The Korean Choir of Greater Kansas City’s 19th annual concert on Sunday, October 21, at 6pm at United Methodist Church in Overland Park was a heartwarming event for all who attended, including me. The church hall was nearly filled with not only Koreans but also white Americans and other ethnic groups.
The guests of honor were the Korean War Veterans, the choir president, Yong-ae Cho, announced during her welcome speech. But alas, only one veteran was visible from where I sat. But a few years earlier, in this hall, about two dozen veterans in their full uniforms attended the concert and received warm recognition. [As a senior citizen, I know this: the median age of the KW veterans today is 86, and though their hearts are still young and their memories of the olden days are vivid, an evening time isn’t the best time for them to be out of their comfort zones and mingle in a crowd.]
Besides the 25-member Korean Choir of Greater Kansas City, the Children’s Choir from the Korean Language School and another adult choir from a Christian community performed.
The program was a mixture of the well-known hymns I am familiar with and a few Korean songs sung by the children I’ve never heard before. It’s no surprise that those Korean songs sounded alien to me, because I’ve lived most of my adult life here, in the Kansas City Area, having arrived at the Municipal Airport (before the KCI Airport was built) in the fall of 1966, with my cello and a suitcase, as a newcomer to the Kansas City Philharmonic, now the Symphony. How fast time flew!
The guest artist of the evening, Jung-Hwan Lee, the principal clarinetist with the KC Symphony, performed Italian composer Vittorio Monti’s Csárdás, an ecstatic piece originated from a Hungarian folktale, with virtuosity and admirable musicality.
As the evening progressed and the lively singing voices filled the hall, dark clouds gathered in my head as I remembered the recent news; that this year’s second U.S. and South Korea’s joint military exercises in August along the 38th parallel were suspended shortly after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in June in Singapore.
The U.S. and S. Korea established the Mutual Defense Treaty in September, 1953, two months after the war ended with the armistice in July. And ever since, the Korean troops fought alongside the Americans in every war–in the Vietnam War, the Pacific gulf War, the Iraqi War, War in Afghanistan, and in Syria. The bi-annual joint military exercises had been a vital part of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two nations.
Sixty-five years have passed since the Treaty was signed and the U.S. and South Korea are still strong allies of the world. On a small scale, local residents witnessed two Korean War Veterans Memorials being constructed and dedicated with the Korean community’s participations–one in Overland Park (2006) and another in Kansas City (2011).
Like many Korean-Americans, I have lingering questions: What’s next? Will the Trump Administration withdraw 28,000 American troops stationed in South Korea soon? What if Kim Jong-un is playing a devilish game with both President Trump and the South Korean president, promising them to dismantle the nuclear plants in the North, but in reality he’s planning a surprise attack across the 38th Parallel? Will the map of the Korean peninsula change in a near future, for better or worse?
Luckily, the soothing harmony of the choir steered my mind to the present time, where I was and what I was listening. A Scripture passage rang in my ear just in time: Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34)