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Diplomats experience actual fighting in simulators at Chilgok Patriots & Peace MemorialAt 2015 Nakdong River World Peace Culture Festival

The members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps who missed the 2015 Nakdong River World Peace Culture Festival in Chilgok near Daegu on Oct. 2015, really missed something, especially the military attaches. They forwent the rare opportunity to inspect the Chilgok Patriots & Peace Memorial which was dedicated on that day.

▲From left, Luis Rojas (spouse of Deputy Head of Mission of Guatemala), 3rd Secretary Sardor Sadikov of Uzbekistan, 3rd Secretary Abdul Bashir Pazhwak of Afghanistan, Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post, Ambassador Khamsouay Keodalavong of Laos, Mrs. Manilath Keodalavong (wife of the ambassador of Laos), Mayor Baek Seon-ki of the Chilgok County, 2nd Secretary Selamawit Dawit of Ethiopia, Brig. Gen. Myint Hein (defense attache of Myanmar), Col. Abdul Malik Ali (defense attache of Malaysia), Col. Betsabe Del Valle Villegas Herrera (defense attache of Venezuela), Deputy Head of Mission Myra Gutierrez of Guatemala, Mrs. Lyla Bonon (spouse of First Secretary of Philippine), Mrs. Jana Maxianova (spouse of Counselor of Turkmenistan), First Secretary Noli Bonon of the Philippines, Ms. Anyela Tatiana Perez (spouse of defense attache of Columbia), Counselor Begench Durdiyev of Turkmenistan, Mrs. Jana Maxianova (spouse of Deputy Head of Mission of Slovakia), Major Juan Carlos Perez (defense attache of Colombia) and Deputy Head of Mission Robert Maxian of Slovakia.

The visiting diplomats that day had the special privilege to see various interesting exhibits and facilities of the memorial museum in advance of its official opening. The Memorial was very large in size and unique begging comparison anywhere else in Korea.
The facilities included a ‘firing range’ game room where the guests could ‘fire a rifle’ at targets (individuals enemy soldiers, tanks and even aircraft) with a game rifle.

▲The visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps inspect the Old House of the Joseon Dynasty Confucian Scholar Mukheon Yi Un-man at the Maewon Folk Village in Chilgok County

The second surprise was an ‘experience theater,’ a simulator hall, where the guests ‘rode a tank’ and ‘took part’ in a fierce combat destroying the enemy tanks and artillery batteries as well as neutralizing the enemy soldiers. The seats moved up and down and made the guests feel as if they were in actual combat and personally engaged in fighting.

▲The visiting diplomats are treated to a traditional Korean tea and snacks at the House of Mukheon.

Then there was an observatory on the fourth floor of the Memorial building from which the guests overlooked the Nakdong River, including the famous Waegwang Railroad Bridge on the Nakdong River in the Chilgok County which was demolished during the Battle of Dabudong on Aug. 3, 1950 to stop the advance of the North Korean troops and tanks. Many military experts assert that if the Waegwan Bridge was not destroyed, the North Korean tanks could have crossed the Nakdong River and that could have changed the war situation to the disadvantage of the Republic of (south) Korea (ROK) and the United Nations (UN) Forces. They even conjecture that the ROK could have lost the war and gone out of existence.

▲Some of the visiting diplomats pose with the host of the House of Mukheon.

There also was a room where the ROK and the United States (US) generals made a decision to defend the Nakdong River. They were Maj. Gen. Chung Il-kwon (the then chief of staff of the ROK Army), Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker of the US Army and Lt. Gen. William F. Dean, who each wrote down ‘Nakdong River’ on a piece of paper, meaning that they unanimously agreed on the importance of defense of the Nakdong River.
The spacious entrance hall of the Memorial had on display a symbolic Helmet with Bullet Holes which had 20 keywords related with the Battle of Dabudong.

▲Diplomats pose with the host and the Chilgok County officials and managers of the Maewon Folk Village.

The Memorial building consisted four different parts, namely the National Defense Hall, the Combat Experience Hall, the Children’s Peace Experience Hall and the 4D Experience Hall.
The 3rd annual Nakdong River World Peace Culture Festival, where the visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps visited, was in memory of the decisive Battle of Dabudong in Chilgok County where the late Lt. Gen. Walker of the Eighth US Army and the then Brig. Gen. Paik Sun-yup of the First Division of the ROK Army fought against the outnumbering North Korean invasion forces for 55 days in the fiercest battle of the Korean War in August 1950.
If ROK and the UN Forces had lost the Battle of Dabudong, it would have meant the end of the existence of the Republic of Korea.

