April 27, 2010
A journey in photographs
The Yeoncheon Noguk Elementary School revisited after 56 years
Photography by Sergeant Wayne Brunt,
Canadian Defence Attache Assistant
During their participation in the inaugural veterans revisit program for the 2010 Korean War Commemoration Year, the 62-member Canadian veterans group visited one of the two Korean schools founded by Canadian soldiers. The schools were constructed during the months following the 1953 Military Armistice Agreement that effectively ended the Korean War. With the veterans was former sergeant, Mervin Fediuk, who had served in Korea with the Royal Canadian Dental Corps. He was one of the activists, who, along with the late Colonel Sinclair, a Canadian dentist, helped raise funds and provide supervision and other support for the voluntary construction of the two schools. The visit to the Noguk Elementary School was arranged jointly by Chi Kap-Chong, chairman of the United Nations Korean War Allies Association and Colonel Stephen LaPlante, Canadian Defence Attache in Seoul.
The visit by Canadian Veterans and the Korean War founder of their school meant much to students and faculty of the Nogok School and to the mayor and other officials of Yeoncheon. This large banner above the school’s front doors expresses it all. Note the sign beneath it that officially designates the Nogok Elementary School as a “Happy School,” and it told no lies. Unlike in the war years the children were energetic, outgoing, beaming with smiles and in all ways it was obvious that they were very, very happy and well cared for. For that all veterans present were touched and thankful.
The Noguk School band was on hand in full uniform to greet the Canadian veterans when they arrived. Note the little girl in centre playing the French horn and mellowing out the welcoming medley.
Veterans pause to listen to Noguk School band play medley of pops songs. The band plays with considerable precision and accomplishment, although some of the students are less than 10 years old.
Mervin Fediuk, Korean War Veteran who played a role in establishing the Noguk elementary school in 1953, presents students with 300 books on Canada, donated to the school by the Canadian Embassy. In the centre, looking on, is Mr. Chi Kap-Chong, chairman of the United Nations Korean War Allies Association.
Veterans listen as Mervin Fediuk explains how the Canadian volunteers built the first Noguk school in 1953. It was an affair of the heart to provide learning and care for Korean children in one of the many, many Korean villages that were designated on military maps of the day as “destroyed.” Veterans in wheel chairs are (left) James Matheson, who served in Korea with the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and suffers from a war injury. He is accompanied by his wife, Marie. To his right is Robert Kiff, who served in Korea with the British Army in the 43rd Royal Artillery and 38th Airborne.
Mervin Fediuk presents historic documents and original photographs of the original school during its construction to the Mayor of Yeoncheon and principal of the school. The mayor said they will become part of the county’s historical archives.
After the performance by the band and presentations by Mervin Fediuk, the students, including those in the band, gathered for a group photograph with the veterans. In the center on the porch wearing blue suit and red tie is Chi Kap-Chong, chairman of the Korean War United Nations Allies Association, who worked hard with Canadian Defence Attache Stephen LaPlante to organize the event and make the visit possible.
Principal planners of the school visit huddle to discuss the successful program. Chi Kap-Chong (left), chairman of the Korean War United Nations Allies Association located the schools many years ago and brought them to the attention of the Canadian Embassy in Seoul. Colonel Stephen LaPlante worked the visit to the school into the itinerary for the Canadian veterans and participated in much of the planning. Mr. Chi was awarded the Distinguished Service Order by Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Korea on her birthday goodwill state visit in 1958. He subsequently was awarded Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson for his years of work in assisting Canadian veterans and participating in various commemoration projects. These included construction of the Canadian War Memorial at Naecheon, near Kapyong. Mr. Chi also was a consultant to the Canadian Korean War Commemoration Committee that funded, designed and sited Monuments to Canadian Fallen in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan and in Canada’s capital of Ottawa.
Raoul and Elizabeth Berlinguette speak with sweetest girl in the band following ceremonies. She plays the French horn, and though little more than a toddler herself, kept the tempo and made the music more mellow. Raoul served in Korea with the 1st Battalion of the Royal 22e Regiment.
Joyce and Douglas Whorrall give out the traditional pins from Canada and the Provinces, always a big hit with eager Korean children who have avid curiosity about other nations and aspirations for seeing them some day! Douglas served in Korea with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals and completed 30 years of service with the Canadian Forces. It was his first trip back to Korea since the war.
Veteran John Burstall chats with Noguk School students following the ceremonies. John served in Korea as a lieutenant with the 1st and 3rd Battalions of The Royal 22e Regiment and retired from the Canadian Forces as a lieutenant colonel.
Below, Navy veteran George Hunt passes out souvenir pins to happy Korean children, anxious to receive them. Everyone ran out of pins!
Below, showing approval for all of these activities, one of the Noguk School students gives the “Victory” sign to the Canadian veterans.
The final word, though, was spoken very quietly by one of the Canadian veterans. He took the school principal aside and made a very substantial money donation to the Noguk School!
how it was on Friday, April 23, 2010, in Noguk, Korea - not a very far walk from
the Imjin River
Links to other organizations
Above article provided courtesy of the Korean War Veteran, email@example.com