Korean War: A forgotten war, but we will never forget
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Han Dong-Man (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2018 - 12:00am

Exactly 68 years ago, the Korean War broke out in the Korean Peninsula and resulted in the total devastation of our country. The Philippines sent 7,420 soldiers, collectively known as the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK), to defend our freedom during the dreadful war. Like the proverb, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” the Korean government has not forgotten and will never forget the sacrifices of the Philippines to preserve democracy in the Republic of Korea (South Korea).

I believe that the veterans deserve the title of hero. There is no doubt that  the Republic of Korea would not be enjoying peace, democracy and economic prosperity today without the noble and great sacrifice of Filipino Korean War veterans. In addition to suffering the brutality of the war,  PEFTOK soldiers had to contend with homesickness, language disparity and the harsh Korean winter unfamiliar to Filipinos. To honor their sacrifice, I paid tribute to the Korean War memorials in Manila, Baguio City and Tacloban.

The Korean government regularly awards the Peace Medal to honor the Korean War veterans. Through scholarships and exposure trips to Korea, the government and people of the Republic of Korea have been expressing their gratitude and appreciation for the assistance that countries like the Philippines extended during the war. Fifty college scholarships will be handed out in September. Since 1975, the Korean government has also been inviting around 700 veterans to participate in its annual Revisit Korea Program. On the occasion of the 68th anniversary of the Korean War this coming June 25, the Korean government will be handing out scholarship allowances to 187 students – 40 in elementary, 100 in high school, and 47 in college.

When I first met former President Fidel V. Ramos, who is one of such heroes, he shared that he was so proud to be part of the Korean War after graduating from the West Point in the United States. On June 25, I am planning to invite him and the other veterans for dinner at my residence to once again show our deepest appreciation.  

During President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s first official visit to Korea from June 3 to 5, he stated: “During the Korean War, we fought side by side in defense of freedom and democracy. That is a legacy that must be remembered and continuously reaffirmed.” President Moon Jae-in likewise acknowledged this shared aspect of the two nations’ history and used the term “solid friendship” to describe the relationship between Korea and the Philippines.

All these are part of Korea’s way of showing its appreciation to its friends who were there during a time of great need. These are also the means of preserving the memory of war, so that the future generations will never forget the sacrifices that their ancestors had to make in the name of freedom, democracy and peace.

Everything that has transpired since the Korean War simply strengthens the notion that a friend in need is a friend indeed, and Korea will remain a true friend to the Philippines.

I believe most of the Filipino Korean War veterans are pleased to witness the prosperity of Korea, which has grown to become the world’s 12th largest economy, as well as the dynamic partnership between Korea and the Philippines. Furthermore, recent developments in the Korean Peninsula including a series of summit meetings between two Koreas and between the US and North Korea are also remarkable enough. I hope that, in the near future, the contribution of the Filipino veterans will be honored even more by the complete denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

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(Han Dong-man is the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea.)

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