In the News – Canada remembers Korean War
Canadian sailors visit the graves of Canadian soldiers killed in the Korean War (1950-53) at the United Nations Memorial Cemetary in Busan, Friday.
/ Korea Times photo by Lee Sung-deok
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Back in December 1950, the first Canadian troops came to South Korea, then fighting its Stalinist northern neighbor after the North launched an attack at dawn on Sunday, June 25.
Nearly 26,000 young Canadians, mostly aged 18 or 19 years, fought for the freedom of this nation under the U.N. flag. More than 300 died and some 1,100 were wounded.
On Thursday, Canada’s Ambassador to South Korea David Chatterson said his nation’s decision to send the large contingent of troops to South Korea 62 years ago was “a very difficult political decision.”
“We had just come out of World War II and 10 percent of men in Canada fought in that war. So we had just completed a very long, difficult war in which Canadians fought and died for the freedom of other countries,” Chatterson said in an interview with The Korea Times.
“Five years later, we were asked to do it again…. It was difficult.”
The Canadian envoy said there had been a pros and cons debate regarding the plan to dispatch the troops when Canada was asked to join the Korean War.
“There was a lot of opposition to going back into a war. But we were very supportive of the U.N. and this was the Cold War period.
There were issues much bigger frankly than Korea at play,” Chatterson said.
“I think that’s what tipped the scales toward our involvement in the Korean War.”
Canada has been active in international peace-keeping operations and the military campaign to fight for the freedom of foreign nations. The North American country sent troops to Iraq during the first Gulf War, the Libyan Civil War in 2011 and Afghanistan.
Ambassador Chatterson said Canada’s contribution to international peace and security might have been impossible without support from its citizens and their awareness of the role Canada has to play to help make the world peaceful.
“Canada is a country populated by immigrants. So we always had connections to Europe, to Asia, and to countries around the world. That makes us look outward, not inward,” he noted.
“We can look beyond our day-to-day survival and think about the bigger global issues. We understand that the peace and security of the whole world affects us. We are not selfish people.”
Ambassador Chatterson made the remarks as South Korea marks the 62nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War Monday.
According to the Ministry of National Defense, some 63 nations from all around the world had either sent troops or provided necessary assistance to South Korea during the forgotten war.
The 63 nations included the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, France, Belgium, Colombia, Ethiopia, and the Philippines.
These countries joined the Korean War after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution to begin a police action to help the South in the wake of North Koreans’ launch of the attack.
Chatterson said Canadian veterans, who are now mostly in their 80s, felt that their sacrifices paid off after witnessing the dramatic changes South Korea has made in terms of socio-economic development over the past six decades.
“In my discussions with them, they were very pleased that their sacrifices have enabled this,” he said.
“Our Korean War veterans visit here every year with the support of the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. For many of them, it was their first time. They had come to South Korea when they were at 18 or 19 years old sixty years ago. So they were quite struck by the change as Korea was absolutely ruined during the war. So it was very emotional for them.”
Six decades after the outbreak of the Korean War, the Canadian ambassador, who arrived in Seoul last September to assume duties to South and North Korea, said he felt the need to raise the profile of Canada as well as bilateral relations in South Korea.
The two sides will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations next year.
The two governments have made various efforts to bolster ties. One of them was the restart of negotiations to clinch the Korea-Canada free trade agreement, suspended after the two sides began talks in 2005. Last week, President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper announced this after the summit held on the sidelines of G20 Summit held in Mexico.
“Our negotiations are well-evolved and Canada and Korea have complementary economies,” said Chatterson, revealing optimism about the road ahead of the trade pact.
Near the end of the interview, the ambassador launched the pitch for Canada Day slated for July 1.
“We don’t celebrate this with army parades. Rather we celebrate this with communities in Canada and around the world. We will have concerts, picnics, barbeque and fireworks,” he said.