In Seoul, King and Queen pay tribute to soldiers of the Korean War

Today, their Majesties the King and the Queen paid tribute to the soldiers who fought in the Korean War. After a wreath laying ceremony at the Seoul National Cemetery, the resting place of fallen Korean patriots, they visited the War Memorial of Korea – where the names of all fallen soldiers are listed – to pay their respect to the Belgian casualties. They were accompanied by Minister De Crem, Belgian Korea War veteran Raymond Behr and 8 Korean veterans who fought alongside the Belgian troops. The Korean Ministers of Defense and Veterans Affairs also attended the ceremony.

The Korean War, often referred to as the Forgotten War, started in June 1950 when North-Korean troops attacked South Korea. Upon this invasion, the UN Security Council adopted a number of resolutions calling on North Korea to cease hostilities and withdraw to the 38th parallel. The Security Council also asked UN member states to provide assistance to the Republic of Korea, in order to restore international peace and security in the region.

Belgium – a founding member of the United Nations and staunch defender of multilateralism – responded to this call by sending a battalion of volunteers to South Korea in 1951 which stayed until 1955, so even after the signing of the armistice. By the end of this period, 3171 Belgians had served in Korea at the sides of South Korean and numerous allied troops fighting under UN-flag. More than one hundred Belgian soldiers fell, went missing in action or died in prisoner camps. Also 9 South Korean soldiers and two soldiers from Luxembourg attached to the Belgian contingent were killed during the war.

Eventually, the war came to an end in July 1953, when a fragile armistice agreement was signed. By then, the conflict had taken a bloody toll of over one million casualties.

In his speech, Minister De Crem paid tribute to those who fought and died in the Korean war, honoring their sacrifices and braver. Not only did they contribute to restoring peace, but they also defended the values and ideals we hold dear: freedom and democracy. The Korean War was more than just a civil war. It was the pinnacle of tensions which had been simmering since the end of WWII and which resulted in the Cold War. Western powers adopted a “containment strategy” to limit the spread of Soviet power and Communist ideology around the world. This containment strategy was the key driving force, at least ideologically, for Western nations to fight so far from home.

Minister De Crem stressed the importance not to forget the Korean War. Not only out of respect for the fallen soldiers, but also to remind us of the importance to continue our efforts for mediation, non-proliferation, the prevention of conflicts and the promotion of peace. Only in this way, we can prevent history repeating itself and can we ensure that their sacrifices have not been in vain.

Aside from the War Memorial in Seoul, a specific monument in honour of the fallen Belgian soldiers is located in the town of Dongducheon. A similar monument was built in Belgium, on the Korea Square of Woluwe Saint Pierre.