Fighting to change history: Korean vet accused of treason says he saved his country

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John Hong, an 86-year-old Korean veteran accused of treason and sentenced to death at the start of the 1950-53 war, has won a battle to clear his name. Now he is fighting to change history.  Kim Gamel/Stars and Stripes
From Stripes.com
John Hong, an 86-year-old Korean veteran accused of treason and sentenced to death at the start of the 1950-53 war, has won a battle to clear his name. Now he is fighting to change history. Kim Gamel/Stars and Stripes

Fighting to change history: Korean vet accused of treason says he saved his country

by: Kim Gamel | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: October 06, 2016

SEOUL, South Korea — An 86-year-old Korean veteran accused of treason and sentenced to death at the start of the Korean War has won a battle to clear his name. Now he is fighting to change history.

John Hong’s story began with the North Korean invasion of Seoul in June 1950. He was a cadet at the military academy in the city and ended up stranded on the wrong side of the Han River after the U.S.-backed government fled south, blowing up a strategic bridge behind them.

Hong has spent decades combing through history books and archives to collect the documents to prove he was a war hero, not a traitor.

“I saved my country,” said Hong, who lives in California and has dual citizenship. “They must give me something. They ruined my life.”

Fleeing the North

As North Korea occupied Seoul, Hong fled to the mountains and hid at a friend’s house. But the friend turned out to be a communist sympathizer who ominously warned the 19-year-old private to surrender to the North or join the volunteer Red Army if he wanted to survive.

Then known by his Korean name, Hong Yoon-hee, he joined the volunteer forces planning to make his way to the front lines, then sneak across to rejoin friendly forces. He used a fake ID claiming to be the brother of North Korean Vice Premier Hong Myung Hi, who he said was a distant relative.

Hong stepped up his plans after learning that North Korean leader Kim Il Sung had ordered an all-out assault in early September to break through the Pusan Perimeter, the allied forces’ defensive line around the southeastern tip of the peninsula.

“I was shocked, but then I decided I have to deliver this information to my country,” Hong told Stars and Stripes during a recent interview at a relative’s apartment in Seoul. “I have to save my country.”

Read more at: http://www.stripes.com/1.432422

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