Sebastian’s Offer

This section and the several following relate the story of the development of the concept of creating a Korean War Children’s Memorial in South Korea and it’s implementation over the next several years.

The story starts in Mexico City in February of 2008, then to Kwangju, South Korea via e-mail, my visit to Seoul and Gwangju in October of 2008, the attempt to use the promise of the sculpture to get the City of Gwangju to release 1.3 million dollars for the reconstruction of the Choong Hyun Won Korean War Orphanage Museum, Archive and Hostel and how, when that agreement fell through, the process of getting the matter before the highest authorities in Korea so the memorial could be dedicated during the period of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. Much of the following consists of selected material copied from e-mails sent to Korea over the next two years.

In the beginning Sebastian offered me a copy of Las Palomas that was not much more than 3 meters high but in July of 2009, when he realized that the sculpture would serve as a national memorial dedicated to the 500,000 children who died in the Korean War he promised to increase the size of the sculpture and make it of heavier steel. The sculpture he sent to Bellingham in December of 2009 is 16.8 feet tall. On its base it will be about 20 ft. tall.

As you read the following you will note that the meaning of the memorial shifts. At first it was merely to honor the UN/US Forces for saving the lives of over 10,000 children but, after a meeting in October of 2008 with U.S. Ambassador to Korea Kathleen Stephens, the decision was made to dedicate the memorial to the 500,000 children who died in North and South Korea in the three years of the war and to use it to honor all who sought to save the lives of the war child.

The placement of the sculpture in Gwangju became a leverage to force the Metropolitan City of Gwangju to release the 1.3 million dollars the Mayor and City Council had promised for the restoration of the Choong Hyun Won old orphanage buildings so they could serve as a Korean War Orphanage museum, archive and hostel for returning orphans. They had promised the money in 2006 and had not followed through with their promises. At the meeting with the Vice Mayor of Gwangju in October of 2008 I made it clear that the sculpture would not go to Gwangju if the city did not release the funds by 1 January, 2009 and construction begin by 1 February, 2009.

I write this on 20 February, 2010. I am still awaiting word from the Office of the President of Korea (President Lee Myung Bak) and from the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs whether they will accept the memorial sculpture and sponsor it as an element in the activities commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.

As you scroll down to the last documents posted in this topic you will be able to keep up with current happenings.

George F. Drake, Ph.D., Coordinator, Korean War Children’s Memorial

Korean War Children’s Memorial – Korea

In early February of 2008 Mary Ann and I had dinner with Sebastian, Gabriela and their son Matias in Mexico City. During the meal I gave Sebastian a copy of my little book “GIs and the Kids – A Love Story” and told him of the dedication of the Korean War Children’s Memorial in Big Rock Garden Park in Bellingham. He responded by saying he would like to be part of that effort to honor American servicemen and women who saved the lives of children during the Korean War and offered to give me a sculpture called Las Palomas (the Doves) to be placed in Big Rock Garden Park as a memorial to the children who died in that conflict.

I responded that the City of Bellingham was not taking care of the sculpture he had given them nine years earlier (Lipchitziana) and that rather than give another sculpture to Bellingham he should give it to Korea to serve as a Korean War Children’s Memorial there. He immediately agreed to the suggestion and thus began the first steps for the creation of the Korean War Children’s Memorial in Korea. Sebastian stated that as a condition of the gift he and Gabriela had to have their round-trip air fare paid to Korea from Mexico City and provided with four days of hospitality (hotel and meals). We further agreed that the memorial had to serve as a national memorial and that he was to receive an official invitation from a Korean government entity. We also agreed that the President of Korea must be invited to participate in the dedication ceremony. At this stage of the planning the sculpture was to be dedicated to the US servicemen and women for their aid to the children of Korea during the war 1950 – 1953.