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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 21:03 GMT 22:03 UK
Divided generations in a divided Korea
By Kevin Kim
BBC, Seoul

At a restaurant in central Seoul, six Korean War veterans have gathered for a round of drinks.

The men have grown old and grey, but 50 years ago all of them fought the North Koreans.

These six veterans were no ordinary soldiers. Each has a special wartime story they have told over 100 times - and for their achievement in the battlefield they all won a medal of honour.

Korean War veterans
Park Heung Bok and his friends remember the atrocities of war

Seventy-two-year-old Park Heung Bok got his for courageous fighting in the street battles of Pyongyang.

"At early dawn, my infantry regiment advanced into the city with American tanks. The enemy resistance was incredibly strong, but they couldn't stand the teamwork of our infantry and tanks," he said.

"We were able to take the city in just one day."

As the army friends reminisce, the old war stories end and their talk moves on to a more current topic - the North Korean nuclear issue.

Ever since the North's admission that it has a nuclear programme, South Koreans have felt a greater divide with their neighbours in the North.

But Park Heung Bok's biggest concern is the division he feels with the younger generation's liberal attitude towards the communist state.

"The reconciliatory policy has only helped Kim Jong-il make his nuclear bomb," he said.

"Young people are so naive - they didn't experience the war and they did not see the atrocities of the communists.

"The younger generation think it's just history, and a war can never happen here again. It's a very dangerous situation."

Taboo subject

Back at Mr Park's home, his 20-year-old grandson Hyun Jin is typical of this new generation.

As the family eats together around the dining table, Hyun Jin talks about how he has spent the day.

Park Heung Bok and his grandson Hyun Jin
Mr Park says his grandson's generation is too soft on N Korea

Rarely would he try to talk about North Korea in front of his medal-decorated grandfather.

"North Koreans are hungry and so much in suffering. I feel sorry for them that they are always being pressurised by the United States," Hyun Jin said.

"My grandfather has strong anti-communist feelings because he fought in the war. I'm not as anti-North Korean as he is. I'm more anti-American."

This is the biggest fear of Park Heung Bok.

As the nuclear tension rises, Mr Park worries that the attitude of most South Koreans - like that of his grandson - is too soft about North Korea.

"The communists are all liars. I wonder how we could live together with them if the Koreas ever reunify," he said.

"Young people should not be fooled by the North Koreans, and should arm themselves with a stronger sense of anti-communism. We should be prepared for any physical attack by North Korea."

To Hyun Jin, a second Korean War is something he has never really thought about.

And he sounded doubtful that his generation - having grown up in a more prosperous environment - would be ready to deal with a war if it ever happened.

"My grandfather knows how to fight, so I'm sure he'll stand up again to protect the country," Hyun Jin said.

"But I get a feeling young people like myself - we don't know a thing about war. Somehow I get the feeling that we'll just be running for our lives."


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