Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Britain's most important battle of the Korean War

Today marks the 58th anniversary of the beginning of the Chinese Spring offensive during the Korean War. On April 22, 1951, Chinese forces began the largest offensive of the war with the aim of recapturing Seoul. One of the battles where they were stopped was the Battle of Kapyong, which I mentioned in this post last week (more on it here). Another important battle was the Battle of the Imjin River, which is the focus of a new book by Seoul-based British journalist Andrew Salmon titled "To The Last Round: The Epic British Stand on the Imjin River, Korea 1951." As this Korea Times article relates,
"British forces have fought all over the world since the 1950s, but Imjin River remains the bloodiest battle since World War II. Of the brigade's 4,000 men, 1,091 were dead, wounded or captured… However, today in the United Kingdom this tragedy is almost forgotten," said the author. Back home, he said, military history is a popular genre but there are barely any books on the Korean War.
When I met the author a few weeks ago, he mentioned that this book would be coming out soon, and it sounded interesting; what I didn't know was that the book is being made into a documentary by Daniel Gordon, known for his documentaries about North Korea ('The Game Of Their Lives,' 'A State Of Mind,' and 'Crossing the Line'). I also found this interesting:
The filmmakers are seeking private investment because South Korean governmental bodies refused to fund the movie, reasoning that "the Korean War is not in line with the 'brand image' (they) want to promote," Salmon said. "I think if you want to understand how prosperous and free Korea is, you need to contrast it with the brutality and poverty of the war," he added.

"Korea is now a rich country, one of the richest countries in the world. To fully understand that, you have to contrast it with the way it was 50 years ago. That is a tremendous achievement by the Korean people. On a different angle, war is the greatest human drama. Much of the great poetry, literature and film are on the drama of war. I'm surprised Korea doesn't package its tourism toward the Korean War," he said.
Salmon has also written one of the more down-to-earth articles I've read about branding Korea (in this case, food) here. Back to the film:
The filmmakers hope the film will be ready to be screened by the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War next year. "I truly hope the Korean government and society will unite to commemorate next year's 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. For next year will be the last significant event that living witnesses will be able to participate in," said Salmon.
The article manages to mess up both the name of the book and the website, which is here. Be sure to read the introduction here - it looks like a promising beginning.


daeguowl said...

And yet Panmunjom is one of the must see tourist destinations listed by the KNTO and they also make great efforts to have Korean War Verterans make pilgrimmages every year (the Commonwealth ones were here last week)...


War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.