Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Woo Kyoung-ha
On the Occasion of the Presentation Ceremony of the
“Civil Merit Medal” to Maurice Bertram PEARS
13 November 2017, Gold Coast
Korean War heroes and extended family members,
Mr. John Fry, President of Association of QLD Korea Veterans,
The Hon Scott Buchholz MP,
Mr. John-Paul Langbroek, MP QLD,
Mr. Paul Taylor, Cold Coast City,
Madame Jenny Gregory, War Widows QLD President,
Mr. Paul Kim, President, ROK KW Veterans Association QLD,
Friends of Korea,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very honored and pleased to be here today. I would like to begin by thanking those Korean War heroes and their extended family members for their sacrifice and dedication.
I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those 43 Australians who are still listed as missing in action.
Congratulations! Once again, Mr. Maurice PEARS. It is truly my honor to present the Medal to you in person. On behalf of the people and the government of the Republic of Korea, I would like to express our profound gratitude to you. I understand that tomorrow is your birthday. Happy birthday, our hero! Mr. Maurice PEARS.
Today, I would like to share a few stories with you as I did with the veterans in other occasions.
In the Korean port city of Busan, we have the UN Memorial Cemetery where 280 Australian soldiers rest. Prior to coming to Canberra last year, I visited this Memorial Cemetery and found out that there was an artificial stream called the “Daunt Waterway”. It is named after the youngest soldier interred at that cemetery, Mr. James Patrick Daunt, a brave Australian soldier who fell at the age of 17. Mr. Daunt from Australia was just 17 – I was speechless.
Soon after, I read an article in a paper, the Sydney Morning Herald, titled “Two mothers united by grief and gratitude” written by Ms Louise Evans. It was a story about Korean War widow Mrs. Kim and Australian mother Mrs. Healy who lost her precious son, Vincent Joseph Healy, in 1951 in Korea.
Let me read some part of it.
“Korean War widow Mrs. Kim wept when she read a Seoul newspaper story about Australian mother Mrs. Healy who had journeyed 15,000 kilometres to try to find the grave of her war hero son, Vincent Joseph Healy, who had died in 1951.
Mrs. Healy was the mother of 10 children. She’d been too poor to travel to Korea after the end of the war in 1953. So she’d saved for 10 years, doing back-breaking factory work, to afford to make the solo journey to the Korean port city of Pusan where the UN Memorial Cemetery is located. The story triggered a deep sadness in Mrs. Kim in Korea as her husband, Lieutenant Kim, had also been killed in action in the war. So she decided to become Vincent’s Korean mother and to travel 400km from Seoul, capital city, to Pusan to visit his grave. Two mothers continued to correspond and eventually became close pen pals. On May 1964, the Brisbane Courier-Mail , a local newspaper, published a story about the special relationship forged between the two mothers separated by 15,000km but united by grief and gratitude.”
Just Like Mrs. Kim in the article, many, many more Koreans remember you and everyone else who came to help us during the war.
I was so touched because my father was also a Korean War Veteran. He served in the Korean Army Infantry from 1950 until 1981. When I was a young boy, he used to tell me his own war stories. Once, I was told that his platoon almost reached Yalu River in early 1951. It was an important advance for the South, but they soon had to retreat back to the South.
I know that he has a deep scar of a rifle shot in his thigh that he never fully explained. I know that he did not want to go into the horrors of the battlefield to his young son, and to this day I can only imagine how he got shot.
Earlier in September this year, I visited Mr. Thomson at a Canberra hospital, an 89-year old Korean War veteran. His family members had asked if it would be possible to award him a medal from the Korean government before he passed away. On his hospital bed, I pinned the medal on his chest. Although he was unconscious, I had a feeling that we had somehow communicated deep in our hearts. Just as Koreans had never forgotten the courage and sacrifice the veterans had made, the veterans had also not forgotten the potential of the country that they had helped, proud of the progress Korea had achieved with their help. Korea will never forget the Korean War veterans.
Some of you here today may still remember the hills of Kapyong, the ridges of Maryang-san, and elsewhere across the Korean Peninsula.
Your sacrifice was by no means in vain. We will never forget the pain and sorrow of the parents and wives of the Korean War veterans, nor will we ever forget the countless number of brave warriors who dedicated themselves to the peace of the Republic of Korea.
The significance of Australia’s sacrifice is perfectly captured in a phrase I remember seeing engraved in a Korean War Memorial monument in Washington DC. “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met”. This phrase made a lasting impression on me. At the time when World War II had ended, Korea was a country unknown to the world, including Australia. Brave men from Australia had come all the way to help defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.
I would like to share one more piece of history between Korea and Australia that marks a significant point in our relationship and encapsulates Australia’s support.
Australia supported Korea in 1948 when it was seeking UN approval to be recognized as a nation. The newly-founded Republic of Korea was desperately seeking UN approval, but the international community was not as responsive to or interested in Korea’s agenda.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas in 1948, the UN General Assembly was held in Paris. Everybody wanted to go home for the holidays; it looked unlikely that the Korean question would even make it onto the agenda. This was when Australia played a key role. A person from the Korean delegation was a Catholic, and had confided to a priest – who happened to be an Australian – about the Korean situation.
The priest relayed the message to Dr. Herbert V. Evatt, the then President of the UN General Assembly, who had also served as the Australia’s Minister for External Affairs from 1941 to 1949. He was one of the founders of the United Nations. Thanks to Dr. Evatt ‘s attention to the matter and after a series of discussions, the General Assembly passed the Resolution on Korea, whereby the Republic of Korea was recognized.
Now, we are no longer a country Australia never knew and a people Australia never met; we hope that Australia knows how grateful we are as a country and people whose foundation was built upon Australia’s support.
I am happy to note that the Australia-Korea relationship is very strong today. Since our two countries established diplomatic relations in 1961, we have maintained an excellent relationship across the board. I have every confidence that the shared commitments both Koreans and Australians have forged will become an irreplaceable foundation for our continued cooperation.
To Koreans, Australia is a beautiful country that is a coveted travel destination for around 300,000 Korean tourists every year and home to more than 180,000 Koreans. It is also the land of opportunity for many young Koreans who embark on a new journey to pursue their dreams. Gold Coast is one of the popular places.
Korea has indeed made much progress since the War. Australia’s veterans changed the course of history for our people and helped make this progress possible. Without the veterans’ support, Korea’s prosperity today would not have been possible. Without the assistance from allies like Australia, Korea would not be what it is today. We will never forget the Korean War veterans. On behalf of Korea, I thank you all again.
Before I conclude, I’d like to acknowledge the Korean community’s
invaluable role in strengthening our relationship.
존경하는 골드코스트 동포 여러분! 김광연 한인회장님과 임원 여러분!
오랜 세월, 여러분의 노력과 헌신이 있었기에, 오늘의 한국-호주 관계
발전이 이루어졌다고 생각합니다.
여러분이 자랑스럽습니다. 그리고, 감사합니다.
I am sincerely honored to be part of today’s event. As a private citizen of Korea, as a son of a Korean War veteran, as Korean Ambassador to Australia, once again, I pay my deepest tribute to the dedication and courage of the Korean War veterans. So today, we remember the past and we look ahead to the future.
Korea thanks Australia.
Thank you very much.