Wednesday, February 7, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, February 7, 2001

Korean War museum plan promoted as economic asset

By Christie Wilson
Neighbor Island Editor

Supporters of a Korean War museum in Hawaii are pitching the proposal as a way to honor Americans and Koreans who fought against communism 50 years ago and at the same time revive a flagging tourism market.

The centerpiece of the museum would be a wall containing the names of millions of U.S. military members who served in the 1950-53 conflict, as well as Korean soldiers and civilian casualties.

The Economic Development and Tourism Committee will sponsor a public hearing on a $3 million appropriation measure for the museum, Senate Bill 552, at 2 p.m. tomorrow in Conference Room 229.

Although the total cost of the project is estimated at $12 million, Kyle Kopitke, secretary of the board of trustees of the National Korean War Museum, said the state money would be enough to erect portions of the museum sometime late this summer.

The group has not secured land for the project but is considering the Big Island or property at Kalaeloa designated for economic development.

Kopitke said promoting the museum as an economic development project may help it succeed.

Casey Choi, a tour operator who made an unsuccessful bid for the Makiki-Tantalus seat in the state House in November, is chairman of the National Korean War Museum board of trustees. Choi is in Seoul pursuing government and business financing for the project, Kopitke said.

Plans call for 38 halls of remembrance — a reference to the 38th parallel that divides North and South Korea. Each hall would have a theme. For example, one would be devoted to Native Hawaiians who fought in the war, while other halls would feature Medal of Honor recipients, key battles and prominent figures.

Less-expensive modular buildings would be used for the halls.

Makiki resident and Korean War veteran James Ward, 70, said he will testify in support of the museum. Ward, who served in the war as a Marine from 1950-51, is president of the Aloha Chapter of the Chosin Few, a group of veterans who fought in the battle at Chosin Reservoir.

Most young people know very little about the Korean War, and the museum would be a good way to educate them, Ward said.

"It has the potential to help some of our tourist trade from Korea," he said.

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