▲Old Helmet with Bullet Holes has expressions such as “The Battle of Dabudong,” “The Nakdong River Defense Line,”“Walker Defense Line,”“Fifty-five Days of Fierce Fighting” and many more expressions related with the Defense of the Nakdong River.

The victory of the Battle of Dabudong changed the tide of the war in favor of the allied forces marked the beginning of the defeat of the North Korean forces and that of the general counter offensive of the ROK and UN Forces.
As Ambassador and Mrs. Khamsouay Keodalavong of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and 20-plus other members of the Diplomatic Corps Republic arrived at the Chilgok County Hall, they were greeted by Mayor Baek Seun-ki of the Chilgok County and they alighted from the bus, and were led into the welcome ceremony venue.

▲Brig. Gen. Myint Hein (Defense Attache of Myanmar),Deputy Head of Mission Myra Gutierre of Guatemala3rd Secretary Mr. SadorSadikov of Uzbekistan (left foreground), tries his firing skills trying to shoot targets on the screen?with other visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps.

At the welcome ceremony, Mayor Baek expressed his gratitude to all the countries of the world who supported the ROK in defending her freedom and democracy. He said: “The Republic of Korea exists today thanks to the support and assistance given by many countries of the world during the Korean War. For this, I would like to express my profound gratitude once more. The Republic of Korea then was a poorest country in the world. However, Korea has now become the 10th largest economy of the world, and is now exerting every effort to for the sake of the world peace. (See excerpts at the end of this Article.)

▲The targets are tanks, individual soldiers and even aircraft.

There was a presentation ceremony of a Plaque of Appreciation by Ambassador Keodalavong of Laos to Mayor Baek in appreciation of the latter’s invitation for the senior members of the Diplomatic Corps to the Festival.
Mayor Baek on his part had a commemoration gift for each visiting member of the Diplomatic Corps. It was a set of Bom Bom (Spring Spring) White Porcelain Tea Cup Set personally made by Reverend Buddhist Priest Seolbong using the clay and stone of the Chilgok County. It was a pottery art work created in the process of long hours of baking inside the wood-burning kiln.

▲The visiting diplomats sit in a simulator seats and experience the combat at the Battle of Dabudong.

Characteristics of the Tea Set were the decoration with apricot blossoms. Each cup and saucer bore the signature of Buddhist Pottery Artist Seolbong.
Ambassador Keodalavong of Laos made a return speech thanking Mayor Baek and the county people for the invitation to the Festival.
This was followed by an offer of toast by Brig. Gen. Myint Hein of Myanmar who said ‘Wihayo’ and expressed his gratitude for the invitation in fluent Korean.
Following the luncheon, the visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps were invited to visit the Maewon Folk Village which was in the process of restoration. The director of the Folk Village explained that the Village used to be widely known for the well-preserved traditional Korean houses of tiled roofs and also straw roofs. However many of the houses were bombed and reduced to ashes during the Korean War as they were used as headquarters of the North Korean Army infantry division and their army field hospital.
The guide explained that the North Korean Army deliberately used the Maewon Folk Village believing that the ROK and UN Forces would not bomb the Village because of the cultural value of the houses and other facilities of the Village.
Among the important buildings in the Village were MukheonJongtaek (Gyeongsangbuk-do Provincial Cultural Property Number 245), which was built in 1670 during the Joseon Dynasty by Mukheon Yi Un-man, a well-known Confucian scholar who wrote JeungboDonggukMunheonBigo (Expanded Version of References on Korea which covers a total of 13 different areas, including geography, etiquette, music, military, criminal law enforcement, farmland, finance, population, education, administration and different tiles of office during the Joseon Dynasty.
Another important house in the Village was the Old House of Hae-eun, the residence of Joseon Dynasty’s Attorney General Yi Won-rok (King Suk-jong). It was designated as Gyeongangbuk-do Cultural Property Number 178. The director of the Village explained that the house consisting of four different buildings, including Anchae (Inner [Main] Building) used by women and Sarangchae (Building for Men).

▲Brig. Gen. Myint Hein poses in front of an infantry tank

The director explained that the houses commanded a striking view of a beautiful lake in the past but that there was a very bad flood and that a landslide filled up the lake. Now it was used as a farm land.
The visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps then moved to the opening ceremony site where they were treated to a traditional Korean tea made with lotus flowers and traditional Korean tidbits (including small rice cakes, dried persimmon, pine nuts and walnuts) in a VIP tent lounge where they accidentally met with Korea’s top star Ms. Chung Young-sook.

▲Ambassador and Mrs. Khamsouay Keodalavong of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (13th and 14th respectively) pose in front of the Chilgok Patriots & Peace Memorial with other visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps.

