South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) presents Alvaro Lozano Charry, a Colombian veteran of the Korean War, with the Ambassador for Peace Medal in Seoul on Wednesday, in this provided by his office. (Yonhap)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has awarded state medals to two Colombian veterans who fought for South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War in recognition of their sacrifice and devotion, officials said Thursday.
Guillermo Rodriguez Guzman, 91, and Alvaro Lozano Charry, 87, were awarded the Ambassador for Peace Medal on Wednesday during their visit to Seoul on the occasion of Colombian President Ivan Duque's three-day state visit to South Korea that began Tuesday.
A retired career soldier, Rodriguez participated in the war from January to December in 1952 as a platoon commander.
Lozano joined the war in December 1952 and fought until he was wounded by a grenade explosion in June 1953. During the war, the 87-year-old lost a friend, with whom he came to Korea, during their very first battle in March 1953.
"The most memorable moment from the war is when I returned to Colombia, alive," Rodriguez said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul. "The moments when my comrades were wounded or died still stand out in my memory."
Calling South Korea's rise from the ashes of the war a "miracle," the Colombian veterans said they were proud to witness its rapid development every time they visited the country.
"Looking at what a strong country South Korea has become, I feel that all the sacrifices we made were not in vain," Lozano said.
Colombia was the only Latin American country to dispatch troops to the three-year conflict.
Around 5,100 Colombian soldiers fought in the war under the UN flag against the North Korean forces backed by the Soviet Union and China. The war left 213 Colombians dead and 448 wounded.
The two Koreas are still technically at war as the conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
"South Korea is now a diligent, innovative and forward-looking country. I hope the younger generation knows what it cost for a country like this to be made," Rodriguez said. (Yonhap)