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Memorial includes Star-Bulletin writer


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POSTED: Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. » The name of Sarah Park, a Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter who died in a plane crash 52 years ago this month, is now etched in glass in the soaring two-story Journalists Memorial at the Newseum, along with 1,912 newspeople from around the world who died covering a story.

In a rededication ceremony yesterday, Park's name and the names of 76 other journalists — 15 from previous years and 62 from last year — were read aloud. Each name was followed by the ringing of a chime, and a photo could be seen on a video monitor.

“;They all died in service so that others might know the stories that would inform and illuminate their lives,”; said Alberto Ibarguen, president and chief executive officer of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “;They died in the service of truth.”;

Park was 29 when she died covering a tsunami on March 9, 1957. It was a Saturday, and when the tsunami warning was issued, Park called a pilot friend to get a better view of the story. The plane crashed in the ocean off Laie, killing Park and the pilot.

In her career, Park covered the Korean War and its aftermath for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and worked for International News Services and Reuters, reporting from Korea and Southeast Asia.

Her tough reporting from Korea before the war led a Soviet magazine to label her and seven other American reporters as “;extra-gangsters of the pen”; — something she was proud of. The other reporters included Pulitzer prize-winning war correspondents Marguerite Higgins and Hal Boyle.

Park was a pioneer in many ways and is believed to be the first Korean-American journalist of either gender to cover a war and work for a news service and a metropolitan daily.

“;My auntie loved what she did,”; said Puamana Park, a niece. “;She was very passionate about her job.”;

Nephew Robert Park was 10 years old when his aunt died.

“;I remember I always had fun going to her place. She had a monkey and a parrot,”; Park said.

He and his brother learned to surf on their aunt's 12-foot balsa wood board, Robert Park added. She used to surf before going to work, former colleagues said.

His father never talked much about Sarah. Most of the family's stories about her came from their mother, Robert Park said.

“;I think it hurt him a lot to lose his sister that soon,”; Park said. “;I know he loved his sister. ... He kept a propeller of the airplane that she crashed in.”; And from the family home in Hauula, which his father built, Park said you could see Laie Point, where his aunt's plane crashed.

During the Korean War, Park reported on the daily life of Hawaii troops on the battlefront from the winter of 1952 to the spring of 1953.

In a letter to the editor after her death, Lt. Col. Arthur Chun said, “;Undaunted and without flinching, she stood side by side with men ... all under intense fire from the enemy. ... She walked their trails, their trenches, their rugged hills and witnessed their agonizing perilous moments. She was more than a war correspondent or an observer: She was the understanding 'buddy' from home who appreciated everything anyone did.”;

When Park reported that the troops needed candles near the front, where there was no electricity, Hawaii residents started a “;Candles for Korea”; campaign that resulted in more than 150,000 candles being sent to troops to boost morale.

Park family members were unable to attend the ceremony but hope to visit the Newseum soon to see their aunt's name on the wall and tell their children and grandchildren about her.

“;It is something we can feel very proud of,”; Puamana Park said.

A Newseum staff member came across Park's name last year in a newsletter for wire service reporters who worked for the former United Press International. This was the first rededication ceremony for the memorial in its new location in the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue.