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Posted : 2013-06-25 17:13
Updated : 2013-06-25 17:13

Remembering brave Ethiopian fighters

By Song In-yeup

The Korean War might not be an interesting issue to the youth nowadays but it is the most tragic incident in Korea's 5,000-year-long history. If the United Nations Forces had not come and supported us at that time, the Republic of Korea would have disappeared from the Earth and only the flag of North Korea would have been fluttered from Mt. Baekdu to Mt. Halla. Korea, which used to be unnoticed at the Far Eastern corner of the world, now stands high among top-10 countries in almost every field. We Koreans reasonably take pride in having successfully held worldwide events such as the G20 Summit, Yeosu World Exhibition and the Seoul Olympic Games.

Who can deny what Korea owes to the sacrifices of U.N. Forces consisting of 16 countries such as Ethiopia, the Philippines and the U.S. that fought to dispel the communist invaders together with Korean soldiers and students during the Korean War. I'd like to tell our young students, who tend to regard the war as only the past, the story of 6,037 Ethiopian soldiers who sailed here over more than half round the earth and fought to defend the freedom of Koreans and world peace with the spirit of "we'll fight until win or die."

The Korean War broke out only 60 years ago and more than 10 million people still live separately as a result of the war. And the North, the invader, which has handed over its dictatorial regime over three generations and oppressed its people harshly and throws its people into starvation, continuously threatens us by saying, "We will make Seoul a burning sea."

I have longed for Ethiopia's Queen of Sheba since I read 1-King 10 of the Old Testament saying, "The Queen of Sheba heard about the fame and wisdom of Solomon, came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions. Solomon answered all her questions." King Solomon was the wisest and the Queen of Sheba was the most beautiful and intelligent female monarch 3,000 years ago. I was lucky to work at the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and since then I've worked all over the world. At last I volunteered to work in Ethiopia which helped us during the Korean War under the banner of the United Nations.

I served there for two years from August 2008. I came to know that Sheba and Solomon loved each other and had a son who became later Emperor Menelik I, the first emperor of the Ethiopia Empire. It was my luck to meet many Ethiopian Korean War veterans who are now in their 80s or 90s. And I heard their unbelievable brave military deeds at that time from them directly. I was deeply impressed with Emperor Selasie's belief in world peace through "Collective Security" and his soldiers' loyalty and lionheartedness, which I want to tell our young people about including my son and daughter, because their spirit of "we fight until win or die" or "one for all, all for one" is useful not only for battle but also all the frontiers of life. In fact, they engaged in 253 battles for three years during the war and amazingly won all 253 battles. Moreover, there was even not one missing or surrender with more than 700 deaths and seriously-wounded.

Ethiopian veterans told me that it was a quite natural result, because they fought until they won or died with the spirit of "one for all, all for one." In addition to that, they always kept in mind Emperor Selasie's words "Go to Korea our friendly country and fight until win or die for world peace and the freedom of Koreans and so raise up the honor and glory of your country Ethiopia." And the emperor named his battalion as "Kagnew,'' meaning "to crush the enemy at the first battle.''

Ethiopia is now in economic difficulties because it was communized from 1974 to 1991. But it has maintained its independence for 3,000 years dispelling more than 900 invasions from foreign countries as a peace-loving country like Korea. Its climate is mild all over the year and its landscape is green and beautiful unexpectedly unlike any other African country. There is Simien Height called the "Roof of Africa'' and many lakes including Lake Tana, which is bigger than Gyeonggi Province.

Ethiopia is the origin of coffee and human ancestors. It holds the African Union's headquarters and 108 resident embassies in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia closed its Seoul Embassy long ago due to economic woes, but it reopened its residential embassy last year in an amicable response to KOICA's consistent cooperation. We feel bad when we read articles about drought and hunger in Ethiopia who helped us by dispatching 6,037 soldiers during the Korean War.

That's why KOICA is doing a lot of activities for Ethiopian social and economic development voluntarily. These activities contribute not only to the friendship between Korea and Ethiopia but also to making it known that Korea is a country which never forgets its debt of gratitude.

The Korea-Ethiopia cultural event was held in Seoul on Sunday in celebration of the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic ties. During this event, four Ethiopian Korean War veterans ― who are more than 85 years old ― visited here. They are the heroes we should remember forever. We should receive them warmly with all our hearts.

On the occasion of the 63rd anniversary of the Korean War, I extend my heartfelt thanks to the U.N. Forces, our soldiers and students who fought together for Korea against the communist invaders at that time and I solemnly pray for a heavenly reception of peace for those who paid the ultimate price in defense of our country.

The author formerly led an office in Ethiopia operated by the Korea International Cooperation Agency.


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