Jack Keep and Lew Ewing, both 81 years old, traveled to South Korea last week for the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies in Pyeongchang. This wasn’t the first time these two Americans stepped foot on Korean since they fought in the Korean War, which spanned from 1951-1953, but it was a little more meaningful this time.
The 2018 Winter Olympics kicked off Feb. 9 in the South Korean nation. The Korean War is known as “the forgotten war” because of how little media attention it received during and after the conflict.
Keep enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1951 at the age of 17 and was assigned to Task Force 77 as a petty officer aboard a ship patrolling the North Korean coast in 1953, according to news reports.
Ewing, a Corporal in the U.S. Army, was stationed at Chuncheon in South Korea that same year.
“I’ve never seen an Olympics firsthand, so I’m looking forward to the opening ceremony because that’s always impressive. I’m just ready for whatever they give us the opportunity to see,” Ewing told CNBC.
“I’m too old to get giddy about things anymore,” Keep also told the news outlet. “But it will be quite a thrill it be able to attend the Olympics.”
Ewing was able to visit South Korea twice, once in 2006 and again in 2015, as part of the Revisit Korea Program organized by the South Korean government to invite Korean War veterans back to the country.
He says it’s impressive to see the economic improvement the country has seen over the last six decades.
“When we left Korea in the 1950s, the city of Seoul was total devastation, just nothing but rubble,” he said. “The tallest building I remember seeing was taller than a one-story building, but it was all bombed out.
“Now today, Seoul is like any metropolitan city in the United States, high-rise buildings that go up forever. It’s absolutely amazing the progress they’ve made over there in 60-plus years since the war. It shows you how hardworking and energetic the Korean people are and how they really won’t give up.”