By Lee Kyung-sik
Publisher, The Korea Post
The Korean people owe a great deal to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) for the great contributions the Ethiopian troops made to the recovery of freedom from the North Korean Communist regime during the Korean War (1950-3).
The Ethiopian troops fought on the side of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United Nations Forces against the North Korean invasion forces--suffering great human losses.
Ethiopia sent a total of 6,037 troops during the War and underwent fiercest combats in the Central Sector where they fought 253 battles, including the well-known Battle of Jeokgeun-san Hill in Hwacheon County of Gangwon Province, and won all of them.
In these battles, the Ethiopian troops suffered heavy casualties, 658 cases, including 122 KIAs (killed in action).
This writer, publisher-chairman of The Korea Post media, personally remembers them all very vividly even today--after a total of 66 years since 1950.
I, then a young high school graduate, worked as an interpreter-translator for the Royal Ulster Rifles (Irish regiment) of the 1s British Commonwealth Division deployed along the Imjin River and then continued to stay with the British troops until my joining the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) in 1955.
I remembers the Ethiopian troops as very cheerful, courageous, fearless and brave fighters.
The people of the ROK owe a great deal to all these Ethiopian soldiers.
According to Mayor Choi Moon-soon of the Hwacheon County, these Ethiopian soldiers suffered a great deal back at home from 1971 to 1991 during the Communist Regime of the dictatorial leader, Mengistu Haile Marian.
“The Ethiopian veterans of the Korean War are known to have been subjected to indescribable sufferings for their contribution to the defense and recovery of democracy and freedom for the people of the Republic of Korea,” said Mayor Choi in a recent interview with The Korea Post.
Mayor Choi and other leaders of the Hwacheon County, immeasurably grateful to these Ethiopian soldiers, visited Ethiopia in 2009 (then as vice mayor) on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice to seek ways to repay, even in small part, the victims of the Korean War in Ethiopia and express the Korean people’s heart-felt gratitude to the people of Ethiopia as well as to the bereaved families of the fallen soldiers of Ethiopia in Korea.
In cooperation with the Korean Embassy in Ethiopia, the government leaders of the Hwacheon County signed an agreement with the Korean War veterans of Ethiopia to provide scholarships to the offspring of the Ethiopian soldiers.
Supporters for this scholarship project came also from the ROKA troops stationed in the Hwacheon area, including the ROKA 7th Infantry Division (2010), the 27th ROKA Infantry Division (2013), the 27th ROKA Infantry Division and the 15th ROKA Infantry Division.
They signed an agreement and formed a scholarship foundation to provide the children of the Ethiopian Korean War veterans with scholarships. Based on this agreement, over 3,000 noncommissioned officers of these divisions have been making donations from their salaries every month.
So far, the Korean soldiers have given a total of over 67.5 million won to a total of 126 children of the Ethiopian Korean War verterans.
According to Mayor Choi, the Hwacheon County also selects four hard-working university students from Ethiopia and pays allowances to them in cooperation with universities in Korea.
Last year, Mayor Choi invited four Ethiopian university students to visit Korea on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War and arranged a tour for them to visit the Korean War Memorial for the Ethiopian Troops on the Jokgeun-san Mountain in memory of their gallant and brave grandfathers.