As the U.S. prepares for denuclearization negotiations with North Korea‘s supreme leader next month, the American Korean Friendship Society honored at its annual dinner Jan. 25 Major General Daniel D. Yoo and Jay K. Eun with its “New American Hero” and “Lifetime Achievement” awards.
In August 2018, Major Gen. Yoo assumed command of the Marine’s elite U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. His responsibilities include commanding the Marine Raider Regiment, the special operation units of the U.S. Marine Corps.
He is the first Korean-American to assume the rank of general in the Marine Corps and received the Friendship Society’s “2019 New American Hero” award.
Mr. Eun is the former chairman of the Korean-American Association of Greater Atlanta for two terms and has served as a board member of the Friendship Society since 2002.
Founder of Golden Stella Inc., a jewelry wholesale business, he also has served as a board member of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and on the chamber’s executive committee. He currently heads the chamber’s Global Business Council. He received a “Lifetime Achievement” award.
The society’s dinner was hosted by its president, Sunny K. Park, CEO of General Maintenance Inc., and its chair, Frank Blake, former chairman and CEO of The Home Depot and current chairman of Delta Air Lines Inc.
It was held in the ballroom of the Westin Perimeter North Atlanta Hotel and drew a mix of more than 140 local officials and their guests including Korea’s consul general, Kim Young-jun and Japan‘s consul general, Takashi Shinozuka as well as many Korean-Americans and members of the society’s board of directors.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Kim underscored the importance of the strong economic bond linking the Southeast with Korea.
In welcoming the guests, Mr. Park described his personal difficulty as a Korean-American of being loyal to two countries and joked that when the U.S. and Korea faced off in a World Cup soccer match, he was perplexed about which to support.
Nevertheless, he encouraged Korean-Americans to be fully engaged and ultimately devoted to their adopted country and cited the careers of Major Gen. Yoo and Mr. Eun as exhibiting those values.
Mr. Blake said that he was always uplifted by the patriotic sentiments shared at the annual dinner and that he had had a long-term interest because of a former family connection to General James Van Fleet, who served as commander of the U.S. Eighth Army and the United Nations combatants during the Korean War.
Upon his death in 1992 at age 100, the New York-based Korea Society, which Gen. Van Fleet had helped found, established an award recognizing individuals who have promoted U.S.-Korean relations.
The current chairman of the Korea Society Ambassador Thomas C. Hubbard, was the evening’s keynote speaker. Mr. Hubbard is a career foreign service officer who served as U.S. ambassador to the Philippines from 1996-2000 and Korea from 2001-04.
He was a principal negotiator of the 1994 Agreed Framework aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, which succeeded in temporarily freezing North Korea’s plutonium production capabilities.
“It worked for a decade,” he said at the dinner but the world changed with a new administration and China playing a bigger role.
He added that as recently as two years ago the North Koreans were “close to being capable” of delivering a nuclear weapon on the U.S.”
He commended South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, for correctly interpreting “new sounds” from the Trump administration and beginning a process of decreasing tensions.
While in favor of the current efforts to negotiate, he criticized the lack of preparations for the meeting held in Singapore between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s supreme leader.”
“In the past we used to work up during negotiations and now it has been backwards with the top leaders making declarations and exchanging letters,” he added counseling more thorough preparations. “There’s a lot to work through.”
Mr. Hubbard told Global Atlanta following the dinner that he hoped Kim Jong-un might be more willing to negotiate now because of a realization that if he is to hold onto power for a long time North Korea will have to experience improved living standards for its people.
Before Major Gen. Yoo received his award from Miles Davis, the son of Gen. Ray Davis, Georgia’s most famous Marine veteran and recipient of the Medal of Honor, a $10,000 check was given to the Semper Fi Fund, which provides financial assistance and lifetime support to combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
In accepting his award, Major Gen. Yoo joked that the evening’s event was similar to receiving an Oscar, adding that the Marines don’t rank themselves by the number of ribbons and metals one receives, but by the amount of combat one experiences.
He said that he felt destined to be in the Army since he was born on July 4. He was 2-years-old when his parents immigrated from Korea to the U.S.
To learn more about the American Korean Friendship Society, click here.