Gen. Raymond G. Davis, who received the Medal of Honor for leading a storied rescue of fellow Marines besieged by Chinese troops at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, is probably the best known Georgian who fought in that devastating battle. General Davis, a combat veteran of three wars and the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps in the early 1970s, died at age 88 in Conyers in 2003.
But it was Gen. Davis’ fellow Marine, Norman Board, who was recognized by Korean Lt. Gen. In-Bum Chun during the annual dinner meeting of the Southeast U.S. Korean Chamber of Commerce at the Kia Georgia Training Center in West Point the evening of Jan. 10.
“Shake his hand before you leave,” Lt. General Chun told the 200 attendees during his dinner address because he survived that battle at the Chosin Reservoir. “That’s a lucky man to be alive. He is 87 years old and will live until he’s 120. It’s men like him who protected Korea and who brought our two countries truly together.”
The lieutenant general recognized the sacrifice of the 38,000 Americans who died in the Korean War with 100 dying on average each day during the first five months of the war, which began on June 25, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea following a series of clashes along their border.
Lt. General Chun retired from South Korea‘s military in 2016 after 35 years of service. He has been a visiting scholar in Washington and elsewhere including the Sam Nunn School of International Studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology. While in Atlanta he has spoken to a wide variety of civic organizations including the Japan-America Society of Georgia, the Atlanta Council on International Relations as well as at the Korean chamber event.
He recognized Mr Board and the sacrifice of the American troops who died in Korea for forging in blood U.S.-Korean ties and underscored that it has been amply recognized by Korean troops who have fought with U.S. troops in Vietnam and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
“Many Americans know that Korean troops fought in Vietnam,” he said. “But few know that half-a-million Korean troops rotated into the war over a period of seven and a half years with 25,000 casualties and 5,000 either killed in action or missing in action.”
“That’s true friendship,” he added.
Korea’s payback didn’t end in Vietnam either. For five and a half years, he added, Korea was the third largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan. “All of them were volunteers,” he said. “– some for the extra pay, some for glory and some who wanted to prove that we Koreans remember what America did for us even if they didn’t believe in the war. They wanted to help Americans.”
In what was essentially a 15 minute speech, he didn’t just look backwards but also addressed the rhetorical question “Why is Korea important?” by considering what would happen to the important Japan-U.S. economic and military relationship if North Korea took over or destroyed South Korea.
“Japan is very important economically and security wise to the U.S. with seven bases flying the U.N. flag.” he said. “All United Nations aircraft and ships use Japanese air space and sea space. The Japanese islands are aircraft carriers that protect Korea. Don’t waste time on small issues; Japan is important.”
But without South Korea he said “Japan would be so reduced and North Korea would be so hostile to Japan. Japan could never be what it is today. Koreans and Japanese are tied together in a security situation, and Japan is so important to the U.S.”
Acknowledging that he was talking to a chamber of commerce, he also made it clear that South Korea had an important role to play in the global economy.
Although its contribution to world growth is only three percent in comparison to the 25 percent generated by the U.S., the 15 percent by China, the seven percent by Japan, it remains significant, he said, when compared to the 4.2 percent by India, the 3.1 percent by Russia and the less than 2 percent by Saudi Arabia.
“If something happens in Korea it won’t end there,” he added, but would have implications for markets around the world.
Jim Whitcomb, the chamber’s president, opened and closed the meeting, which included the traditional raffle of goods. Stuart Countess, chief accounting officer of Kia Motors Manufacturing of Georgia announced that the Kia facility recently had produced its millionth vehicle, and welcomed the guests along with Steve Daniel, the executive director of Georgia Quick Start, the workforce training agency.
Kia’s newly released seven-passenger luxury SUV, the Telluride, was on display for the guests to admire as they entered the dining hall.
To learn more about the Southeast U.S. Korean Chamber of Commerce, click here.