Turn Toward Busan: Remembrance Day in South Korea

Close-up of the memorial honouring the fallen Canadian soldiers of the Korean War.
BUSAN, Republic of Korea (Nov. 11, 2018) The Turn Towards Busan ceremony at the UN Memorial Cemetery in Korea (UNMCK). Turn Towards Busan is a ceremony held annually on November 11 at UNMCK to honor UN Sending States service members both living and deceased who fought in the Korean War. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Carlisle)

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Busan, Republic of Korea – On November 11, 2018, United Nations Command (UNC) members gathered at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea (UNMCK) along with hundreds of others to pay their respects to their war fallen during the Turn Toward Busan ceremony.

The Mayor of Busan, Mayor Oh Keo-don, hopes the ceremony sends a powerful message of peace to the world. The UN Memorial Cemetery is the resting place of UNC casualties of the Korean War. It contains 2,297 graves from 11 countries including Korean troops who served under the UN. UNMCK is the only UN cemetery in the world.

Almost 27,000 Canadians took part in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. 1,042 Canadian troops were wounded, 516 died, and 378 were buried at the UN Memorial Cemetery. The Honourable George Furey, Speaker of the Senate of Canada, travelled to Busan for the ceremony. “We must not only remember,” he said, “But we must strive for peace so their sacrifice is not forgotten.”

Over 1.7 million troops came to the aid of South Korea and 40,896 paid the ultimate sacrifice in war. Mayor Oh Keo-don said, “Citizens of Busan have never forgotten for even a single moment that the miracle of our nation was sprouted from the soils of blood and sweat of the war heroes.”

Koreans remain thankful for the international troops that fought for Korea. In June 1950, the UN decided to dispatch  troops after North Korea invaded South Korea. The Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, Minister Pi Woo-jin, said it was a miracle that soldiers came from all over the world to risk their lives for Korea in a time of war. Twenty-two nations volunteered to assist South Korea, many of them providing troops, other sent equipment and armaments, and six nations dispatched medical aid including staff and medicine.

Considered a holy site, the UN Command cemetery was first established in 1951 and in 1955 the Parliament of Korea volunteered the land for permanent use by the UN as a cemetery. In 2007, after visiting his fallen comrades at UNMCK, Canadian Korean War veteran, Vincent Courtenay, envisioned a ceremony at Busan that aligned with national Canadian Remembrance Day ceremonies. Turn Toward Busan is that ceremony.

Commander of the Canadian Contingent of the UNC, Colonel Tod Strickland attended the Turn Toward Busan ceremony along with other Canadian UNC members. “Coming to this hallowed ground as a soldier serving in modern day Korea puts things in perspective far clearer than raw statistics ever could,” he said. “Walking among the gravestones and seeing Canadian names, hometowns, and the very young ages of the dead was incredibly moving. That Korea, and Koreans remember the sacrifice of both Canada and the UN sending states, is very powerful.”

Minister Pi Woo-jin said, “I wish those who gave us their gift of freedom rest in peace.”

The wartime guns fell silent 65 years ago and, “Korea has risen above the ashes of war with help from our allies, and a spring of peace is now blowing on the (Korean) Peninsula,” said Mayor Oh Keo-don.

The central mission of the UNC is to maintain the Armistice, preserve stability, enhance deterrence, and in the event of war, lead multinational military support in defence of the Republic of Korea.

The Armistice is maintained with the efforts of Republic of Korea forces, UNC personnel from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Denmark, and New Zealand, the Swedish and Swiss Delegations of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission and Liaison Officers from 17 UNC Sending States.

Image gallery

  • Close-up of the memorial honouring the fallen Canadian soldiers of the Korean War.
  •  Canadian Armed Forces members deployed as part of the Canadian Contingent of the United Nations Command pose for a photo in front of the UN Memorial Cemetery in Korea.
  • Five aircraft fly over the Un Memorial Cemetery in Korea.
  • A UN flag flies in the wind.
  • Audience members sit in their seats.
  • Photo of the International Memorial Ceremony in honor of the Korean War Fallen
  • UN soldiers hold up flags representing the UN sending states during a ceremony.
  • Canadian Armed Forces members arrive at a UN memorial. UN soldiers stand in two rows on either side of the CAF members and hold swords upwards. CAF members walk under the swords.
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