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Although most of the words were in Korean, the hosannas in the song "The Holy City" and the familiar tune of "Amazing Grace" moved local Korean War veterans last night.
Opera singer Yunah Lee, a native of South Korea who is in town to perform the female lead in the Toledo Opera's production of Faust, sang for the Northwest Ohio chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association at the Margaret Hunt Senior Center in South Toledo.
Ms. Lee said her country owes the veterans a lot for the sake of history and for what they did in the war.
"Korea won't be the same if it were not for their help," she said.
Some of the 50 men and women at the meeting nodded or tapped their fingers in time to the music, and they gave Ms. Lee a standing ovation.
Afterward, several veterans came up to thank her for singing.
"That was beautiful," Robert Fuller, of Colton, Ohio, told her.
She sang three songs, accompanied by piano: "The Holy City" in Korean, the Lord's Prayer in English, and "Amazing Grace," with the second and third verses in Korean.
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Ms. Lee, a native Korean, has performed in Asia and America. She will make her European debut later this year with the Bern State Opera in Switzerland, performing the title role in Madame Butterfly.
The Rev. Yongjin Kim, who organized the event, thanked the veterans for their role in Korean history.
"Your sacrifice has produced all these things, including her musical talent," he told the veterans after the concert.
Ms. Lee said that although her family was not directly involved in the war, it affected everyone who was alive at that time, and still continues to affect the people of North Korea.
"Who has not been affected by this war," she asked.
When Ms. Lee arrived in Toledo, she called Mr. Kim, who is pastor of the Hanmi Covenant Presbyterian Church. His father was an elder at the church she attended when she was in college in Seoul, she said.
Pastor Kim called Louis Streb, secretary of the local Korean War Veterans Association, and asked if she could sing for the group. The church and the veterans group maintain a social relationship.
Pastor Kim said that he asked Ms. Lee to clear one night in her schedule to say thank you to the veterans. Members of his church cooked Korean food for the event.
"I feel they have really appreciated us," said Toledo resident Ken Cox, who served in the Marine Corps. "So much of the time, countries don't appreciate what we did."
Ed Kusina, of Toledo, a Marine Corps veteran with two Purple Hearts, said that when he came back from Korea, there was a "nice big parade in San Francisco," but then the war was forgotten.
"I think we were overlooked," Ray Wilson of Oregon agreed.
Ms. Lee was born in Taegu, Korea, and graduated from Hanyang University. She received a master's degree from The Juilliard School and also studied at the New England Conservatory of Music.
Contact Elizabeth A. Shack at: