May 1, 2010
In Korea right now, within the ranks of staff and advisors to the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee that is chaired by Prime Minister Chung Un-chan and former Prime Minister Lee Hong-gu, and in the Cheong Wa Dae offices of the Republic of Korea’s President Lee Myung-Bak, scholarly individuals are working at drafts of presidential messages that will honour and thank Korean War Veterans from 21 nations for their hard work and sacrifice in defending the nation during the Korean War.
In Canada this week, one Korean lady has already put such a message into a succinct yet comprehensive form in what perhaps is the greatest tribute ever paid to Canadian servicemen who served in Korea. She did so on the floor of the Canadian Senate in a motion to have July 27 declared and recognized by the Canadian Government as Korean War Veterans Day.
This amazing lady with her wonderful words – delivered with tears flowing – is Senator Yonah Martin, who represents British Columbia in the Canadian Senate. Several other senators wish to also speak to the motion and add their words to hers, before the vote is taken and the motion finds its way to enactment.
While Senator Martin’s words are directed to Canadians and examples of the battles they fought in and the extent of their contribution to the liberation of the Republic of Korea, her words can apply to the veterans of all nations who were allied in the cause.
Any veteran, anywhere in this world, who does not read the text of that illustrious motion as published below, does himself a disfavour; for in the first time in 57 years, the contributions of those who served and the sorry aftermath and anonymity suffered by the returning servicemen and the entombing of the Korean War history into thin, unillustrious archives - and even at times discussed tongue in cheek by those who served in the larger World War but not at the front in Korea - has never been so eloquently and accurately uttered.
Publisher and Canadian Veteran of the Korean War
Member of the Advisory Council
60th Anniversary of the Korean War
Republic of Korea
Motion to Declare July 27 as
National Korean Veterans Day
Delivered by Senator Yonah Martin
in the Canadian Senate
April 29, 2010
Honourable senators, with deepest respect and gratitude to our honoured veterans of the Korean War, including the veterans and their families present in our chamber today, I rise to draw your attention to the motion in my name that the Senate recognize and endorse July 27 annually as National Korean Veterans Day.
The armistice signed on July 27, 1953, ended the three-year military conflict but did not bring an end to the civil war. Canadians from coast to coast to coast pause on November 11 of each year to remember those who have served our nation during times of war and peace. In order for Canadians of all generations to truly understand the service and sacrifice of our armed forces, we must capture the significance of Remembrance Day and extend our commemorative activities and events throughout the year, such as Vimy Ridge Day, April 9; Liberation of Holland Day, May 5; and Merchant Navy Day, September 3.
I would like to add that at this approximate time, on this day and in honour of our veterans, MLA Harry Bloy, the government liaison to the Korean community of British Columbia, is speaking in the Victoria Legislature to proclaim June 25, 2010, as the Sixtieth Anniversary of the breakout of the war.
To veterans Mr. Terry Wickens, Mr. Gordon Strathy, Mr. Al Tobio, Mr. Bill Black and Mr. Alex MacDonald and all veterans of the Korean War, I owe them my very existence, as do my parents and every person of Korean descent in the world today. On behalf of all of us, please accept our deepest gratitude to you, our unsung heroes of democracy and freedom, and for the sacrifices of your fallen and departed comrades.
Jin-Shim-Eu-Ro-Gum-Sa-Ham-Nee-Da. (Sincerest truthful thank you)
We sincerely thank you.
The Korean War was a result of the political division of the Korean Peninsula by agreement of the victorious allies at the end of World War II. At the Potsdam Conference in July and August 1945, without consulting the Korean people, the allies unilaterally decided to divide Korea, a clear violation of the Cairo Conference.
Korea had been ruled by Japan prior to the end of the war. In 1945, following the surrender of Japan, the peninsula was divided along the thirty-eighth parallel with the United States troops occupying the southern part and Soviet troops occupying the northern part.
The failure to hold free elections throughout the Korean Peninsula in 1948 deepened the division between the two sides with the thirty-eighth parallel becoming the de facto political border between the two Koreas.
Although reunification negotiations continued in the months preceding the war, tension intensified. Cross-border skirmishes and raids at the thirty-eighth parallel persisted and escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. International reaction was swift. The United Nations Security Council met on the same day and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
As the day wore on and North Korean forces pressed onward, it became clear that they did not intend to comply with the United Nations demands.
A second UN resolution called on the members to “furnish such assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security in the area”. Over the following days and weeks, member states committed their troops, Canada included.
Despite having no special national interest in the Far East and with armed forces just large enough to protect domestic interests, Canadians answered the call of duty. The first Canadian aid to the desperate UN forces was answered by the Royal Canadian Navy. The fact that Korea is a peninsula offered unusual scope for naval support. Eight ships of the Royal Canadian Navy joined their UN and Republic of Korea navy colleagues, performing a great variety of tasks.
In addition to blockading the enemy coast and supporting the UN land forces, they protected the friendly islands and brought aid and comfort to the sick and needy in isolated fishing villages.
I wish to make note of my support of Senator Segal's motion in support of our fine Canadian Navy in its centennial anniversary in 2010, whose legacy includes the important contributions it made during the Korean War.
