NATIONAL

Colombia celebrates peace, progress on National Day

By Joel Lee
  • Published : Jul 31, 2017 - 17:26
  • Updated : Jul 31, 2017 - 17:26
As Colombia precariously extricates itself from five decades of an internecine conflict with armed guerilla group FARC, Colombians should muster their patriotism, intellect and skills to rebuild the society, said the country’s top envoy here, commending Korea’s rapid economic and social development following the 1950-53 Korean War.

“Our society is in a process of historical transition, and we as Colombians must grow our knowledge and productivity and overcome challenges of achieving better education and equity,” Ambassador Tito Saul Pinilla said at a National Day reception in Seoul on Friday.

In a quote he attributed to 19th century English philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill, the diplomat said, “The nation is nothing but a union of all individuals who compose it.” He urged his compatriots to be “united by the purpose of achievement, progress and happiness for everyone.”

Pinilla lauded Korea’s expeditious recovery and reconstruction from the ashes of its ideological, fratricidal war, as the country marched toward common prosperity from the 1960s onward. 

Colombian Ambassador to Korea Tito Saul Pinilla (center) poses with Colombian veterans of the 1950-53 Korean War and Korea Post publisher Lee Kyung-sik (second from right) at the National Day reception at Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Friday (Colombian Embassy)
Traditional Colombian dancers at the National Day reception at Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Friday (Colombian Embassy)

“Our country should also take as a reference the success of other countries and try to learn from it,” he said, calling Korea a “shining example.”

Noting that Korea has earned the reputation of a developed country in less than two decades, the envoy said it is “an exemplary achievement enabled not by natural resources, but human resources.”

“I want Colombia to be a country of valuable human resources too. Every single Colombian can be more qualified and educated every day in all areas to give their best to the society,” the ambassador added.

Expressing his appreciation to Colombian students in Korea, both present at the reception and absent, Pinilla asked them to notify the diplomatic mission of each and every graduation from an academic institution or scholarly achievement. “Our embassy is your home, and we stand ready to provide any kind of assistance,” he highlighted.

Colombia and Korea established diplomatic relations in 1962. During a presidential summit in Seoul in 2011, the two sides announced their strategic partnership. On July 15 last year, Bogota and Seoul marked their long-awaited free trade agreement entering into force, Colombia’s first with an Asian economy following 46 free trade agreements worldwide.

This file photo taken on September 23, 2015 shows Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (left) and the head of the FARC guerrillas Timoleon Jimenez, aka Timochenko (right), shaking hands as Cuban President Raul Castro (center) holds their hands during a meeting in Havana. (Yonhap)
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos delivers a speech to install the ordinary session of the Congress in Bogota, Colombia, 20 July 2017. Santos remarked this is the first 20 July, independence day in the country, that Colombia celebrates "without the shadow of an absurd war" referring to the end of the conflict with the FARC guerrilla. (EPA/Juan Paez)

Pinilla, who helmed the Colombian Air Force as a four-star general and commander, also conveyed his gratitude to a group of Colombian veterans of the Korean War -- ex-members of the Colombian Army Reserve -- present at the venue.

As part of the United Nations Forces, 5,314 troops of the Colombian Army Infantry Battalion No. 1 and a naval unit under the Frigate Almirante Padilla fought against invading North Korean soldiers, which led to 213 killed in action, 448 wounded and 28 taken as prisoners of war.

“These Colombian soldiers fought for the liberty and democracy of the country we are in now,” said the ambassador. “It is thanks to them that Colombia is considered a blood brother of Korea.”

Touching on the peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which disbanded it and ushered in fledgling nationwide peace, Pinilla said the number of wounded soldiers entering military hospitals had decreased by more than 90 percent, and over 7,000 rifles had been confiscated or handed over to the government.

“Is this not a great reason for happiness?” he posed to guests, adding, “Colombia is expecting great triumphs and you will surely be the protagonists of our future successes.”

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)

The chief of observers for the verification of bilateral and definitive cessation of fire and hostilities and handing over of FARC weapons, General Javier Antonio Perez Aquino, speaks during a press conference in Bogota, Colombia, on July 7. The UN Mission in Colombia said it has data on the location of 660 caches of FARC guerrilla weapons and confirmed that destruction of ammunition and explosives has begun. (EPA/LEONARDO MUNOZ)
A Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's (FARC) former member receives his diploma of Management in Intercultural Social Dialogue, Territorial Planning and Peacebuilding in Cali, Colombia, on July 29. Sixteen former members of the FARC received their diplomas, granted by the Javeriana University of Cali and realized in the veredal zone of the Elvira, Department of Cauca. (EPA/ERNESTO GUZMAN JR)