The 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Day was marked during a memorial service and wreath laying ceremony at the Bays Hill memorial yesterday.
The Korean War (25 June 1950 to 27 July 1953) involved some 20 different countries, including South Africa, which was quick to respond after the United Nations recommended member states provide military assistance to the Republic of Korea, two days after fighting broke out. 826 South Africans volunteered and 37 died during the conflict, while eight were taken prisoner. The South African Air Force made a significant contribution to the war, flying 12 067 F-51 Mustang sorties and 1 694 F-86 Sabre sorties.
In remembrance of those veterans who served and died in Korea, Republic of Korea ambassador Yoon Lee, together with defence attaché Commander Seong Hwan Aghn, led the memorial service at the Air Force Memorial at Bays Hill outside Pretoria.
Air Force Padre Addie Burt led the memorial ceremony, during which the South African and Korean flags flew at half-mast. He called on guests to never forget the sacrifices of the fallen and prayed for people to strive for peace and stability. He called on people to look back to the past for lessons learnt and look forward to cooperation.
A number of wreaths were laid, starting with Lee. Members of the South African Air Force (SAAF) laid wreaths, as did General Denis Earp (on behalf of the Korean War Veterans Association), the President of the SAAF Association, a representative from the Heritage Foundation and numerous defence attaches.
Lee expressed his thanks to the Korean War veterans and all those who assisted Korea during the conflict as well as rebuilding the country after fighting stopped. “No amount of money will be able to repay the veterans for their sacrifices and losses,” Lee said. “The Republic of Korea is indebted to veterans.”
As part of its thanks to veterans, the Republic of Korea organises veteran visiting programmes and a scholarship programme for veteran family members. Two scholarship winners were announced during a dinner ceremony after the wreath-laying, at the AFB Waterkloof Officer’s Mess.
The President of the South African Korean War Veterans Association, Piet Visser, said that “since the signing of the armistice, the Republic of Korea has been very grateful to those who assisted Korea,” and made great efforts to stay in touch. He said these gestures were “highly appreciated. The sacrifices all the veterans have made were not in vain.”
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