Do you remember those “story-sermons” they gave us in the early grades just as we were learning to read? They were little morality plays – “Clean your room, obey your parents, get to school on time, and you’ll have a great life.”

They probably don’t teach “doin’ right” like that any more. Some flint-faced parents probably got the whole program obliterated as being “religious.” I remember that “Go to church!” was a staple recommendation.

Anyhow, the real world offers a lot of that kind of moral ammunition. Countries where people vote, start businesses, speak, travel and worship freely make out a lot better than the dictatorships. For decades free West Berlin, right alongside Commie-enslaved East Berlin, drove the Communists nuts. So did free Hong Kong nestled into the bosom of Communist China. The Soviet Union never did figure out how to explain the prosperity of free Finland alongside drab, dull and dictatorial Russia.

But the mother of all such invidious comparisons has to be South Korea right there next to North Korea. Same people, same history, same language. Yet the average income of the free and democratic South Koreans is 17 times that of the North!

Actually, it’s profane to talk about income when millions, yes, millions of North Koreans have starved to death. Communism’s answer to starvation? A propaganda campaign claiming science has “proven” it’s healthier to eat just one meal a day. At night satellite pictures show a vibrant “lit-up” South Korea while the neighboring North is locked down in blackout.

There’s good news from Korea. Don’t dig out the New Year’s Eve horns and party hats just yet, but, just as the Mideast has become an American disaster, kept silent only by a media whose home address is Obama’s back pocket, Korea tells us of a change that veterans of that war may find too good to be true.

America doesn’t quite mess up everything every time. The very definition of military ineptitude was our ally, South Korea, when the Communists attacked in June 1950. Helpless, hopeless, hapless, South Korean military failure cannot be overstated. When the Communist North Koreans attacked and U.S. President Harry Truman realized he had to rush American troops from occupation duty in Japan to defend South Korea – or forfeit the world to the aggressors – entire units of the South defected to the invading Communists from the North. You’ve heard the term “bug out,” as in, “Where are our allies whose country we’re defending?” “Oh, they’ve bugged out!” That vocabulary enrichment was a gift from the South Korean army.

That was 1950. And while America was taking heavy casualties trying to defend South Korea, we took even heavier “casualties” trying to defend our defense of South Korea politically. Our critics and enemies, foreign and homegrown, ridiculed us mercilessly. “Why are you trying to defend South Korea against North Korea? They’re both terrible dictatorships! The South’s ruler, Syngman Rhee, is a right-wing dictator and the North’s Kim Il-sung is a left-wing dictator. Why risk one American life trying to defend South Korea?”

And most Americans didn’t know how to answer that question. About the best you heard back was something like, “Uhh, the North is Communist, right?”

One American who did know how was Leo Cherne, director of the International Rescue Committee, dedicated to spiriting prisoners of dictatorships into democracies worldwide. “True, we’re not defending freedom in South Korea,” admitted Leo. “What we’re defending is the possibility of eventual freedom, something which will be lost once Communism takes over.”

North Korean propaganda told us the present dictator’s father, Kim Jong-il, decided to take up golf and scored six holes-in-one on his first round! Leo scored six holes-in-one with that one shot!

Today South Korea is a democracy with a booming world-class economy and an army of people who – like Israelis – know who they are and what they’re fighting for. The refugee community from North Korea in the United States is almost unanimously convinced that the twerpy little dictator Kim Jong-un, grandson of post-World War II Kim Il-sung – is just “making noise” to build his image among his much older generals, and has zero intention of starting a war against South Korea and the United States. More importantly – and this is hard for any American veteran of the Korean War to comprehend – the odds are now not just amended, but upended! Just as the South had no chance against the North militarily, the solid opinion now is that the South has, along with its economic and democratic maturity, achieved such a tremendous military advantage that no North Korean in his right or wrong mind would pick a fight.

Look outside: It’s October 1942 again. Our enemies are on top, except for that little slap-dash of good news from the Pacific island of Guadalcanal we were wresting from the Japanese.

May South Korea do for America’s spirits now what Guadalcanal did in 1942!

America’s most decorated Marine hero, Gen. “Chesty” Puller, thought he was kidding when he told his embattled troops during a difficult moment in Korea, “They’ve got us surrounded, men. Don’t let any of them get away!

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