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Forgotten War veterans receive Ambassador for Peace medals from Korean Consulate General


Korean Consulate General Moon Duk-Ho awarded 12 Korean War veterans with the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal on Nov. 2 at Edmonds Community College’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony. 

“Korean War veterans, it is always my privilege to convey the gratitude of the people and the government of the Republic of Korea to you,” Duk-Ho said. “The Korean War ended more than 60 years ago, but its memory and legacy lingers still in all corners of Korea.” 

Twelve Korean War veterans received the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal on Nov. 2 at Edmonds Community College's annual Veterans Day Ceremony.

The Korean War took place from 1950 to 1953, and ended in an armistice in July 1953. A demilitarized zone was established and continues to be jointly patrolled. 

The war has long been referred to as “The Forgotten War,” despite the loss of 178,426 U.S. soldiers, 566,434 wounded, and an estimated 32,925 missing, and their service under harsh conditions. 

“For South Korean people, it has never been forgotten,” Duk-Ho said. “This was a shining victory for both the Korean people and the United States.”

Washington state Rep. Cindy Ryu said the service and sacrifice of both Korean and American soldiers during the Korean War brought democracy and a strengthened economy to her home, South Korea. 

Ryu, who is the former mayor of Shoreline and the first Korean-American woman to be mayor of a U.S. city, said the human impact for Korean-American families is still fresh in their memories. Korean families lost ancestral lands due to the division of North and South Korea and faced economic struggles from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. 

As Ryu told the standing-room-only crowd in the college’s theater about the loss suffered by her family and many others, she also emphasized stories of heroism. 

“My grandmother, she got every single one of the younger children across the Hun River after the bridge was bombed so that they could go south and escape communism,” Ryu said, “and there are stories of patriots who went overseas to earn money and send it back home to feed and educate the children, including me and my three brothers.”

She said the actions of those patriots and the partnership with the U.S. helped rebuild South Korea.

Among those honored with the Ambassador for Peace medal was Edmonds CC employee Paul Poppe, who served in the Korean War from 1952 to 1954 as a forward observer in the U.S. Army 999 Armored Field Battalion of I Corp. 

(from left to right) Sun K. Lee, Edmonds CC alumnus and veteran Steve Pennington, Edmonds CC President Dr. Jean Hernandez, Ambassador for Peace medal recipient Paul Poppe, guest, city of Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith, Washington state Rep. Cindy Ryu, and Ki Seung Cho.

Poppe, 86, said the citizens of the Republic of Korea are resilient. 

“In 1953, there were no trees,” Poppe said. “The country was demolished. Seoul was flattened. All there was were ruins. Walls but no roofs. No glass in the windows. No utilities.

“The recovery from what was there to now is miraculous.” 

Poppe was proud to receive the medal, but he felt “somewhat undeserving compared to servicemen that really fought the tough fight.”  He served in Korea when the demilitarized zone was being set up, there were few exchanges of fire, and peace talks were underway. 

However, Duk-Ho said when the war ended, the presence of the U.S. military gave South Koreans the “reassurance to focus on building its economy.” 

“Thanks to your precious help, South Korea was able to emerge from the ashes of war to become a vibrant economy and solid democracy,” he said. 

He said the medals are a small token from the South Korean government, which “cannot even begin to convey our immense respect and honor for you.”

Other notable guests included city of Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith and Edmonds CC President Dr. Jean Hernandez. 

The city of Lynnwood has worked with the Consulate General to establish a sister-city relationship with Damyang, Korea, and collaborated with the Verdant Health Commission to launch a Veterans One-Stop Resource Center for assistance with housing, employment, medical issues, and more at 4710 196th St. SW.

Edmonds CC is home to the college’s Veterans Resource Center (VRC). Dr. Hernandez oversaw the hiring of the Veterans Program director, the creation of the college’s VRC, and the college’s $1 million Boots to Books and Beyond campaign.

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Laura Daniali