By Park Hye Ri and Hahm Hee-eun
Photos = Hyoja-dong Studio
On June 6, Memorial Day is commemorated in Korea to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for the country. The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs held the 63rd commemorative ceremony for Memorial Day, under the theme this year of “428,030, we will remember you by the name of Republic of Korea,” at the Daejeon National Cemetery on June 6.
This year’s memorial ceremony was held at the Daejeon National Cemetery instead of at the Seoul National Cemetery, for the first time in 19 years. While the Seoul National Cemetery has a large number of military soldiers’ remains, including independence activists and war veterans, the Daejeon National Cemetery encompasses the remains of members of the Dokdo volunteer defense team, firefighters, police officers and other patriots.
According to the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, the figure 428,030 refers to the number of people buried in all 10 official national cemeteries. Their sacrifices for the country will never be forgotten and will always be remembered, the ministry said. As for the reason why this year’s ceremony was held in Daejeon for the first time in 19 years, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs said, “It’s to honor the sacrifices of independence activists, war veterans and especially those who have recently died at their posts. It means that the country will be responsible for all of them, including the most recent person who lies here, until the very end.”
More than 10,000 people attended the ceremony, including President Moon Jae-in, first lady Kim Jung-sook, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Do Jonghwan, Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Pi Woo-jin, bereaved families and general citizens.
Prior to the memorial ceremony, President Moon visited the grave site of army sergeant Kim Ki-eok who had fought in the Korean War and has no surviving families or relatives.
President Moon said in his speech that, “The history of Korea is built by normal days of our neighbors and families. Leading the independence movement during colonial times, going out to the battlefield to defend the country, working our best to take part in economic development, marching in the streets with clenched fists when democracy was threatened, all of these actions are normal days for our neighbors and citizens.“
“A warm heart toward our neighbors has become a righteous life, and a day working one’s best for the family has become extraordinary courageous. These minds have become the source of power to support Korea. Because of these people, we are able to realize that ordinary people are the owners of this country,” the president said.
In particular, President Moon emphasized that, "We must remember all those who have died for the country in the name of the Republic of Korea, including those who do not have surviving families or relatives. This memorial service shows our respect for the sacrifices they have made for the country."
President Moon also said, “If the inter-Korean relationship improves, we will prioritize the recovery of war dead remains inside the Demilitarized Zone. In this way, we will also be able to identify the remains of non-Korean veterans, including those from the U.S. military. The restoration of the headquarters of the Korean Liberation Army in Chongqing, China, which was established by the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, will be completed by April 2019, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Provisional Government, through cooperation with the Chinese government.”
Memorial ceremonies took place all across Korea, including in Seoul, Busan and Daejeon. Vehicles on the major 225 roads nationwide pulled over and had a moment of silence for one minute starting at 10 a.m. to commemorate the day.