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South Valley Riverton Journal

Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the KOR-US Alliance in Utah

Dec 01, 2023 10:57AM ● By Dylan Wilcox

Ceremonies were carried out for the 70th Anniversary of the Korea-US Alliance in Utah on Oct. 12. (YongJae Kim, World Martial Arts)

On Oct. 12 and 13, a remarkable and meaningful event unfolded in Utah, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Korean-American alliance. In honor of the 120th anniversary of Korean immigration to the United States and the enduring alliance between the two nations, the state of Utah came together to organize a special event that embodied the values of "Memory, Friendship, and Gratitude."

YongJae Kim, a Taekwondo Master based in Riverton and the visionary behind this commemorative event, played a pivotal role in planning and directing it. His experience in organizing various international events, movies and performances in Korea prepared him to undertake this significant endeavor. However, what truly fueled his passion and dedication for this project was his personal connection to the Korean War and the alliance it birthed.

Kim's father was a Korean War veteran who dedicated his life to serving as a soldier in the Republic of Korea. Tragically, Mr. Kim passed away when YongJae was just 5 years old, succumbing to a chronic illness. This left behind a single mother and six siblings to navigate life without him.

Despite not having tangible memories of his father, Kim saw his father's legacy in his words and actions. He saw the spirit of his father reflected in the Korean War veterans who attended the event. Tears welled up in his eyes as he spoke about the profound impact the veterans had on him and his commitment to making this event a reality. For Kim, this event was not just a commemoration of history; it was a deeply personal tribute to his father's sacrifice and the sacrifices of countless other veterans who fought for freedom and peace.

Through his leadership and heartfelt dedication, Kim ensured that this event was a fitting tribute to the enduring legacy of the Korean War and the strong alliance between the United States and Korea. His personal story and the stories of the veterans served as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by the previous generation and the responsibility we all share in upholding the values of "Memory, Friendship, and Gratitude" that lie at the heart of the KOR-US alliance.

While numerous events, both large and small, were planned throughout the United States to mark this historic occasion, the one in Utah stood out. The event was specially organized by the Utah State Government, the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, and the Korean American Federation in Utah. These organizations united under the motto of "Memory, Friendship, and Gratitude" to create a memorable and heartfelt celebration.

Commemorating the end of the Korean War and the 70th anniversary of the alliance in the United States, large-scale events were primarily concentrated in major cities, making it challenging for Utah to receive the attention and support it deserved. 

Nevertheless, Utah boasts a vibrant community of approximately 15,000 Korean residents and has nurtured long-standing exchanges with Korea in the areas of education, resources, economy, diplomacy and culture. In particular, this year marked the 40th anniversary of the sisterhood relationship between Utah and Gyeonggi-do, Korea, adding an extra layer of significance to the event.

The Korean American Federation in Utah, led by President Jeongae Green, commenced preparations for this event in October 2022. They raised voluntary funds in May of this year and, with the support and cooperation of the Utah State Government and the Consulate General in San Francisco, established the Organizing Committee to Commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Korea-US Alliance in June. The preparation process began in earnest. What made this event even more meaningful was that it was executed through the dedication of Utah's Korean community members, state government officials and Veterans Affairs officials, who volunteered their time and resources to ensure its success.

The ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the KOR-US alliance in Utah was a heartfelt and dignified affair.

Approximately 500 veterans and their families, representatives from the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs, the Korean American Federation in Utah, the Consulate General in San Francisco, and the Korean Taekwondo Demonstration Team attended the event. It was a profound and educational experience for all those in attendance, who were reminded of the sacrifices made in the name of freedom and the enduring bonds between the United States and Korea.

This event not only celebrated the 70th anniversary of the KOR-US alliance but also highlighted the power of community, remembrance and gratitude. It exemplified the unity and dedication of those in Utah who came together to ensure that this significant milestone was commemorated in a meaningful and impactful way. As we look to the future, events like this remind us of the importance of fostering strong international alliances and the need to honor the sacrifices of those who fought for freedom and peace.λ