New York, 25 June 2010 - Secretary-General Remarks to Korean War Anniversary EventMr. Joseph Calabria, Commander of the Staten Island Korean War Veterans Association,
Honorable Veterans of the United States and the Republic of Korea
My deepest respect and admiration [goes out] to all those who have died for the freedom and stability on the Korean peninsula - my deepest thanks to you.
Your Excellency Park In-gook, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations
Honorable Ambassador Kim Kyung-geun, Consul-General of the Republic of Korea in New York
Honorable Consul-General Mr. Mehmet Samsar of Turkey
Distinguished leaders of the Korean-American community in New York,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Today, I see the world through the eyes of a six-year old. I was six years old in 1950 when the Korean War broke out.
I was like every other six-year old child - full of hope ? full of wonder ? full of possibility. And then ? the war broke out ? suddenly, abruptly, a hell on earth.
My family and I fled our home. We hid on a mountainside with my grandparents. From there, I saw the bombs hit my village. From there, I saw my world go up in smoke.
Why? I could not understand. I could only feel pain ? right to the bone. We wandered through mud and mountains. And I remember repeating a rhyme to myself, over and over: “Will I ever go back to my home – once I get through this muddy dirt road?” But, soon after, I saw something else.
The United Nations forces? led by the soldiers of the United States and troops from twenty one countries of the United Nations member states. You came to my country's rescue. You gave us our freedom. You led us back home.
To those of you who fought that war, let me say this: Sixty years later, I still see you with six-year old eyes – young, strong, larger than life. For me, ever since, the UN flag has been a banner of hope. That vision has driven me throughout my life.
Not long after the war, I was a young student, selected by the Red Cross to represent my country and see the United States. My group went to the White House. We met President [John F.] Kennedy at that time. He told us when it comes to the suffering people of the world, “there are no national boundaries?there is only a question of whether we can extend a helping hand.” And, once again, in my mind's eye, I saw you.
Now I am privileged to lead the United Nations. I head UN peacekeeping forces around the world. I travel to some of the most desperate places on earth. And when I go to a war zone ? or a refugee camp ? or a hospital ? I look out, and I can often see those same six-year old eyes of mine. I want that child to have what every young girl or boy deserves – hope ? possibility ? wonder? and peace and security.
For a time, the war took that from me. You gave it back.
Dear friends, Ladies and gentlemen,
The United States paid a heavy price for the Korean conflict. So many people have lost, ultimately their lives. More that 37,000 young men and women gave their lives. So many families were broken, so many wounded. So many sacrifices that only you can know.
But here is what I know. You helped turn destruction into democracy. Out of rubble came an economic power. Out of tragedy emerged a free democratic society. That is your gift and your legacy. And we grow older. As we grow older, it grows stronger. And the Korean people and government have become very strong.
Some may call the Korean conflict the “forgotten war.” For me, it is the “unforgettable victory.” We thank you. We salute you. And we will never, ever forget your sacrifice and help. Thank you very much. Long live the United States, and long live the Republic of Korea, and most of all for peace and stability, freedom and democracy on the Korean peninsula and all throughout the world. That's my commitment as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I need your support. Let's work together.
Thank you very much.