2013 is a very special year for South Korea and UK relations. Not only does it mark 130 years of friendship between the two countries, that the Korean Cultural Centre UK has been celebrating with it’s latest Moon Jar exhibition, but it also marks the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire of the Korean War. Even though the UK was still recovering from World War II with little resources left, over 90,000 Britons went on to serve in Korea as part of the United Nations troop (fun fact, amongst them was a very young Sir Michael Cain, or then known as Maurice Micklewhite).
3rd July: Korean War and the UK- Korea Diplomatic Relations in Defence
As part of events to commemorate these anniversaries, this week we attended the Global Korea Lecture with talks from Major General GMG Swindells CB, who fought in the Korean War, and Captain Ju-hyeon Park, Defence Attaché at the Republic of Korea. Knowing more about South Korea in its modern state, we’re more familiar with the South Korea of today with its hi-tech gadgets, films, music like K-pop and its bustling capital filled with skyscrapers. But little over 60 years ago, Korea was a country overrun with tanks and soldiers from all around the world, and in Seoul the Han river, which now has 25 bridges, only had one US built bridge which was subsequently destroyed to stop the enemy.
Major General Swindells CB was one of the British soldiers who took the 5 week boat ride to Korea, and at this talk, he told us all about his unique experiences. It was a fascinating talk as Major General Swindells CB showed us his black and white photos taken during his time in the War. One very interesting slide Major General Swindells CB showed us was then and now photos of locations he fought at and then revisited in 2007 (no doubt with a much shorter journey time!). The differences in the landscapes was immense, and it’s hard to believe that in just 60 years South Korea has grown and flourished so much. From the Major General we also learnt about life in tanks, where during the Winter, it was so cold that if you touched the outside of a tank for too long, your hands would get stuck to the icy surface and you would have become a casualty. His pictures showed us the rough terrain, unsuited for tanks, and really gave you an idea of some of the hardships they had to face.
Through his photos, we also got to see some of the comeradery of the men fighting together in the war. Dozens of Australian troops enjoying a ride atop tanks, men playing Irish games together, locals supplying troops with much needed goods, and soldiers from different nations sharing moments of peace and fun; these were just some of the moments the Major General revealed to us. However, there were particularly poignant moments where every now and again the Major General would point out a man in a picture and tell us he didn’t make it home, bringing the audience back to the harsh reality of war.
Remembering this 60th anniversary is very important, not only to pay tribute to the veterans, but also as the conflict is still very much present today. After the Major General, we heard from Captain Ju-hyeon Park. Captain Park gave us an overview of current relations in N.E Asia, both politically and economically. His clear and precise talk gave us a great insight into how N.E Asia works together in various aspects and how countries are co-dependent when it comes to trade. He gave the audience a brief overview of the security environment of the N.E Asian region and touched on the recent events in North Korea. Captain Park showed us that the everyday threat South Korea faces is still going on. Even though it’s a threat that South Korea has become used to, it’s still taken very seriously as Seoul is vulnerable more than ever, with a big percentage of the population inhabiting tall skyscraper buildings. He also explained about South Korea’s defence policies and about its diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom and how our two countries can continue to work and support each other.
This lecture was a valuable and educational experience, giving the audience great knowledge and insight to the past and future relations of the two nations. Apart from this lecture there are other events taking place that will continue to celebrate the connection between Korea and the UK.
Thursday 11th July 2013: Korean War 60th anniversary march and Thanksgiving service
Great Britain experienced losses of over 1000 of our service men and on Thursday 11th July 2013, the Ministry of Defence and Westminster Abbey will formally mark the bravery and dedication of those who fought in the Korean War over 60 years ago. Approximately 500 British veterans of the Korean War will march from Horse Guards to Westminster Abbey, remembering those who fought and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in what is considered to be one of the most bloody and bitterly fought conflicts. You can find more information about this march on the Official Gov.uk website. At 12pm noon, after the Veterans’ March, a dedicated service of Thanksgiving will take place at Westminster Abbey. You can see more information on this service HERE.
8th-20th July 2013 (10am-6pm Mon – Sat): A Soldier’s Tale Exhibition – 130 Years of Friendship, 60 Years of Memories
As well as the service at Westminster Abbey, Asia House is housing a short exhibition organised by ISKAI Arts. ‘A Soldier’s Tale’ will aim to show, through art, the experiences of British Soldiers who served in the Korean War. This exhibition is“an exhibition inspired by various tales told by British soldiers – real and tragic yet dramatically inspiring. It is not a manifesto of political views or ideological endorsements but a journey of courage, brotherhood, despair and human endurance.” This exhibition hopes to bring the spotlight to the veterans who served in the war and not let their experiences be lost in time and memory, as the Korean War is often called ‘The Forgotten War’. Not only is this exhibition to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire, but again marks 130 years of friendship and diplomatic ties between the UK and Korea.
There will also be a Private View of ‘A Soldier’s Tale’ on 8th July from 7pm. The opening ceremony will start at 7:30pm with honourable guests from Korea and British Korean War veterans. This Private View will also see participating artists and special performances take place. If you’d like to attend this event, please RSVP to ISKAI Arts at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07814 666 870.
For all those wanting to go to this exhibition, Asia House is located at 63 New Cavendish Street, London, W1G 7LP. Remember, all entries are free!
South Korea has come a very long way and we hope many will be able to take part in thanking and celebrating this wonderful friendship and alliance that the UK and South Korea have and will continue to share for many years to come.