Ryu Jae-sik, a brave Korean War veteran, bears a poignant and lasting reminder of the decades-long conflict – a bullet lodged in his chest for an astonishing 70 years. Drafted as a schoolboy to fight for South Korea when the communist North invaded on June 25, 1950, Ryu’s harrowing experiences in the war have left an indelible mark on his life. Now at the age of 91, he fervently hopes to witness the true end of the war during his remaining years.
The Korean War technically concluded with a ceasefire on July 27, 1953, but the absence of a formal peace treaty has perpetuated a state of tension and hostility between the two Koreas. Presently, relations between them have reached a nadir, with stalled talks and North Korea’s nuclear threat against the South.
Ryu, having endured the bloody battles of his youth, strongly believes that war should never happen again. However, he is increasingly apprehensive about the possibility of renewed hostilities on the last frontier of the Cold War.
His life was forever changed when he was seriously wounded in the Battle of Kumsong during the war’s final days, coming face-to-face with a Chinese soldier. Remarkably, after recovering from his injuries, he re-enlisted, driven by a profound desire to reunify the North and South and forge a united Korean peninsula.
Yet, despite his unwavering commitment, Ryu regrets that the immense suffering endured during the war has not resulted in a unified country, leaving behind a divided legacy for future generations.
The Korean peninsula remains physically separated by the Demilitarized Zone, and the paths taken by North and South Korea have diverged significantly over the years. While the impoverished North, led by the Kim family’s third generation, continues to pursue nuclear weapons, the prosperous South has evolved into the world’s 10th-largest economy, a vibrant democracy, and a global cultural powerhouse.