Go to contents

[Editorial] Zaytun Soldiers Are Real Patriots

Posted December. 19, 2008 03:40,   


The remaining 520 soldiers who completed peacekeeping and reconstruction missions in Iraq arrive at Seoul Airport today. They return to Korea 51 months after the first group of 1,175 soldiers was dispatched in September 2004. Almost 20,000 members of the Zaytun unit have served in Arbil in northern Iraq, providing medical assistance to 130,000 residents and allied forces and building schools, clinics and town halls. Despite facing sandstorms and hostile groups, the Air Force’s Daiman unit also greatly contributed to transporting soldiers and military supplies.

Zaytun’s achievement should make Korea feel proud. Koreans welcome the glorious return of the members and applaud their hard work and efforts. Iraqis called the unit, which laid the groundwork for a stable life, a “godsend.” Rising from the ashes of the Korean War to rebuild itself, Korea cannot and should not forget the value and gratefulness of the helping hand from the international community. Without immediate intervention by U.S. and United Nations forces and their assistance after war, Korea would not exist. The footsteps of the Zaytun unit will clearly become part of Iraqi history.

Another achievement of the unit is that Iraqis and their children welcomed Korean soldiers wherever they went, shouting “Kuri (Korea)” and eating up Korean products and television dramas. In a phone interview with The Dong-A Ilbo before returning home, Zaytun Lt. Park Seon-woo said, “I am pleased that we completed our peace and reconstruction missions successfully to become a good role model to our allied forces.” He said the drive behind the success was public support and the lessons of the Korean War. He also had mixed views because the unit was forced to return at a time when its achievement was bearing fruit. Korean companies are making inroads into Iraq and trying to secure oil-drilling rights.

Korean soldiers won the Iraqi people’s hearts and minds with their selfless volunteering, which made the dispatch to Iraq meaningful. They improved the image of Korea and were diplomats. Their efforts to raise Korea’s international image and status will become a valuable asset to the country. The majority of lawmakers who strongly opposed dispatching troops to Iraq must feel ashamed. The soldiers of the Zaytun unit, who now stand tall before lawmakers who undermine the interest of the people and the nation, are the country’s real patriots and heroes.