A new Korean War memorial was recently unveiled in San Francisco, California. Construction began just over one year prior, following several years of campaigning by US Marine Corps (Retired) Lt. Col. John Stevens, who worked doggedly to raise the needed funds to erect a memorial just outside the Presidio National Cemetery in San Francisco, California. The location is apt, given the city’s history as the point of departure for many US servicemen deployed to the conflict, as well as the over 2,200 Korean War veterans interred in the nearby cemetery. Current South Korean Ambassador to the United States Ahn Ho-young and prior US Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens, as well as US Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17) and former Congressman Paul McCloskey, attended the August 1st dedication ceremony for the new memorial.
This is the first major monument to the Korean War located on the US west coast, though California and neighboring states are home to numerous smaller memorials that pay tribute to the one million Korean and more than 38,000 UN troops—most of them American—who died in the conflict between 1950 and 1953. Monuments and memorials dedicated to the Korean War appear in 40 states and Washington, DC, where the Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated in the summer of 1995 by President George H.W. Bush.
While such commemorative structures honor memories of war, they also speak to the bond shared between the United States and South Korea. Over 1.7 million Korean Americans now reside in the US, and more than 500,000 call California home. All told, the US and ROK share nearly 70 sister-city partnerships, some dating back several decades. Of these, 20 connect communities in California with their South Korean counterparts.
A number of Californian initiatives and organizations augment this strong relationship, promoting interaction through student exchange programs, festivals, and professional associations. State-level expertise benefits national-level programs, as well, facilitating exchanges such as the recent visit to the California Energy Commission in Sacramento by a five-person Korean delegation eager to learn about the state’s renewable energy programs.
Linnea Logie is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History from the University of Connecticut.