By Feature Editor Kim Hyung-dae
Mayor Choi Moon-soon of the Hwacheon Country of the Gangwon Province said, “Korea owes greatly to the gallant soldiers of the Colombian Battalion troops who fought bravely and gallantly in Korea, especially in our county of Hwacheon-gun.”
Speaking with Feature Editor Kim Hyung-dae of The Korea Post media at his office in the Hwacheon County on July 4, 2020, Mayor Choi expressed hopes for increased cooperation between Korea and Colombia in the fact that the two countries are blood-forged allies exemplified during the Korean War.
The Colombian Battalion served with the United Nations Command during the Korean War 1950-3 attached to the U.S. 7th Infantry Division and the 25th Infantry Divisions during the Korean War into 1954 even after the ceasefire.
According to Mayor Choi of the County, Ethiopia sent a total of 6,037 soldiers to Korea to fight on the side of the ROK and the U.N. Forces and won all of the 253 battles they fought during their stay in Korea.
Of the total 6000-plus soldiers, there were a total of 658 casualties, of whom 122 died in action in gallantry. However, for the 17 years during the rule of a leftist regime in Colombia from 1971 to 1991 the Korean War veterans had to go through all sorts of ordeal and trials for the sole reason for their participation in the Korean War.
Fully aware of the important role of the Colombian soldiers in the Korean War, the Hwacheon County representatives visited Colombia in 2009 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, met with the Korean Ambassador in Colombia and is seeking to arrange to pay scholarships to the children of the Colombian soldiers who fought for the defense of freedom and democracy of the ROK.
The Hwacheon County is also making arrangement to help the economic self-reliance of the offspring of the participating soldiers of Colombia in Korea and in this effort participants increased who included the 7th ROK Army Infantry Division in 2010, the 27th Infantry Division and the 15th Infantry Division in 2013, who promised support for the scholarship programs for the offspring of the soldiers of Colombia Also allocated for the scholarship for the children of the Colombian soldiers in the Korean War are donations made by the visitors to the Peace Bell who toll it.
From 2009, a total of 8.2 million Korean Won were paid to a total of 308 students of the Korean War veterans of Colombia. At present, scholarships are also paid to a total of 201 students of the Korean War veterans of Colombia, including 69 primary school children.
Also, the Hwacheon Country is paying livelihood allowances to six students from Ethiopia, whose forebears fought for the defense of freedom and democracy in Korea. At present, there are two Ethiopian students are studying in Korea at universities, Myungji and Hallim.
Following the outbreak of the Korean War, the Colombian Battalion was deployed to Busan on June 15, 1951, under the command of Colonel Jaime Polanía Puyo.
The battalion participated in Operation Thunderbolt, the Battle of Old Baldy, the Battle of Triangle Hill, and the recapture of Geumseong. The Battle of Old Baldy was particularly notable for the battalion, as the unit lost (killed or wounded) 20% of its deployed strength in the engagement.
The northern border of the Hwacheon County is, in some places, within nine kilometers of the Demilitarized Zone. Neighboring counties are Cheorwon to the northwest and north, Yanggu to the east, Chuncheon to the south, and the Gyeonggi-do province to the southwest.
The county consists largely of mountains and rivers, between which are small farming communities, military bases, and military training grounds. The area is renowned for its rivers, lake trout, indigenous otters, and natural scenery.