korea Society, which has made great efforts to improve cooperation and exchange between the two countries in the U.S., presents the award each year at its Annual Dinner.
Past recipients of the award include Secretary-General of the UN, Kimoon Ban (2004), former U.S. President George H. W. Bush (2005), Samsung CEO Kunhee Lee (2006) and former President of the Republic of Korea Daejung Kim (2007).
Notable & Quotable: Korea
‘If the U.S. had not come to the aid of the Korean people, or if we in the South had lost the war, I would not be standing here.’
During the Korean War, Gen. James Van Fleet brought not only an exceptional military record but also leadership of great stature with the highest ideals. He courageously commanded the U.N. troops at the very forefront during the Korean War, with the steadfast goals of defending the people of the Republic of Korea and preserving democracy on the Korean Peninsula.
His own son, Lt. James Van Fleet Jr., also volunteered as a combat pilot but tragically went missing in action during his mission near the Yalu River. Gen. Van Fleet suspended the search-and-rescue operations for his son out of concern for putting additional soldiers’ lives at risk.
Although his son James never made it back home, his noble spirit of self-sacrifice will be remembered forever by those of us with any connection to the Korean War conflict.
In fact, this is the story I read in the social-studies book when I was in the fifth grade in elementary school. That was also my first encounter with Gen. Van Fleet. The name of Gen. Van Fleet has remained embedded in the hearts and in the minds of the Korean people, symbolizing the strong bonds . . . between our two nations.
In today’s modern era where self-centered egoism is often the generally accepted norm, James Van Fleet’s legacy of bravery and sacrifice continues to serve as a valuable moral lesson for today’s young generation of Koreans.
Tomorrow, I will be traveling to Washington, D.C., to visit Arlington National Cemetery and pay homage and tribute to Gen. James Van Fleet and the fallen soldiers who gave their lives on Korean soil.
On a personal note, I was born just 20 days before the outbreak of the Korean War, in a small town in South Korea. One of the fiercest battles in modern history was recorded near the Nakdong River close to my hometown, and this battle forced my family to evacuate southwards. The evacuation trail stretched 200 kilometers or 125 miles, and my parents had a hard time carrying a 20-day-old newborn baby enwrapped in blankets.
I still recall, when I was studying metallurgical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh some 40 years ago, how fortunate and privileged I felt to have the opportunity to come to the United States to further pursue my studies and career ambitions. If the U.S. had not come to the aid of the Korean people, or if we in the South had lost the war, I would not be standing here.
** This content was published on May 20 in the Wall Street Journal.