Defense fundraising campaign

In the summer of 1940, during the Second World War, Nazi Germany made the U.S. nervous with its forceful occupations of Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and even France. The advisers of President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed that the U.S. should prepare for its possible eventual involvement in the war.

The most necessary part of the preparation was raising money for the war. There were two opposing ideas for financing the war: raising taxes or creating defense bonds. In the end President Roosevelt decided to issue defense bonds, which were quite effective in the First World War. It was believed that the war bonds would succeed again by appealing to the patriotism of the people. The idea was to raise funds through a sort of voluntary donation from the people instead of forced tax increases.

The U.S. would enter the war the following year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. The name of the bonds was changed to War Bonds, and promoted nationwide through advertisements, music, and a Warner Brothers’ cartoon, which were intended to raise patriotism in people. As a result, 85 million Americans bought defense bonds worth $185 billion. The patriotic mood skyrocketed among Americans, and numerous civic organizations participated in volunteer services to help soldiers.

Through defense bonds, the government temporarily borrows money from the people at relatively low interest rates. By issuing the defense bonds, which are a type of donation as well as investment, the government can raise funds without disturbing the national economy by forcing tax increases. War Bonds were also popular for its future investment reasons, and also played a crucial role in boosting patriotism by mobilizing popular Hollywood stars.

Prior to this, the U.S. had issued defense bonds called “Liberty Bonds,” appealing solely to patriotism, during the First World War. Famous celebrities like Charlie Chaplin hosted various rallies to promote the purchase of the bonds, and even Boy Scouts held street parades under the slogan of “saving our soldiers.”

But as the campaign appealing only to patriotism reached its limit, the bonds were pitched as safe investments in the government, which increased the speed of fundraising. As a result, the campaign raised $21.5 billion, a tremendous amount back then. Reviving a previous success like this, President Roosevelt had great success in raising defense funds.

In South Korea, a defense fundraising campaign began in October 1973 as tensions rose due to a series of intrusions by North Korea into the waters of the five West Sea islands. Since then, the campaign had raised over 60.9 billion won through donations from the Korean people and businesses at home and abroad. It was the first defense fundraising campaign in South Korea.

The funds strengthened military equipment and the reserve forces, and allowed continuous investment in military force enhancement projects. It was strictly donations rather than government investment. Unfortunately, high-ranking officials’ corruption concerning the funds led to the end of the defense fundraising campaign in 1988.

However, that was 30 years ago. Times are different now. Such corruption and wrongdoing cannot happen now. Furthermore, North Korea restarted its 5MW nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, and convincing evidence suggests that it will also test its long distance missiles soon.

Also, an internal power struggle has surfaced in North Korea. As it was reported that Jang Seong-thaek, an uncle-in-law of Kim Jong-un considered to be the closest ally of and second in power to Kim, was ousted from his post.

More than two dozen of Jang’s close associates have been reported dead by public execution. What will this situation bring about in the future? Will it increase the possibility of North’s military provocation as its military returns to the center of power? Since no one can predict the future with any certainty, we are all nervous.

South Korea should seriously consider reviving the defense fundraising campaign to strengthen its national defense, as the threat of military provocation from North Korea still remains. I believe that such a campaign will give the nation an opportunity to strengthen its resolution to unite the country, and that the amount of raised funds will show the level of people’s patriotism and alertness to a crisis of national security.

It seems that now is the time for Koreans to be alert. It is time to wake up from apathy toward our national security. It is time to show our unity to North Korea and the world through a defense fundraising campaign.

Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the Kim Chang Joon U.S.-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website at


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