• John Jantak

South Korean Ambassador pays tribute to Canadian Korean War veterans


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

War veterans Kwan Byang Chun (left) who served in the South Korean Air Force for 16 years and Stuart Vary who served in the Canadian Forces recall war memories during a ceremony at Ste. Anne’s Hospital in Ste. Anne de Bellevue on August 10 held by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Montreal that paid tribute to Canadian Forces and South Korean Armed Forces soldiers who fought in the Korean War.

About 75 Canadian Forces veterans and counterparts from the South Korean Armed Forces attended a ceremony at Ste. Anne’s Hospital last Friday, August 10, to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the armistice signing that ended hostilities between North and South Korea on July 27, 1953.

The veterans were presented with tokens of commemoration from the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Montreal by Ambassador and Counsel General Yun Je Lee. The event was also attended by the Counsel for the Republic of Korea in Montreal Suhee Wi and Canadian Forces Brigadier General Jennie Carignan, Commander of the 2nd Division and Joint Task Force East.

Profound gratitude

“I am honoured to be in your company here today. First, let me begin by expressing on behalf of the people and the government of the Republic of Korea our unwavering respect and profound gratitude for your generous service and extraordinary sacrifices during the Korean War,” Lee told the gathering.

Canada was one of 16 countries that participated in the war as part of a United Nations military force after North Korean troops invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. Almost 27,000 Canadian soldiers served in the Korean War – 516 soldiers were killed and more than 1,200 were wounded during the conflict that lasted just over three years.

Invaluable sacrifices

“I cannot think of a better time to come together to honour your invaluable sacrifices and tremendous contributions in defending freedom and democracy on the Korean Peninsula,” said Lee.

“Though more than 60 years have passed, we Koreans still have the greatest respect and admiration for the 27,000 Canadians who left their homes and their families. They risked their lives for a country they had never known and for people they had never met,” added Lee. He also thanked the staff at Ste. Anne’s Hospital for staging the event.

Brigadier General Carignan thanked Lee and the South Korean government for the tribute to Canada’s war veterans. “Today we honour your sacrifice and the memory of all the brave Canadians and Koreans who fell in combat. You continue to be examples of self-sacrifice who have inspired generations of Canadian soldiers to march in your footsteps,” said Carignan.

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Jean-Louis Bougie displays a faded North Korean newspaper clipping of former Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin at a ceremony held at Ste. Anne’s Hospital in Ste. Anne de Bellevue on August 10 held by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Montreal that paid tribute to Canadian Forces and South Korean Armed Forces soldiers who fought in the Korean War.

Recalling memories

The tribute was welcomed by the veterans who fought in the war. Stuart Vary recalled his experiences as a member of the field artillery unit. “I went over in 1952 and returned in 1953. I fired 25-pound field artillery to protect our unit. I remember sitting in a bunker on New Year’s Eve all by myself and I said if I ever get out of here I’ll have a good party. And I did,” said Vary.

Jean-Louis Bougie proudly displayed a faded North Korean newspaper clipping that was among his many photographic mementos from the war. It featured a photograph of former Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin. “I found this on a wall in a house when we were on patrol. I asked myself, ‘What’s a picture of Stalin doing here?’” said Bougie

Honour to participate

Veteran Kwan Byang Chun who served in the South Korean Air Force for 16 years said it was an honour to participate in the ceremony. “I joined the air force when the war started in 1950,” said Chun. He immigrated to the United States when he left the air force in 1966 and came to Canada in 1971.

“I worked for Air Canada for 25 years. I retired when I was 65 years old,” said Kwan who is a member of the Korean Veterans Association (KVA) of Canada, Unit 20, in Montreal. The KVA is comprised primarily of members who served in the Canadian Armed Forces during the Korean War from 1950-1953 and on peacekeeping duties in Korea from 1953 to 1955.

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