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Moon uses past to reach out to U.S.

June 28,2017
With President Moon Jae-in’s first summit meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump just around the corner, the Moon government has used the fact that Moon is the son of North Korean refugees to highlight the significance of Korea-U.S. ties.

Moon was born on Geoje Island in South Gyeongsang in January 1953, half a year before the 1950-53 Korean War ended, to the parents who were among the 14,000 North Koreans aboard the Meredith Victory, a 7,600-ton merchant marine vessel at the North Korean port city of Hungnam in South Hamgyong in a mission known as the Hungnam Evacuation.

Moon’s older sister was also aboard the ship, which is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the largest transportation of evacuees ever. The Hungnam Evacuation is also referred to as “Miracle of Christmas,” since it lasted from December 15 and 24, 1950, during which an estimated 100,000 North Korean were loaded onto U.S. vessels, including the one Moon’s parents were on.

Moon commented on the Hungnam Evacuation in his remarks before veterans of the Korean army and the United Nations coalition forces on Friday, expressing his gratitude for what they did for the country.

“We have heroes here with us today,” he said, “from the Battle of Chosin Reservoir and the Hungnam Evacuation, which are widely known among the post-war Korean generations.”

He added, “Because of your service, the son of a North Korean refugee who came down from Hungnam is now standing before you as President of Republic of Korea. I hope this fact will give you, Korean War veterans, a sense of pleasure and satisfaction.”

Two days later, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha touched on the story of the Hungnam Evacuation again. During her visit to the United States’ 2nd infantry division base, Camp Red Cloud, in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi, she recalled how Moon’s parents were among those on the U.S. marine ship while also remarking that the evacuation by Meredith Victory was the largest evacuation ever for a single vessel.

“President Moon will invite Korean War veterans who participated in the Hungnam Evacuation,” continued Kang. It is expected that Moon will meet with former U.S. soldiers involved in the Hungnam project at the White House during his two-day summit there on Thursday and Friday.

By mentioning the Hungnam Evacuation, some believe Moon used his personal story to illustrate the special nature of the alliance between the two longtime allies, one that especially stands out with Moon, the son of the North Korean refugees, as South Korea’s commander in chief.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]