As Afghan Refugee Crisis Unfolds, Koreans Recall ‘Miracle’ Evacuation

Seoul — When a desperate refugee sees a desperate refugee trying to escape from Afghanistan during the withdrawal of the United States ㅡ A man hugging his baby and begging to board a plane in Kabul — 70-year-old Song Yang Young tears in his eyes Overflows and my heart hurts. If he was there.

His family experienced a similarly traumatic wartime experience.

Son’s parents were one of the 91,000 refugees who desperately withdrew from Hungnam, a port on the east coast of North Korea, during the Korean War in 1950. They boarded the last ship that left the harbor. Refugees — SS Meredith Victory, a US merchant marine freight carrier.

Mr. Son was one of five babies born on the ship.

“When I saw the chaotic sight at the airport in Afghanistan, I thought of the same life-and-death situation that my parents and they experienced in Konan,” Son said in an interview. “I couldn’t hold back my tears, especially when I saw those kids.”

Six months after the Korean War began, in late December 1950, 100,000 U.S. and South Korean troops suffered severe cold and deep snow after the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, also known as Chosin Reservoir, caused great losses to the UN forces. I was turning back inside. .. The only route to southern security was by sea.

As in this year’s case in Afghanistan, news of the US withdrawal has triggered a major escape. By the time the Americans arrived in Konan, many had already arrived at the port, hoping to escape violence when the Chinese fought and approached with the North.

The Americans decided to rescue as many refugees as possible and dump their weapons and other cargo in order to free up space on the 190 ships dispatched to evacuate the soldiers. This operation became known as the “Christmas miracle,” and according to some estimates, it was the largest evacuation of civilian refugees during the war in American history to Afghanistan.

Older Koreans always quote evacuation when talking about the alliance with the United States that was built during the war. When South Korea airlifted 391 Afghanistan (people working for South Korean troops and their families in Afghanistan) last month, the decision was partially coerced by what the U.S. military did in Konan. rice field.

“Americans were our savior,” said Lee Kwenpil, another baby born on Meredith Victory. “Without them my parents wouldn’t have survived the war and I wouldn’t have been here.”

How afraid Son, Lee, and other children of Konan refugees, including President Moon Jae-in, were left behind under Communist Party control, and how panicked they were to ride. I grew up listening to him. American ship. During the war, a large number of extrajudicial executions of civilians accused of cooperating with the enemy were rampant.

When the Americans withdrew, fear spread to Konan. According to the testimony of the fugitives, the streets and harbors were flooded with people screaming for lost families, screaming babies, and gendarmerie whistling to control the crowd. Fire and smoke rose as soldiers burned trucks and other supplies.

Hamhung nurse Han Gum-suk, who participated in the evacuation, said, “The shells flew overhead as Allied ships fired to prevent the Communists from advancing and Communists counterattacked to sink American ships. That’s it. ” “We crossfired several times before boarding the ship. The ground was littered with people killed with luggage. The ship had few standing rooms. bottom.”

Several events of the Korean War have hurt the Korean spirit as deeply as the withdrawal of Hungnam, which they saw as a symbol of wartime disasters and humanitarian grace. It is commemorated in Korean textbooks and one of Korea’s most beloved pop songs. The 2014 movie “Let’s meet in the international market”, partly based on evacuation, has become one of the highest-paying films in Korean film history. ..

Moon’s parents were one of the refugees who captured Meredith Victory. The ship was designed to carry up to 59 people and departed Konan on December 23, 1950 with 14,000 refugees. He sailed without escort and arrived at Geojedo off the south coast of South Korea on Christmas day. Born in a refugee camp in Geoje in 1953, Moon said his mother was talking to him about the candies distributed to refugees packed into a cargo hull on Christmas Eve.

He calls Meredith Victory’s voyage “one of the greatest humanitarian aid activities in humanitarian history.”

“I was deeply impressed by the humanity that the U.S. military showed when it evacuated not only its own troops, but also refugees during such a desperate situation,” Moon visited the United States in 2017. I said when I was there.

Meredith Victory’s captain, Leonard LaRue, has decided to abandon weapons and cargo to carry as many refugees as possible in what is known as “the greatest evacuation of land by a single ship.” The captain became a Benedictine monk in New Jersey after the war and died in 2001. The Episcopal Conference of the United States recently expressed support for his canonization.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, Moon’s government has thanked Meredith Victory’s three surviving crew members, including Robert Lanny, Burley Smith, and Mel Smith, for Korean War veterans around the world. I sent millions of face masks as a mark.

One of the babies born on the ship, Son, met Luni when an American was invited to South Korea a few years ago. Together, they confirmed that Mr. Son was a “Kimchiwan.” According to Lanny, the American crew on the ship nicknamed the five babies born on the “Kimchi.” This is clearly because it was the Korean language most familiar to them.

Lee was “Kimchi Five”.

Lee and Son relived the pain of a war-torn Korean family when they saw news that a young Afghan soccer player had fallen from an American plane and had a baby on airlift from Kabul. Told.

Prior to joining the Mad Rush to Meredith Victory, Son’s father and mother entrusted his nine-year-old son and five-year-old daughter to his younger brother. His parents believed that the family would meet again when the flow of war favored the United States.

Instead, the ceasefire stopped the war and the Korean Peninsula remains divided. Son’s parents died in the north without seeing their two children again.

Thousands of refugees were stranded in Konan after the last ship departed. US troops bombarded the harbor to destroy its equipment and supplies so that Communists could not use them. Lee, 70, said he heard from North Korean defectors that many refugees left in the port died during the bombing and other refugees were sent to camps. ..

After resettling in the south …

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