Thanking Korea vets aim of trip; woman to stop in Little Rock during journey across all 50 states

To Hannah Kim, all Korean War veterans are "grandpa."

Without them, the 35-year-old Korean-American, who immigrated to the U.S. with her family three decades ago, doesn't think she'd exist. So, she's on a four-month road trip across all 50 states to thank all of those "grandpas."

On Thursday, she's stopping in Arkansas at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Little Rock's MacArthur Park. She plans to hug and spend time with those veterans who attend a brief ceremony marking the occasion.

It'll be a unique experience because it's the only memorial she's visited that features young Koreans looking up to American soldiers.

"I just want to meet as many surviving Korean War veterans as possible to thank them personally," Kim said.

She started her journey April 27, and by July 27, Kim of Los Angeles plans to visit memorials in 70 cities across 50 states.

The ambitious trip comes a year after she made a similar excursion, visiting memorials in 27 countries that participated in the war, including Russia, China and North Korea.

In addition to saying "thank you," Kim wants to raise awareness and some money for the Wall of Remembrance at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which if funded would bear the names of the nearly 37,000 Americans who died during the Korean War.

Kim worked as a communications director and chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a Korean War veteran himself.

Retired Col. James Fisher, executive director of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Association and Korean War Veterans Association, praised Kim for her efforts.

"I have had the privilege and honor of knowing and working with Ms. Hannah Kim since 2007," Fisher said. "I have never met anyone who is more dedicated to thanking and honoring our Korean War veterans and their families for their service to our country.

"There could be no finer ambassador to represent our Korean War veterans than Ms. Kim."

More than 460 Arkansans died in the Korean War, and to date, 100 Arkansans are among the 8,000 American servicemen who are still unaccounted for, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Coincidentally, Kim's journey aligns with the ramp-up of diplomatic talks between the U.S. and North Korea. Kim said she hopes the two countries can reach a peace treaty by the time she visits the final memorial in July, noting that the countries involved in the war remain under an armistice.

"Hopefully, that will give a lot of closure to veterans and families of those still missing," Kim said, adding that it would allow U.S. forces to search for soldiers' remains in North Korea.

The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. Thursday at MacArthur Park.

Metro on 06/06/2018

*CORRECTION: The ceremony honoring Korean War veterans at MacArthur Park in Little Rock begins at 10 a.m. An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect time.