Following the Canadian Navy, later in June of 1950, a squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force was assigned to transport duties with the UN. By August, it had become clear that the Korean crisis had deepened. The Canadian government authorized the recruitment of the Canadian Army Special Force, CASF, to carry out Canada's UN obligations. In December 1950, the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry landed in Korea, and in May, the CASF followed.
On the sea, in the air, on the ground, in the hills — through some of the most intense fighting and the worst conditions, against great odds, resilient, valiant — Canadians were there to make a difference.
During the battle of Kap'yong, Canadians were there, heavily outnumbered and surrounded, the brave soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, along with their Australian comrades, endured fierce night fighting to prevent the Chinese breakthrough that would have seen the recapture of Seoul.
During the battle of Chail-Li, Canadians were there. The newly-arrived Canadian battalions were deployed in support of the U.S. 25th Division assault along the Ponchon River. In the course of this operation, the Royal Canadian Regiment launched an attack upon the village of Chail-li and a neighbouring hill. The attack was successful, perhaps too successful, as the brigade's advance had created a deep salient in the enemy lines and the units, without protection on the flanks, were forced to withdraw.
During the battle of Hill 187, Canadians were there. The 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment withstood a strong enemy assault on its position on Hill 187. The attack was repulsed, but the engagement cost the Canadians heavy casualties — 26 killed, 27 wounded and 7 taken prisoner.
During the battle of Hill 355, Canadians were there as the Chinese launched another series of attacks in one engagement against the Royal 22nd Regiment positioned at the focal point on
Hill 355, an important feature that dominated most of the divisional front. During the night of November 23 to 24, the Royal 22nd Regiment was attacked several times after heavy shelling, but no ground was lost, even when one of their forward platoons had been dislodged and another surrounded.
Just days before the ceasefire, at the "Hook," they stood and died alongside their UN comrades against wave after wave of Chinese attacks attempted to remove them from their position.
The armistice of July 27, 1953, ending three years of war took place because Canadians were there — 26,791 Canadians, who were asked to fight for a country they did not know; for a people, like my parents who they may have never met, nor 12 years later would I have been born. Five hundred and sixteen soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice to give the people of South Korea — my family — our precious freedom.
At the end of the war, Canadians returned to a peaceful nation that almost seemed to be unaware of the conflict across the ocean that had taken 516 Canadian and hundreds of thousands of others' lives.
For decades, the media ignored it. For the most part, reference to the war was buried in archives to occasionally arise as a footnote to history and most frequently referred to as the Korean conflict. The Korean War was aptly called the "Forgotten War" because it was not a Canadian conflict but a United Nations conflict. The Korean War was a forgotten war because it ended in a stalemate, not a triumphant victory, because the fewer casualties and combatants were overshadowed by the world war fought just a few years earlier.
While the memories of the war began to fade and the legacy of the Korean War was archived in Canada, the people of South Korea and Korean immigrants around the world remained forever grateful.
Since 1953, the Republic of Korea has risen from the ashes of war to transform itself from being the second-poorest nation in the world to becoming one of the leaders of the industrialized world, now standing among the G20 nations.
On June 26, 2010, one day after the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War, it is symbolic that Canada and Korea will co-chair the G20 summit in Ontario.
Honoured veterans, may you see South Korea success as your own, for none of it would have been possible had it not been for your selflessness, courage and sacrifice. I embody the deep history of Canada and Korea. The Korean War is not a fading memory but a sharp reality at the heart of every person of Korean descent living today. It is a sharp reality to those families that have been separated by the 38th parallel, including my own.
As my mother's short-term memory deteriorates, she spends much of her time reliving the past, including her vivid memories of the Korean War. I remember too when my father refused to waste food, like moldy rice. He would scrape off the top layer of mould and mumble as he put a spoonful of the perfectly good rice in his mouth: "Do you know how much we starved during the war?" We would joke that his stomach could handle anything, even a bowl of rocks.
Honourable veterans, you are the living heroes of the Korean people. Days of national commemoration bring Canadians of all generations and many backgrounds together to honour and remember the significance of an event or period in history. Together we can thank those who fought for our freedoms and pass the tradition of honouring and remembering our soldiers to the next generation so that Canadians may never forget why and how we came to enjoy our freedom.
In the coming months, Canadians from across the country will take time to honour, in a multitude of ways, all those who served during the Korean War. Commemorative ceremonies in Victoria and Burnaby, British Columbia to Ottawa and Brampton, Ontario have already been planned and others will be scheduled.
The fallen will be remembered, their achievements and sacrifices acknowledged and the lessons learned passed on to a new generation of Canadians.
June 25, 2010 will mark the sixtieth anniversary of the breakout of the Korean War. July 27, 2013 will mark the sixtieth anniversary of the ceasefire.
On April 9, Canadians gathered to mark the end of an era with the passing of our last Canadian World War I veteran, Mr. John Babcock. Let us join as a nation to remember our soldiers of the "Forgotten War" before it is too late.
Let us give our veterans the heroes' welcome they deserved back in 1953. Many Korean War veterans are no longer with us to witness the respect they deserve; however, there are those who are thankfully still with us. Some of them are in this chamber.
I ask all honourable senators to support this motion to recognize July 27 as National Korean Veterans Day and show our Canadian veterans of the Korean War that they are not forgotten and will never be forgotten.
Links to other organizations
Above article provided courtesy of the Korean War Veteran, firstname.lastname@example.org