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USFK veterans' association in the making

Nov 23, 2017

Reference: The Korea Times (Jul 7, 2017)

USFK veterans' association in the making

Former commander Sharp to head largest pro-Seoul group in US 
By Kang Seung-woo

Korea and the United States have agreed to form an association this year comprising former and incumbent U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) personnel as well as Korean soldiers who have served on U.S. bases here. 

Its membership could reach up to 3.5 million if formed, and it will be the largest pro-South Korea group in the U.S. , according to the Ministry of National Defense, Tuesday. 

"The group will play a key role in boosting the ROK-U.S. alliance that is credited with maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula," a ministry official said. 

"Efforts are underway to establish the Korea Defense Veterans Association (KDVA) sometime within this year under the sponsorship of diplomatic and defense authorities of both the U.S. and South Korea." 

Walter Sharp, a former USFK commanding general who served here from 2008 to 2011, has been tabbed as the inaugural chairman, with other former commanders Leon LaPorte and James Thurman also joining efforts to found the group. LaPorte led U.S. troops from 2002 to 2006 and Thurman from 2011 to 2013. 

On Seoul's side, Army Maj. Gen. Shin Kyoung-soo, defense attache to the United States, is now providing working-level support for the KDVA establishment. 

Currently, there are several veterans associations in the United States to honor American soldiers' commitment to defend South Korea against the North Korean invasion such as the Korean War Veterans Association and the 2nd Infantry Division Veteran's Association, but the KDVA will be the first to bring together all U.S. soldiers who have served here since the 1950-53 Korean War. 

Its membership will mainly encompass USFK veterans, but the group also plans to accept incumbent USFK servicemen as associate members. 

In addition, it is under review whether Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) veterans who served alongside USFK service members will be entitled to KDVA membership, according to the KATUSA Veterans Association (KVA). 

KVA Chairman Kim Jong-wook discussed the issue with Sharp when he visited Washington last month to attend the KATUSA Verbal Wall of Remembrance Ceremony. 

"If KATUSA veterans join the KDVA, it would play a pivotal role in further strengthening the South Korea-U.S. alliance," Kim said. 

The KDVA plans to raise funds from U.S. and South Korean companies and economic organizations that share views on its establishment. 

After its launch, the veterans group will engage in support programs for USFK veterans and their families as well as organize forums on security issues involving the Korean Peninsula.