NATIONAL

French, foreign envoys honor comrades of WWI

By Joel Lee
  • Published : Nov 19, 2018 - 20:41
  • Updated : Nov 19, 2018 - 20:45
French Ambassador to Korea Fabien Penone honors fallen comrades and active-duty servicepersons at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul on Nov. 11. (Yonhap)

Marking the centenary of the end of World War I, French diplomats, veterans and their international colleagues paid homage to fallen comrades and active-duty servicepersons at a commemorative ceremony at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul on Nov. 11.

Veterans of the French Battalion in the United Nations Forces, Korean veterans, foreign diplomats as well as soldiers and officers took part in the commemoration. They were joined by students from the Lycee Francais de Seoul, Lycee International Xavier, Duksung High School and Seoul Foreign School, alongside French citizens in Korea.

The French diplomatic mission and defense unit organized and led the remembrance of the signing of the armistice declaring the end of WWI in France.

“As president of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, will emphasize in his speech today in Paris, which I will now quote, ‘It has been a century since the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, which put an end to the fratricidal combats of the First World War,’” French Ambassador to Korea Fabien Penone said in a speech.

A century has passed since the armistice “put a stop to interminable conflicts pitting nations against nations and peoples against peoples; to trenches full of mud, blood and tears; to storms of fire and steel that tore apart the sky; and to bloody battlefields and the omnipresence of death,” he added.

Foreign ambassadors at the commemorative ceremony marking the end of WWI (Yonhap)

On Nov. 11, 1918, France heaved “a sigh of relief” emanating from Compiegne -- a commune in the Oise department in northern France -- where the armistice was signed at dawn, according to the envoy.

Every French town and village commemorates the historic day to this day.

“On Nov. 11, we remember our soldiers who died for France; our civilians who lost their lives; our veterans whose bodies and minds would never be the same; and our villages and towns that were destroyed,” Penone said. “We also remember and honor the suffering of all those who left their homelands in Africa, the Pacific and America to fight in France, and the 10 million soldiers from around the world who fought on our side.”

The century that separates WWI and today has taught that “peace is precarious,” the ambassador noted, adding “nationalism and totalitarianism can quickly undermine democracies and threaten the very concept of civilization.”

“On this anniversary, we acknowledge our history and prevent it from being repeated. ... We know the speed with which the multilateral order can collapse. We know that the unity of Europe, built around the reconciliation of France and Germany, is more fragile than ever.”

Turning to the 1950-53 Korea War, Penone paid tribute to soldiers who gave their lives in defense of the Korean people’s freedom and democracy against communist aggression.

“Beyond the Korean Peninsula, today’s commemoration must be an invitation to build future’s peace all around the world,” he said. “The global multilateral system is essential more than ever for world peace and security. We must enhance it and adapt it to the demands of our present time.”

Honoring the centenary, Macron inaugurated the Paris Peace Forum on Nov. 11, which will seek to strengthen global governance and find solutions to peace and security challenges worldwide.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)