Then they met with Governor Kim Kwan-yong of Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, one of the closest statesmen of President Park Geun-hye (whose seat of power is located in the Province). Governor Kim and Mayor Baek invited the visiting diplomats to a ‘Coin-throwing Ceremony’ where the government and civic leaders of the county and province threw coins into a pool (without water) which amounted to hundreds of millions of Won to be used in building a school in Ethiopia who sent many combat troops to fight on the side of the ROK and UN Forces during the Korean War for the protection of freedom and democracy of the ROK. It was a program to contribute to ‘repaying’ the countries who saved the ROK from falling into the hands of the North Korean regime.

▲Visiting diplomats are treated to traditional Korean tea and snacks at the VIP tent lounge before joining a Coin Throwing Event with Governor Kim Kwan-yong of Gyeongsangbuk-do and Mayor Baek Seun-ki of Chilgok County.

Then the diplomats were invited to attend the opening ceremony of the 2015 Nakdong River Peace Culture Festival. In attendance at the ceremony were many important persons of Korea who included the 95-year-old General Paik Sun-yup (ret.). Many Koreans attribute to cause of the successful defense of the Nakdong River Defense Line to General Paik and General Walton H. Walker of the 8th US Army, which saved the ROK from being occupied by the North Korean invasion forces during the Korean War.

▲Popular Actress Chung Young-sook (left) poses with Ambassador and Mrs. Khamsouay Keodalavong of Laos (second and third from right) and Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post (far right).

The opening ceremony began with the marching-in of the flag bearers of the 16 Korean War Allies carried by the Korean and US soldiers in combat outfit, including field combat uniforms and helmets. There were performances portraying what happened in the Chilgok County during the Battle of Dabudong, which included high-middle school students volunteering to join the combat to safe the Chilgok County and the ROK from the enemy.
Memorial speeches were made by Governor Kim and Mayor Baek in memory of the Battle of Dabudong and on how to sublimate the conflict to harmony and peace on the Korean peninsula and the world.

▲Second Secretary Mrs. Selamawit Dawit of Ethiopia, Korea’s top star Ms. Chung Young-sook, Mayor Baek Seun-ki of Chilgok County, Governor Kim Kwan-yong of Gyeongsangbuk-do and Ambassador and Mrs. Khamsouay Keodalavong of Laosare seen fifth to tenth, foreground, throwing coins into an unfilled pool.

In particular, General Paik was invited on to the stage for a speech in memory of the Battle of Dabudong. Though very weak, General Paik made to the stage assisted by aides and called on the Korean people not to forget the critical moment of the Korean War but to be conscious of the importance of national defense and peace on the Korean peninsula.
Excerpts from the speech of Mayor Baek:
I whole-heartedly welcome, on behalf of the 130 thousand citizens of the Chilgok County as well as for myself, the distinguished members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps who are here today in Chilgok, the ‘County of National Defense and Peace,’ to attend the 2015 Nakdong River World Peace Culture Festival.

▲From left: Korea’s top star Ms. Chung Young-sook,Second Secretary Mrs. Selamawit Dawit of Ethiopia, Governor Kim Kwan-yong of Gyeongsangbuk-do and Mayor Baek Seun-ki of Chilgok County,

This year marks the third anniversary of the Nakdong River World Culture Festival which is a global festive meeting attended by all the nations of the world to sublimate the pains of the war into peace and seek peace on the Korean peninsula and the world
Thanks to the attendance of the distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps, I am expecting that the Festival will become a more meaningful one with added significance.
Chilgok County was the last bastion during the Korean War and has many traces of national defense and history.

▲Governor Kim Kwan-yong of Gyeongsangbuk-do and General Paik Sun-yup (ret.) are seen at left and second from left, respectively, front row with Ambassador and Mrs. Khamsouay Keodalavong of Laos and Defense Attache Colonel Betsabet Villegas of Venezuela (8th, 9th and 10th from left, front row).

I regret that we do not have ample time but I wish that the distinguished guests will have a meaningful time visiting the Chilgok National Defense Peace Memorial Museum and various other interesting sites of the Festival.
The Republic of Korea exists today thanks to the support and assistance given by many countries of the world during the Korean War. For this, I would like to express my profound gratitude once more. The Republic of Korea then was a poorest country in the world. However, Korea has now become the 10th largest economy of the world, and is now exerting every effort to for the sake of the world peace.

▲The electronically lit map shows how the North Korean invasion army advanced toward south during the Korean War.

While staying in our County, I wish that you will all have a pleasant time and take home many fond memories. At the same time, I would like to solicit your continued interest and support for the preservation and promotion of peace on the Korean peninsula.
Once again, I would like to thank you for your visit to our County and wish you all the best of health and happiness.

▲ROK and US troops march into the opening ceremony venue carrying the flags of the 16 Korean War allies and stand at attention in front of the guests.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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