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Two U.S. Veterans Visit North Korea for Remembrance of 60th Anniversary of War

July 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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A handful of Western journalists were permitted to enter the usually closed country and given access to events marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

Among them was John Sparks of Britain’s Channel 4 News, who filed this story from Pyongyang.

JOHN SPARKS: Channel 4 News, along with other international media, were shuttled through the city’s barren streets in a six-bus convoy. No time to stop and chat, though. The North Koreans go to great lengths to avoid accidental conversations with ordinary citizens.

This week, the authorities will hold events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. And they included the opening of a brand-new cemetery this morning, although our arrival wasn’t universally welcomed.

MAN: Sir, please follow…

JOHN SPARKS: Journalists are assigned state minders with particular ideas about what can and can’t be filmed.

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MAN: Hello.

JOHN SPARKS: Security was tight. Even the veterans with the medals were subjected to checks.

“It’s necessary,” said our minder. “Important officials are attending.”

 (APPLAUSE)

JOHN SPARKS: But we were you all surprised when this man turned up, North Korea’s 20-something leader, Kim Jong-un.

The great marshal, as he’s known, cut the red ribbon, made an inspection of the cemetery, then left in his stretch Mercedes. Kim Jong-un wasn’t here for long, but a large group of specially invited guests is now touring the facility, which was created for this week’s commemorative events. Grave sites around North Korea were dug up and relocated here in the center of Pyongyang.

The Korean War was a deeply traumatic event, and Ms. Choe isn’t over it. She lost her father in the conflict.

What feelings do you have towards your neighbors to the south?

CHOE U HYE, North Korea: There’s no change in feelings. I can’t forget the feeling of hatred. My son and daughter will take revenge for what they have done.

JOHN SPARKS: Is the Korean War over? Is it finished?

KIM TAE YONG, North Korea (through translator): It’s not over. The war’s not over. We won’t put down our guns until the Americans surrender.

JOHN SPARKS: It seems then the North Koreans are sending us a message. Their nation may be poor and isolated, but the people are steadfast and their rulers aren’t going anywhere.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Among those attending today’s ceremonies were two decorated U.S. veterans of the Korean War. They were on a mission to find the remains of a fellow aviator killed at the Chosin Reservoir in 1950. But flooding prevented them from visiting the site of one of the war’s deadliest battles.