The Words of the Pak Family
Dr. Pak with Dr. Thomas Walsh and Admiral and Mrs. J. Robert Lunney. Robert Lunney was a staff officer on the SS Meredith Victory when it evacuated 14,000 refugees from the besieged city of Hungnam just before Christmas 1950, at the height of the Korean War.
Question: Could you please explain True Father's motivation for making this tour happen?
Last year, 2010, was the sixtieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.
The Korean War has two meanings. One is that our country was virtually wiped off the map and thrown into the ocean; yet, because of the UN it survived, revived, and -- within fifty years -- prospered. That is the significance of the war to the South Korean people. But for us, as Unificationists, the Korean War has a different meaning. The Korean War was a holy war because it saved the life of the Messiah.
Hungnam Special Labor Camp was operated as a killing chamber. Hard labor combined with starvation meant people could not survive. For Father to have survived two years and eight months was itself heroic.
I was a freshman cadet at the military academy when the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950. I had been at the academy for just twenty-five days. We were sent out to fight that very first day. I keep a list of my classmates with me, 330 names. Beside each name of those who died is written the date. Eighty-six young men from my freshman year were killed in action on June 25 alone.
[Dr. Pak related General MacArthur's daring Incheon landing of UN troops, the subsequent northerly advance of the UN and ROK forces, the systematic execution of political prisoners at Hungnam Special Labor Camp as these forces approached the city, and how they ultimately liberated the prison, thus preventing Father's execution and enabling him to continue his mission.]
So the Korean War has special meaning for us. That is why Father created the UN Peace Forces of the Korean War Memorial Federation (UPKMF) to take care of Korean War veterans and their families. Shortly before the sixtieth anniversary of the start of the Korean War, I was made president of this organization.
When Father asked us to have the Little Angels visit all sixteen countries that had sent troops to Korea during the Korean War, we created the Korean War 60th Anniversary Memorial Committee. I became co-chairman together with J. Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House in the United States. As executive director of the organization I was preparing for the Little Angels' tour from day one.
Before we departed for the tour, Father gave us a slogan: "Korea must not forget what we owe to these UN nations whose soldiers put their lives on the line in order to save our country."
We planned the tour in several segments, because we could not visit all the countries in one trip. Also, the Little Angels are school children and they couldn't be absent from school for too long. So we divided them into two groups. The first leg of the tour took us to the United States, Canada and then Colombia. Performances in the United States included Norfolk -- where we visited the memorial for General Douglas MacArthur -- and Fort Benning, Georgia, where I had trained for military service,' five venues in all.
To each performance we invited the Korean War veterans and their families, and also prominent members of society.
Every auditorium that we performed in was jam-packed -- and in some places, several hundred people could not come in because of lack of space.
In each country, too, we held a commemorative ceremony at the Korean War memorial, attended by the Korean War veterans and their family members. We laid wreaths and prayed silently.
The Little Angels tend war graves at Arlington National Cemetery, the United States, on June 24, 2010.
Question: These gestures must have touched people as much as the performances.
Yes, many people were moved to tears.
One meaningful experience in Canada happened at a military veterans' hospital that treated long-term illnesses. Almost all the veterans there were in wheelchairs; everyone was eighty years old or more.
Several hundred patients were waiting for us. After I gave the introductory remarks, the children sang. That was truly the most heart-warming experience for me. The patients' mouths were wide open, and they continuously wiped away tears as they listened and tapped in time with the music. I asked the children to go into the crowd and give a hug and a kiss to each veteran. The veterans were crying. That, for me, was one of the finest experiences of this tour.
There was one American veteran who had lost both his legs during the Korean War. Yet he felt that his family had never respected his sacrifice. A feeling of uselessness consumed him and he was just waiting to die. During our tour in the U.S., he and his family received an invitation to attend a Little Angels performance. He came with his wife, son, and grandchildren. They were very moved by the performance and were so amazed to hear of True Parents' financial support for this tour. This veteran's family soon realized that his legs were sacrificed to save Korea, and the grandchildren understood that their grand- father was a hero. From then, the family's attitude toward him changed dramatically.
