During their recent trip to the United States, for the International Youth Leadership Assembly, the GPYC Korea delegation had the opportunity to visit the Korean War Memorial as well as spend time with a group of Korean War veterans.
As articulated in a post written during the IYLA convention, the Korean War Memorial as well as the time that GPYC spent with the group of veterans, was much more than just a routine tourist stop. For the Korean delegation it was a chance to connect and “[see] the faces and names of the soldiers who flew to an unknown land to defend the freedom of people they’d just begun to know about.”
Although language, culture and an ocean normally lie between Koreans and Americans, the gestures of gratitude displayed during the visit rang louder than any difference or divide. Youth delegate, Jong Ho Kim’s actions spoke on behalf of the hearts of many Koreans, who are eternally grateful for the sacrifice of the brave men and women who served on their behalf.
In Korean, he quietly requested to be allowed to show his gratitude to the veterans. As he was given the okay, he stood in front of the brave soldiers and offered a full bow. Although a full bow may seem like a simple and insignificant gesture, in Korean culture as well as other Asian cultures, a full bow is a sign of utmost respect and humility.
As Korea stands in stalemate with its neighbor and family to the North, all Korean men are to serve a mandatory 2 years within the service at the age of 18. With a common sense of military service and with a heart of gratitude he slowly rose from his full bow. As he rose to his feet Jong Ho then called out and raised his hand in salute. He stood motionless, as each of the veterans slowly raised their hands and lowered them in response to his call. Until each veteran lowered his hand, he solemnly and gratefully saluted the veterans.
Without a direct exchange of words, the “thank you” was conveyed. No words were necessary to feel the emotion and deep sense of gratitude. A generation separates Jong Ho from these former service men, but in that moment, his heart brought them together.