Weather Icon 8.7°C Overcast
South Korean students give thanks to war veterans
Monday 7th January 2019 @ 17:56 by Lee Wild
Ashton News

Students from a South Korean university travelled to Tameside this week to honour veterans from the United Kingdom that fought in the Korean War.

The delegation from Pukyong National University travelled in conjunction with the United Nations to hold an occasion of thanks for those that served their country during the war.

In the event at The Village Ashton, 11 surviving veterans of the Korean War gathered alongside 13 students and 4 members of staff from the university to pay their respects to the sacrifices made by British soldiers. They were joined by the Civic Mayor of Tameside, Cllr Denise Ward, her consort, Cllr David McNally and the former chair of the Manchester branch of the Korean’s Veteran Association, Brian Hough.

Britain lost over 1,100 men in the Korean War, which took place between 1950 – 1953 in conditions not dissimilar to those faced in the First World War.

Over 800 of Britain’s fallen are still buried in a United Nations cemetery in South Korea, which is maintained by the group from the University. It’s a unique arrangement with most countries choosing to repatriate their soldiers remains.

The UN cemetery in South Korea

Former chair of the Manchester Branch of the Korean Veterans Association Brian Hough is thankful for what the students do. He said: “They’re looking after the lads that we left behind.

“They had a big impact [in Korea], this part of the country – the North West. It’s nice to think that they’ve thought of this part of the country rather than down south.”

The Korean War is often referred to as the ‘Forgotten War’ a title which Brian says is sad, but understandable: “It is largely forgotten which is sad. There’s various reasons for that, it was just 5 years after the end of the Second World War, people were sick and tired of it. There wasn’t the media coverage that we get today.”

Brian says that the conditions that greeted the British soldiers when they arrived in Korea were unlike anything they’d ever seen, but that the country has developed immensely in the decades that followed the ceasefire. He said: “I was raised in Ardwick and I thought I knew poverty – believe me I didn’t. Korea was an awful place.

“They’d been under Japanese rule for 40 years and it was like stepping back to the middle ages. There were no roads outside of the towns and sanitation was non existent.

“The people suffered – in three years nearly four million people died in Korea.

“The civilians were the real victims, they really were.

“I feel friendship to the Korean people I really do. I went back to visit in 1997 and was amazed from seeing how poor it was – no roads, no lighting, no sanitation – it was unbelievable.”

Two of the visiting students, Hee Sung Min and Hyun Jik Bae, said they’re thankful for what the veterans did which has allowed their country to prosper. Hyun said: “It’s very important so we can hear them and we can show our gratitude.”

“Today we have many big buildings and big companies in Korea thanks to the sacrifices [of the veterans].”