Ministry of Patriots & Veterans Affairs (MPVA)

"Bohun", the meaning and philosophy of the ministry responsible for National Meritorious Persons, such as Korean independent movement activists, veterans and sacrificed advocaters for democratization of Korea, is a lot more than just a word. Though the word literally translates as 'to honor and secure the stable lives for their contribution and merits, the Relative Acts define the purpose of National Merit Rewards as follows: "The Republic of Korea's current development and prosperity is indebted to those National Meritorious Persons who made contributions and sacrifices through their distinguished services and patriotic actions to the nation.

The idea of Bohun, or Merit Reward, is that the contributions and sacrifices of heroes should always be recognized as a model of noble patriotism. Because of their actions, adequate benefits are to be provided in order to maintain and ensure an honorable life for them and their bereaved families. To realize this formidable vision, the Ministry of Patriots & Veterans Affairs (MPVA), focuses not only on providing national meritorious persons with the benefits which they deserve, but also on working together with the general community to broaden and deepen public awareness of the reasons why national meritorious persons have earned our infinite respect.

Throughout her 5,000 year-long struggle for survival, the Korean people have developed a proud tradition of standing firm and fighting back against her enemies in times of war and adversity. While those in uniform have performed their roles with distinction, ordinary people responded accordingly to the nation's call. The history of the modern era reflects this admirable tradition. For the last 100 years, the many threats to Korea have stirred the nation's patriotism. The multitude of selfless reponses and the appearance of so many heroes willing to sacrifice themselves for the nation's struggles, attests to the people's patriotic response in times of adversity.

From the advent of the 20th century, Koreans have been forced to demonstrate their determination, courage, and endurance in fighting against the Japanese colonization. The cruel and evil suppression which the Korean people suffered under the Japanese occupation could not discourage the flood of compassionate, valiant, and patriotic heroes fighting for freedom in China, Russia, the USA, Mexico, Europe, and even in Japan itself, as well as in Korea. In 1919, millions of Koreans dared to demand their independence with national flags in hands, believing in their hearts that the righteousness of their cause would lead them to victory. In return, however, these patriots received only the response of being shot, imprisoned, or massacred on the spot.

The establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in Shanghai, China in 1919, reflects the integrated yearnings of the Korean people for a new and independent, democratic state. The Provisional Government not only survived until independence, but also struck hard at the invaders on several occasions. The patriotic Korean peoples' blood and pain finally paid for the achievement of independence in 1945.

The jubilation over the restoration of sovereignty didn't last long. Korea was again forced to fight to preserve the values of democracy and freedom. This time the fight was against communist North Korea's invasion. Although the already feeble state was devastated, hundreds of thousands of young men and women made the ultimate sacrifice in doing their duty on behalf of the nation. Without the support of the other disciples of freedom, from the 21 different countries who sent men and women to defend South Korea under the banner of the United Nations(UN), the Korean people could not have won their freedom and developed the prosperous society they have. Hundreds of thousands of members of the Korean Armed Forces fought against communist aggression in Vietnam, risking losses, getting killed, and sacrificing again to protect freedom along with allied forces when their nation needed them.

The system of the National Merit Reward has been a basic part of national management, originating naturally for the national security and people's survival since the foundation of the nation. There is a historical record of Government Ministry of Merit Reward in the 'Samguksagi', the oldest extant official history, that 'Sangsaseo'(a governmental agency) provided honorable treatment and benefits for those who rendered distinguished compensation to the state in the Silla era(around the 7th Century A.D). 'Gogongsa'(a governmental agency) followed this tradition in the Goryeo era, and 'Chungheonbu'(later revised as Gongsindogam) provided this benefits in the Joseon era. The ancient benefits structure for those who rendered distinguished service to the state seems strikingly similar with the current structure. Typical ancient benefits provided farmland and preferences in employment and education for a person, inclusive of his or her family, who had rendered distinguished service.

The contemporary framework for National Merit Reward was formed after the founding of the Military Relief Agency(Veterans Administration) on August, 5, 1961. The Agency adopted the concepts of modern veterans benefit programs from developed countries, and from more traditional benefit systems. The Military Relief Administration was promoted to the Relief Agency on April 16, 1962, and was reorganized as the Ministry of Patriots & Veterans Affairs(MPVA) on January 1, 1985. The organizational structure that took place in 1985 was aimed at creating a balanced approach between the government's initiative to provide benefits, and to insure the community's active participation in recognizing the sacrifices others had made for freedom.

To date, the traditional role of providing compensation and care, and recognizing and commemorating the great and heroic acts of these patriots throughout the general community has represented the core business of the MPVA. As the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War passes, emphasis has been laid on promoting welfare and giving proper recognition to war veterans. In special recognition of their losses and sacrifices, new allowances were bestowed upon decorated war veterans and the children of Korean War veterans killed in action. The MPVA also exerts itself to extend the gratitude of both the government and the people, as well as to express the utmost respect for their patriotism and the sacrifices that they made. Recognizing and honoring national meritorious persons easily fits into the state's cultural traditions.

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