We must realize clearly that all of these soldiers came and sacrificed themselves in a small country that many of them had never even heard of before. Even though they were unaware of it, they fought a holy war.
We wanted to show that the Korean people are deeply appreciative. We gave the veterans a special hero's medal with "The Little Angels" inscribed on it. On the reverse side, the words "Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, the Founders" is embossed. Not so many people noticed it, but that was the way we did it.
I wanted everyone who received the medal to have a special blessing from Father. The children hung the medals around their necks, kissed them and embraced them. At that moment, I believe the veterans forgot all the difficult times they had endured in the Korean War, and those memories were replaced with ones of the Little Angels' beautiful voices and dancing.
Wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Heroes in Manila, December 13, 2010; with Dr. Pak are General Carolina of the Philippines Veterans Affairs Office; Dr. Chung-shik Yong of the Universal Peace Federation; and Korean Consul-general Young-ho Kim.
Question: For you also, as a veteran of the same conflict, these must have been very meaningful moments.
I said to myself, Thank You Heavenly Father and True Parents. Sending the Little Angels to comfort Korean War veterans was a stroke of genius because nobody could do a better job than the Little Angels. This is my conviction. No symphony orchestra or great opera singer could have moved audiences as they did. The Little Angels are very tiny, tender, and so pure. The veterans were touched by their pure voices and delicate dance steps.
Question: Was the Korean government supportive of this initiative?
Initially, the Korean government was not supportive of the idea that Rev. Moon's group, the Little Angels, was going around the world, dancing and singing for the Korean War veterans. But what happened? After the first leg of the tour, the governments of those countries contacted the Korean ambassadors, saying that sending the Little Angels was the finest thing that they had ever done for the sake of their diplomatic mission -- even though the Korean government hadn't done anything! They said that years' worth of diplomacy had been achieved in one night.
The second leg of the tour was to nine nations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Paris was the first city we visited in Europe. There we met the Korean ambassador to France. He recommended a theater that had a capacity of five hundred people for the Little Angels to perform in. When he later learned that we had booked the Palais de Congrés, the best theater in Paris, which can accommodate three thousand seven hundred people, he asked, "Are you sure you can fill it? If not, it will be an embarrassment not just for you, but for all of Korea."
On the day of the performance the ambassador entered the theater and all three thousand seven hundred seats were filled.
After that, news traveled throughout Europe and Korean embassies in the countries we performed in gave us their full support. The Korean diplomatic personnel, witnessing the tears flowing because of the love and appreciation shown to the heroes of the past, sent glowing reports to the Korean government in Seoul, and the Korean government's view of the Little Angels' tour changed dramatically.
In Seoul, the officers of the Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans' Affairs were astonished by the accounts they were reading. The minister himself came to London to witness the event there first-hand. He attended the performance, and even delivered the congratulatory speech. Afterwards, he shook hands with all the veterans. Later, he spoke to the Little Angels, praising them, "This is a wonderful thing you are doing; there is no better gift you could have given."
At the outset, the veterans' affairs ministry had strongly told us that they would not contribute one penny to this project. After hearing about the impact the Little Angels performances was having on the veterans and their families, however, during the second leg of the tour they gave a supplemental budget of W400 million ($360,000) in two equal amounts. This was a miracle.
Inscription: This tree was planted by the Little Angels Korean Folk Ballet during their Australian tour to honor the sacrifice and bravery of the Australian forces who fought to defend a people they never met and a nation they never knew.
Question: Please could you share some memories and thoughts related with the tour?
Africa was where I cried the most. South Africa supported with its Air Force. The United States provided the airplanes, and the South Africans flew them. Thirty-four of their pilots were killed in action. One pilot is as effective as one hundred ground troops. And they were well-trained pilots. Why were there so many casualties among the pilots? Because they really supported the ground troops, using the most daring tactics such as flying at very low altitudes over the mountainous terrain.
