Defense Minister Kim Tae-young presents a flag for the Changseong Unit to Army Col. Kim Soo-seong who will lead it in peacekeeping operations in earthquake-devastated Haiti, during an inaugural ceremony for the 240-strong contingent at a training ground in Incheon, Wednesday.
/ Korea Times Photo by Shim Hyun-chul
By Na Jeong-ju
President Lee Myung-bak called for greater efforts to help earthquake-devastated Haiti, Wednesday, saying it is time for Korea to repay the "debts" it owes to the Caribbean nation from the 1950-53 Korean War.
"Haiti was one of our allies during the war. We should always be grateful for this," Lee said in a speech read by Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, at a ceremony in Incheon to send a contingent of peacekeeping troops to Haiti. "Our assistance can help the Haitian people with hope and courage."
It will be Korea's sixth U.N. peacekeeping mission after those to Somalia, Western Sahara, Angola, East Timor and Lebanon.
As a responsible member of the international community, Korea should increase its participation in efforts to fight poverty and disasters around the world, Lee said.
South Korea will be sending a total of 240 peacekeepers to Haiti this month as the sixth United Nations peacekeeping unit working on rebuilding the quake-ravaged state.
The dispatch came after the National Assembly approved last week a 28.7 billion won ($25 million) plan to deploy peacekeeping troops to Leogane, one of the Haitian regions hit hardest by the massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12.
A ceremony for the South Korean peacekeepers was attended by more than 1,400 people, including defense and foreign ministers, military chiefs and family members of the soldiers.
Following an advance unit of 30 troops, which left the country last week, the main contingent of South Korean peacekeepers, including some 100 military engineers and 20 medics, is scheduled to depart for Haiti on Feb. 27. The troops will remain stationed there until Dec. 31.