Korean War Veterans commemorate 70th Anniversary of start of war
The service and sacrifice of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel in the Korean War was remembered at a commemoration in Wellington today to mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the war.
Ten Korean War veterans were joined by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, South Korean Ambassador Sang-jin Lee, Minister for Veterans Ron Mark, Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short, Chief of Army Major General John Boswell and other members of the NZDF, and Head of Veterans Affairs Bernadine Mackenzie at the commemoration at Pukeahu National War Memorial.
While the armed conflict lasted from 1950–53 and was ended with an armistice but no peace treaty, from 1950 to 1957 more than 6000 New Zealanders served in Korea on land and sea as part of Kayforce.
During that time 45 New Zealanders died and 81 were wounded. Thirty-three of those who died are buried in the United Nations Cemetery in Busan, South Korea, while Able Seaman Robert Marchioni’s body has never been recovered from what is now North Korea.
About 500 New Zealand Korean War Veterans are alive today.
One of those veterans who was at today’s commemoration was Des Vinten, who served in Korea as a dispatch rider from 1951–53.
Mr Vinten said it was good to see that their service in Korea had made a difference.
“I’ve been back to Seoul four times and I’m constantly amazed at what’s happened in those 70 years. The difference between Korea in 1951 and Korea today is absolutely incredible.”
Ms Mackenzie said it was always a special moment when veterans gathered to remember their service and honour those who had fallen.
“It is also heartening for them to know that their service was valued,” she said.
Ms Ardern said the basis of New Zealand and South Korea’s modern relationship was forged seven decades ago during the conflict.
“The warm friendship we enjoy today has at its core strong political, economic and security links,” she said. “Our mutual spirit of cooperation also continues through our shared commitment to peace on the Korean peninsula — a commitment which reflects the ongoing importance of sacrifices made 70 years ago.
“To this day, the legacy established by Kayforce lives on in the New Zealand Defence Force personnel currently deployed to United Nations Command.”
Mr Lee said New Zealand was one of the first countries to respond to the United Nations call for assistance in the Korean War.
“On behalf of the government and the people of the Republic of Korea, I would like to express my special gratitude to the Korean War veterans,” he said.
“Korea’s recovery from the destruction of the war and active participation in the international society today would not have been possible without the help of good friends like New Zealand.”