The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs is hosting two days of events in Busan this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean War with UN veterans and dignitaries from their home countries.
Twenty-two countries joined the US-led UN coalition and South Korea to counter an invasion from China-backed North Korea in the 1950-53 conflict that ended with an armistice, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war.
On Tuesday, an international conference comprising delegates from the 22 nations plus the ministry chief here is set to convene to discuss deepening their ties and exchanges.
Except for Greece, whose deputy defense minister will attend the event, all the others are either sending ambassadors or video messages instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Later in the day, a 75-minute peace concert will be held in Busan’s UN Memorial Cemetery.
Korea’s Navy band and Eirene Philharmonic Orchestra will open the stage, jointly performing “Summon the Heroes” by John Williams, followed by a song written by a deceased American veteran’s son.
A Turkish veteran descendent studying in Korea will share his story of war during the concert, which will culminate with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” sung by every performer on stage.
On Wednesday, at the 11th hour on Nov. 11, Korea will mark its first statutory memorial day for the UN veterans in the UN Memorial Cemetery with one minute of silence in tribute.
Paying tribute to soldiers at Busan’s UN cemetery -- the only one in the world where UN soldiers are laid to rest -- is available for everyone to join, just as it was on Remembrance Day for World War I veterans, according to the Veterans Ministry.
A memorial service will be held, with Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun visiting the graves of US Gen. Richard S. Whitcomb, the Hearsey brothers from Canada and the Humerstons from Australia, who will be posthumously awarded Ambassador for Peace medals.
Also starting Tuesday, Korea is hosting a three-day peace camp on the side and will invite 40 participants, including service members of the US military and UN Command here and veterans’ descendants.
The list of invitations was sharply scaled down because of COVID-19, the Veterans Ministry said.
Taking part in prepared memorial events, the camp participants will be given an extra opportunity to tour parts of the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.
“I’m very glad to be able to participate in the camp,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin K. White of the UNC honor guard.
“As an adopted Korean, being able to serve in my birth country has been nothing short of amazing.”
Lt. Col. Christopher S. Hobgood of the UNC Military Armistice Commission said, “The US-ROK alliance and the international community’s unbroken commitment to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula is unmatched.”
“Korea is a beautiful country, with wonderful people and a deeply rich history and culture.”
Billboard ads thanking Korean War veterans will be posted in New York City’s Times Square, London’s Canary Wharf and High Street Kensington and key places in Bangkok throughout early next month. CNN and the BBC will also air the ads, the Veterans Ministry said.
By Choi Si-young (firstname.lastname@example.org