At the time of the Korean War, the president of Ethiopia was Haile Selassie, a hardcore anti-communist and a great friend of Korea. He gave the best battalion in his country, selected from among his own security forces, his Imperial Guard. He said to them, You have to win or die. There is no middle ground.
The Ethiopian soldiers engaged in about 250 battles, and never once retreated. They would rather kill themselves than be taken prisoner. They received 750 or more decorations and a unit citation from the president of the Republic of Korea. Even more amazingly, they received one from the president of the United States.
In 1974, a coup d'état in Ethiopia brought in a communist government. The Korean War veterans were treated like criminals because they had fought against communists. Some committed suicide, some hid in the mountains, and others changed their names. To survive, these Ethiopian soldiers had to sell their medals. Do you know how much they could get for one medal? A dollar. That was the miserable situation they faced. We hadn't known about this. I wept together with them.
Wherever we went, there were many lonely, seemingly forgotten, elderly veterans. I believe that through this tour, these lonesome veterans felt loved and embraced by True Parents.
The performance in Istanbul brought together many war veterans. The event had been almost impossible to arrange because we have almost no church presence in that country. Despite these obstacles, through the work of the continental director and missionaries who came from overseas, Istanbul's best theater was filled with 2,500 people. We were even invited to visit the president of Turkey at his office.
Our final wreath-laying ceremony of the second leg was in Ankara. We travelled five hours each way to reach the National Korean War Veterans Memorial, and we arrived back in our hotel at three o'clock the following morning. Through the Seunghwa Ceremonies for the fallen heroes of the Korean War, Father has brightened the spiritual realm for them. How wonderfully blessed and happy they must be!
The third leg of the tour was to the Pacific region. There were four countries that sent troops to South Korea. Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.
In Thailand, we visited the king's mansion. The king was unwell at that time, so we prayed for him and offered flowers. We also met with the nation's commanding general, who absolutely loved the Little Angels. After the performance, he left the auditorium, but then returned with a basket of Thai money for the children!
The former president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Ramos, was away on a trip, but when he heard that the Little Angels were coming, he came straight back. He came onstage and was jumping with joy. The president of the Veterans' Association even said to us, "You don't belong to Korea; you belong to the peace-loving people of the world." I was amazed to hear this statement.
True Parents had assigned three committee vice-chairmen for this project, Dr. Dae-o Son, General Sun-min Lee, and Rev. No-hi Pak. These vice-chairmen worked very hard to explain True Parents' work to government officials, embassy officials, and the Korean War veterans in every country. Dr. Son is famous for being tough, but on this tour I saw him cry for the first time. He said of the Little Angels, "They have a miracle key that can open any heart and break down any barrier. No earthly key can do this."
Thus we covered the sixteen nations that had sent troops to Korea plus the five others that gave medical support during the war. Overall, more than twenty thousand people saw the Little Angels perform.
Germany had also helped South Korea with medical supplies after the war ended. They treated tens of thousands of the wounded. We included Germany in the tour, therefore. It happened that Father and Mother were in Germany at the time, on their world speaking tour, so we performed in front of True Parents and 3,500 guests.
In my whole life, I have never done any more meaningful thing than this visit to twenty-one countries. I made it very clear that without their support, we would not be here today. I did not just say, Thank you for your help. No, I said, "You saved our lives! Because of you, we have prosperity, and we want to thank you. But even though we thank you and give these performances, we owe our debt to you eternally, the deb. of blood and the debt of life, which we will never be able to repay for the rest of eternity." In every country we visited, I made it very clear during my opening speech that Father had founded the Little Angels for the sake of world peace.
What is more, the Unification Church members gained a deeper understanding of True Parents' deep conviction and love for humankind. Our members were uplifted, delighted, and re-charged with a burning desire to share their faith again, to witness to True Parents' unending commitment to world peace, and to save every single person on earth.