AURORA | What many people may not remember about the Korean War — fought from 1950 to 1953 — was that it was a United Nations War.
“There were 22 countries that participated with the Republic (South) of Korea and 16 actually fought,” said Jim McGibney, an honorary consul of the Republic of Korea in Denver.
For the past eight months, McGibney has been working with Aurora’s Korean community to come up with a plan for a Korean War Memorial in Aurora’s Bicentennial Park.
Longtime Aurora resident Peter Lee, whose father fought in the Korean War and later immigrated to Colorado, is spearheading the effort, but he said the wish for a memorial is not just coming from Korean residents.
“It’s not just for my father but for my friends from Ethiopia whose fathers fought in it and passed away in Ethiopia,” he said.
Aurora is the most diverse city in Colorado, with 105 different ethnic groups living within the city’s borders that each speak their own language. One in five of Aurora’s residents are estimated to have been born in another country, and nearly that number speak English “less than very well,” according to the 2012 American Community Survey.
“It’s a way to celebrate the diversity of Aurora, to unite all of the different communities as one,” Lee said of the memorial.
The proponents of the memorial are just facing one issue: the creation of the memorial would require an amendment to the city’s park master plan as well as public input because the city has no formal policy for placing new memorials on city property.
Aurora City Council members on the city’s Parks, Public Works and Transportation policy committee reviewed the idea for a Korean War memorial as well as a proposal for approving future memorials on city property at a meeting in November.
That proposal would require a group to submit design, site development and maintenance plans for the future memorial to the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department. If approved by parks staff, any memorial site plan would also need to be formally adopted by Aurora City Council.
If the memorial is planned for a park or open space area, it would also need to be reviewed at a parks department public meeting and public hearing.
The city already has one war memorial, which took its founder, Rick Crandall more than a decade to fund and build. The Colorado Freedom Memorial at Springhill Park near Buckley Air Force Base opened in 2013 and includes a 95-foot long glass panel structure that commemorates each Colorado resident who died or went missing in every conflict since the Spanish-American War.
All of the council members on the Parks, Public Works and Transportation policy committee — which includes Marsha Berzins, Brad Pierce and Renie Peterson — said they would like to see a central area of the city designated for war memorials. But they also said they didn’t want to see the efforts of the organizers for the Korean War Memorial linger in the meantime.
“In a perfect world, it would be better at the Colorado Freedom memorial,” Pierce said of where the Korean memorial could potentially be located. “But if we make the Colorado Freedom Memorial a bigger site that could have specific war memorials on it, it would be really expensive. I don’t want to slow down the efforts of the Korean War memorial.”
Crandall said he would also be open to the idea, and will be watching what the city does next.
“I absolutely think the city is taking the right step in trying to create some kind of a plan,” he said.
The proposal for how the city will approve the Korean War Memorial as well as future memorials goes next to a Dec. 21 study session.