The Korean Bell of Friendship…A reminder of America’s deep ties to South Korea following the Korean War…

by | Jan 7, 2013

Korean Bell of Friendship
Andromeda earned five battle stars during World War II and five battle stars for service in the Korean War Quote from this website…

The bell was presented by the Republic of Korea to the American people to celebrate the bicentennial of the United States and to symbolize friendship between the two nations. The effort was coordinated by Philip Ahn, a Korean-American actor. It was dedicated on October 3, 1976 and declared Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 187 in 1978.
It is modeled after the Divine Bell of King Seongdeok the Great of Silla (also known as the Emille Bell), cast in 771 for Bongdeok Temple and now located at the National Museum of Gyeongju; both are among the largest bells in the world. The bell is made of over 17 tons of copper and tin, with gold, nickel, lead, and phosphorus added to the alloy for tone quality. It has a diameter of 7½ feet, average thickness of 8 inches, and a height of 12 feet. The exterior surface is richly decorated in relief, featuring four pairs of figures. Each pair includes a “Goddess of Liberty” (bearing some resemblance to the Statue of Liberty) and an Seonyeo or Korean spirit figure holding a Korean national symbol: a Taegeuk symbol, a branch of rose of Sharon, a branch of laurel, and a dove.
Beginning in 2010, the bell is struck five times a year: on New Year’s Eve, Korean American Day (January 13), the national independence day of the United States (Fourth of July) and Korean Liberation Day (August 15) and every September in celebration of Constitution Week. It was also rung on September 11, 2002 to commemorate the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The bell does not have a clapper; instead, it is sounded by striking it with a large wooden log.
The pavilion which houses the bell was built by Korean craftsmen over a period of ten months. Its design is traditional. It is axially symmetric, consisting of a hipped (aka ‘pyramidal’) roof supported by twelve columns representing the Korean zodiac, each column guarded by a carved animal.
The Belfrey of Friendship, which houses the Korean Bell of Friendship, was featured in two scenes of the movie The Usual Suspects.

While visiting with grandson, Mike in San Pedro this last week, I was impressed with his immediate response when asking about the the “Asian looking” structure near Point Ferman in San Pedro, California  I was not impressed with my own ignorance about the subject; however, since it was gifted to America by the Republic of South Korea in 1976, and the “old guy” from these parts didn’t know a thing about it!  I was taken by surprise, but immediately understood that my interest in history related to America’s legacy of war and relationships with other nations did not take shape as a labor of love until recently.  My grandson is really into history, especially in his home town of San Pedro.  This conversation provided a great opening for me to learn and for Mike to find out more about his great grandfather, Vernon.  There are lots of opportunities to bond with kids, in many different ways.  This was one of those chances that was fun and a great learning experience.

Mike’s Great Grandfather, Vernon, served on the USS Andromeda during the Korean War.  Dad was not supposed to go out to sea again after WWII, but the US Navy sent him again into combat duty at a time when he was just beginning to heal from the horrors and pain of WWII.  But the ol’ Chief B’sn Mate went anyway to serve his country in battle once again.  The US Navy was Dad’s life, and serving America was his job.  Dad didn’t do very well following the Korean War.  His battle scars and invisible wounds from WWII did not have time to heal.  The sad part is none of us as family members never understood his pain until my book was published.

My goal now is to ensure that all family members including grand children know their proud legacy of serving America in time of war.  The opportunity to talk to Mike about his great grand father last week gave me an opening not to pass up.  Mike is pictured above to my right nudged against me during a rare gathering with all my grand children…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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