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Cablegate: Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs On Rok

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DE RUEHUL #0264/01 0500818
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FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7112
INFO RHMFIUU/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP// PRIORITY
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TAGS: PGOV PREL KS
SUBJECT: MINISTER OF PATRIOTS AND VETERANS AFFAIRS ON ROK
PLANS FOR 60TH ANNIVERSARY

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Minister Kim Yang of the Ministry of
Patriots and Veterans Affairs (MPVA), Republic of Korea
(ROK), told Ambassador Stephens on February 16 that the MPVA
is planning a series of events to commemorate the 60th
Anniversary of the Korean War, the most significant of which
will be a ceremony on September 28 to celebrate the recapture
of Seoul. Minister Kim asked the Ambassador for assistance
in inviting VIPs for the ceremony, potentially to include
members of Congress, Clint Eastwood and Henry Kissinger.
Minister Kim also suggested President Obama attend an
appreciation reception or ceremony during his visit to Korea
for the G20 in November.

REVISIT PROGRAM TO BRING 2,400 VETERANS BACK TO KOREA
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) Minister Kim said that Korea plans to invite 2,400
veterans of the Korean War from around the world to return to
Korea in April-June and September-October for special Korean
War commemoration events. Half of the 2,400 slots will be
allocated to U.S. veterans. This will be the largest revisit
program ever, according to Kim, and probably the last
ceremony for the veterans, who are of advanced age and in
declining health. Working through the Korean War Veterans
Association (KWVA) in the U.S., the ROKG is identifying
veterans who are able to travel and offering to pay 50
percent of the airfare for each veteran and 30 percent for a
caretaker. Minister Kim estimated that are still
approximately 400,000-500,000 remaining Korean War veterans
worldwide, down from a peak of 1.9 million. Even with nearly
half a million living veterans left, Kim suggested they were
having difficulty in finding enough veterans to participate
in the revisit program. He planned to reach out to
additional veterans' organizations in the weeks to come.

"JUNE IS FOR VETS, SEPTEMBER IS FOR VIPS"
------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Minister Kim outlined the 60th Anniversary events
MPVA is planning for the year, including the five major
events: the June 25 opening ceremony commemorating the North
Korean invasion; a Nakdong event on September 3 to
commemorate the battle that marked the turning point of the
war; the reenactment of the Incheon/Wolmido landing on
September 15; celebration of the recapture of Seoul on
September 28; and the Busan Memorial/UN Day on October 22.
Of these, Minister Kim said the recapture of Seoul will be
the most significant both symbolically, as Seoul's liberation
day, and logistically, since the weather will be appropriate
for a large-scale outdoor event. Kim hoped all 21 nations
that fought for Korea would send VIP delegations to meet
President Lee Myung Bak and attend the ceremony. Kim
mentioned Clint Eastwood and Henry Kissinger as possible U.S.
delegates and said the MPVA plans to send invitations to
them. Ambassador Stephens informed Minister Kim that the
Embassy had already invited several Congressmen and Senators
to visit this year for the 60th anniversary and offered
assistance in inviting any other U.S. VIPs.

USING THE G20 AS AN OPPORTUNITY
-------------------------------

4. (SBU) Minister Kim told the Ambassador that French
President Sarkozy planned to bring French veterans with him
to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial in Suwon
immediately following the G20 summit in November. Kim
suggested if President Obama were available for a similar
ceremony either before or after the G20, his office would
coordinate the participation of Korean veterans. He
emphasized that any such event would be completely separate
from the G20, which is being handled by the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), but that the MPVA would
assist any government in arranging a visit to a memorial with
their veterans.

APPRECIATION RECEPTIONS TO BE HELD THROUGHOUT U.S.
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. (SBU) Minister Kim announced that the ROK Embassy and nine
Consulates in the U.S. will co-host appreciation receptions
for Korean War veterans in June and July of this year.
Although the receptions will be funded by the ROKG, Minister
Kim expressed his hope that local governments would provide a
suitable venue for each reception.

THANK YOU LETTERS READY BUT LACK ADDRESSES
-------------------------------------------
PLANS FOR 60TH ANNIVERSARY

6. (SBU) Minister Kim reported that large thank you letters
will be published in several major U.S. newspapers on June
25. In addition, the MPVA is planning to send individual
letters of appreciation signed by President Lee to all known
Korean War veterans around the world. The biggest challenge
is tracking down each veteran's address, and Kim lamented
that in the U.S. it is especially difficult due to the
restrictions of the Privacy Act. Out of approximately
500,000 living American veterans, Kim estimated that the MPVA
had addresses for only 100,000.

7. (SBU) In closing, Minister Kim told the Ambassador that he
planned to travel to the U.S. in early March. He will meet
with Ban Ki Moon and offer official thanks to the UN on
behalf of the ROKG for making the decision to defend Korea 60
years ago. He also said he plans to pay a call on Secretary
Shinseki and visit the KWVA and possibly other veterans'
organizations. Ambassador Stephens assured Minister Kim that
the Embassy stands ready to assist the MPVA in coordinating
U.S. participation in the major events. Noting Embassy plans
to center this year's Fourth of July celebration around the
60th Anniversary theme, she informed Minister Kim that she
intends to use this year as an opportunity for public
outreach, to educate the next generation about the history of
U.S.-ROK relations and the story of Korea,s remarkable
transformation.
STEPHENS

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