A survey of 1,000 adults over 19, conducted by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security (MPAS) in April, showed that 36.9 percent of respondents said they didn't know when the Korean War had broken out.
By age, 56.6 percent of those in their 20s said they didn't know when the war had occurred, while 28.7 percent of those in their 30s and 23 percent of those in their 40s said the same thing, it said.
``This is a very serious problem that more and more people, especially youngsters, are not well aware of or not interested in the Korean War, where millions of South Koreans were killed,'' an official of the Ministry of National Defense said. ``Pan-governmental efforts are required to make people understand properly about the Korean War and, in particular, educate youngsters about the war and history.''
Extra! Korea links to the Korean Herald coverage, which focused more on the involvement of other nations:
A total of 624 people, or 79 percent, said that they knew only five countries or less that sent troops to help defend the South during the Korean War. Only 55 people, or 7 percent, said they knew 10 countries or more.
The number of those who knew three to five countries was 443, or 56 percent of the total. A total of 142 people, or 18 percent, said that they knew one to three countries.
The number of those who did not know the countries at all or were not interested was 39, or five percent. Of the 39 people, 82 percent were 20 years old or younger.
The percentages of the respondents who knew that the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia joined the war were 97 percent, 84 percent and 77 percent, respectively.
The respondents were rarely aware that the Philippines, Luxemburg and the Republic of South Africa joined the war.
Here's another excerpt from the Times article:
The war broke out on June 25, 1950, when North Korean troops invaded the South, crossing the 38th parallel, the line diving the two Koreas. Twenty-one countries dispatched troops under the United Nations flag to fight against North Koreans backed by China.
The war resulted in a devastating death toll with at least 2 million Korean civilians killed, according to data. South Korea sustained more than 1 million casualties, while estimated communist casualties were 2 million. Casualties among the United Nations allies totaled 16,532.
I'm not sure if I should read something into their omission of the United States here, their 36,516 dead, their 92,134 wounded, and their 8,176 MIA. Sure, the effort here is to recognize the contributions of the many other nations in what is often reduced to a four-country war, but I'd be interested to see how many Koreans are aware of how much the United States gave to the Republic of Korea. For better or worse many both inside Korea and out hold the United States responsible for the war, but that doesn't nullify the sacrifice hundreds of thousands of Americans made.
Anyway, we found similar numbers last year when the MPAS looked at students:
The Ministry of Public Administration and Security said Monday that a survey of 1,016 middle and high school students showed nearly 57 percent didn't know the war started on June 25, 1950.
Moreover, 51 percent did not know that the war started with North Korea's invasion of the South. About 14 percent picked Japan as the nation responsible for the war; 13.4 percent, the United States, and 11 percent Russia. About 2 percent even said it was the South invading the North.
While the United States is regarded as the main ally of the country, 28 percent said it was the key ``threat'' for national security, 4 percentage points higher than North Korea.
Only 56 percent said they felt threatened by the North's nuclear weapons development, adding that the chance of another Korean War taking place was very low.
I liked the Joongang Ilbo headline from last June: "Teenagers are patriotic, but dunces at history." From the Joongang Ilbo today, a bakery in Seoul made cakes with the flags of the 16 nations who fought on the South Korean side.