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Veterans return to mark 70th year of Korean War Armistice

Veterans return to mark 70th year of Korean War Armistice

Posted July. 26, 2023 07:56,   

Updated July. 26, 2023 07:56


Colin Thackery (93), a British veteran who fought in the Korean War, visited Korea as a guest of the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice. Mr. Thackery recalled his time in Busan as a British soldier 73 years ago. During a meeting with journalists at a hotel in Songpa-gu, Seoul on Monday, he laughed and said, "Korean soldiers I worked with often sang Arirang, and I quickly became familiar with it. When I first heard it, I thought it was a lullaby."

Known for winning Britain's Got Talent in 2019 as the oldest contestant in the show's history, Thackery will personally sing Arirang during the "70th Anniversary of the Armistice and UN Forces' Participation Day" ceremony to be held in Busan on Thursday. He expressed his hope to be able to sing the song accurately with the correct lyrics and pronunciation he learned back then.

On this day, veterans in their 90s who had participated in the Korean War as soldiers gathered and shared that they have no regrets about fighting for Korea. American veteran William Word (91) said, "When I was called up as an infantry regular, I could choose between serving in Europe and Asia. Choosing Asia was the best decision I made in my life." He added, "If I were to choose again, I would willingly make the same decision to participate." Canadian veteran Edward Buckner (91) nodded in agreement, and tears welled up in his eyes as he recalled the memories from that time. Mr. Buckner said, "The Korean people I met during the war were always kind and grateful. Korea is truly a beautiful country."

Veterans Word and Buckner are currently searching for the Korean boys they befriended during their time on the battlefield. Word brought a photo he had kept for over 70 years to find 12-year-old 'Chang,' who used to help with his laundry every day at the camp in Busan. He said, "Chang and his family worked diligently and never lost courage. I wonder if that friend, who is probably over 80 years old now, still remembers me." Buckner also showed a photo of 'Cho Chock Song,' a boy who used to clean his guard post during that time, and emotionally said, "I was 19 years old back then, and this friend was probably younger than me. Even after 70 more years, I can never forget this friend."

To mark the 70th anniversary of the armistice, the Arirang scarf, which was originally produced as a commemorative item during the war, has been restored after 70 years. The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs plans to present the restored Arirang scarves, which UN forces sent to their mothers and wives in their home countries, to 22 representatives of countries participating in the event in Busan on Thursday. Having the original model of 1951 and its Arirang music scores printed on the item fully restored, the scarves will be handed over as “the symbol of solidarity” with the English title “A Arirang Song” imprinted between the map of the Korean Peninsula and the insignias of the countries that fought in the Korean War.

During the war, Arirang became a bridge connecting the South Korean and UN forces, and the 1951 scarf was engraved with Arirang music scores and lyrics. Like Thackery, the UN forces learned Arirang from their Korean comrades, with soldiers from different nations singing the song together on the battlefield, fostering unity, and the US 7th Infantry Division even adopted the song as their military anthem.

Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com