SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
LEE Chung-sun “United Nations Cemetery in Korea”
I got a mail from Producer of KBS (Korean Broadcasting System) in Summer, 2021.
“Hello, sensei (myself)！I am a KBS producer working for a special documentary program. This year is the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea (UNMCK). We look back to soldiers who were sent by United Nations for the Korean War and died. We cast our light on the meaning of UNMCK. Recently, I read your thesis about the possibility of inscription of UNMCK in the World Heritage Site. We would like to have an interview with you, if possible, on the change, meaning and evaluation of UNMCK.
According to our Director Y., you are on the last stage in completion of your thesis, and we know you are busy. But we shall be very pleased if you would accept our request.”
When I received this mail, my head was full of doctoral thesis and my future. And, somehow, I accepted their request by something unidentified power. It was an encounter of my fateful start for “My memorable place – United Nations Cemetery” for four months. It was a special documentary program by KBS Pusan, and I joined as an academic supervisor.
This documentary program had another title “The Forgotten War and its Afterwards”. I did not know it at that time. The direction of this program seems nothing special. But I am proud of having contributed to suggest “Memory” as the basic concept of this program. The title of my doctoral thesis is “United Nations Cemetery in Korea as a memorial place: War cemetery as cultural heritage” and as you can see a close relevance in the title of program and my thesis.
I gave authentic advice using ZOOM as an academic supervisor in August and September. Responsible producer sent me various questions or opinion reading my argument on UNMCK. I answered on ZOOM meeting and gave her historical documents and pictures as supplementary data if required. When I gave her pictures or images of the year 1950s, KBS asked original authors for their license or bought copyrights.
Documentary program started from present stories (though 71 years has passed after the Korean War) of excavation of the remains of the War dead and their personal identification works by the Ministry of Defense. Protagonists of this documentary are not only the War dead (United Nations soldiers) themselves but surrounding people of the War dead also.
All of them made up the dramas.
Mr. James Grundy (90 years old) collected bodies of his comrades-in-arms which have been left in battle fields in the year 1951 amid the War and buried them in the UN Cemetery.
Mr. Vincent Courtenay (87 years old) UN soldier from Canada and Mr. Brian Hough (88 years old) UN soldier from UK proposed International Memorial Ceremony for the War dead under the title “Turn toward Pusan”. Mr. Michael Hockridge (the War dead) passed away at the age of 20 he was young and was buried in this cemetery. Mr. William Speakman was honored with the Victoria Cross (the most prestigious award for soldiers in the UK or the Commonwealth) for the Korean War. Their bereaved families made up the dramas too.
We cast our light on unknown soldiers or missing soldiers who were embroiled in gigantic and unknown violence “the War”. When I advised in ZOOM, producer told me “This drama would bring those people (who tell the story) instead”.
Her saying means “if we meet fortuitously, it would be our destiny”. When I started my doctoral course, I crossed my mind many times as I was at a loss for finding the theme of my doctoral thesis. Various stories in “My memorable place – United Nations Cemetery” overlapped co-incidentally with my present situation as storyteller about UNMCK. In that sense all the people who are the War dead who rest in UNMCK regaining their names and the War dead who could not regain their names, Producers of this documentary program and scholarships of Atsumi International Foundation may be my destiny which I should meet in my life.
Story of UNMCK does not limit to the past War which is far from “present” and “here”. UNMCK, whereabouts of the dead, is the pace of memory and oblivion. We confront the War dead and ex-soldiers alive who went boundaries back and forth of dichotomy between life and death or peace and war. Whereabouts of death and traces of war, both came from confrontation of ideology, are showing us a vision which we should aim as human beings who live in 21st century. Such reflection of documentary “My memorable place – United Nations Cemetery” is a legacy, which should be bequeathed to the postwar generation, as “Living Heritage”.
“My memorable place – United Nations Cemetery” (photo album)
YouTube link “My memorable place – United Nations Cemetery” (trailer)
SGRA Kawaraban 694 in Japanese (Original)
LEE Chung-sun / 2021 Raccoon, Postgraduate student at the University of Tokyo
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala