Visit of Irish Veterans to Korea
Our Embassy in Seoul marked the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice with a series of events focusing on Irish involvement in the Korean War. Veterans from all over Ireland revisited battlesites and participated in a dedication ceremony for a new memorial.
In April 2013 our Embassy in Seoul together with The Somme Association, Northern Ireland, the Irish Association of Korea and The Royal Ulster Rifles Association erected a memorial to those of Irish birth and heritage who died in the Korean War. Twelve veterans of the War born on the island of Ireland* took part in the dedication ceremony and visited the sites of battles in which they fought.
War on the Korean Peninsula ended in 1953, after two years of negotiations and over three years of conflict. Ireland was not a member of the UN during the War and no Irish troops were officially sent to fight. However, many Irishmen and those of Irish heritage fought under the UN flag– mainly for British and US forces, but also for Australian, Canadian and New Zealand Forces. Those Irish religious present at the outbreak of hostilities also endured extreme hardship and loss of life.
For the majority of visitors, this was their first trip to Korea since the War. They visited the Gloster Valley memorial which recalls the Battle of Imjin – the ‘Armageddon North of Seoul’ in which some fought. They also paid their respects at the UN Cemetery at Busan, where many comrades are interred.
The most moving part of the visit was at the site of the battle of Happy Valley. This battle, in which the Royal Ulster Rifles held back advancing Chinese Forces to allow the evacuation of Seoul, saw the loss of 157 men, killed, wounded and missing from the Irish Regiment. 62 years later men recalled absent friends and the horrors they witnessed during the withdrawal. They were joined by two daughters of men who died in battle.
In weather reminiscent of home, a memorial for those of Irish birth and heritage who either died in the service of the UN or as non-combatants, was unveiled at the War Memorial of Korea. Amongst those present were Columban Missionaries and the Anglican Society of the Holy Cross (Korea), two Orders with strong Irish connections, who suffered terribly during the War.
Recognition of involvement in the War is an important part of our history and of the deep connection between Ireland and Korea. A dedicated Irish memorial is a fitting tribute to the men and women who fought and suffered in this devastating conflict.
*The visit of the veterans was as a part of the Commonwealth Veterans Revisit programme which is funded by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs of Korea.
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