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Colombia marks 204th Independence Day with message of President SantosGuests include USFK commander, friend of son of Gen. Walker

Ambassador Tito Saul Pinilla Pinilla of the Republic of Colombia and Mrs. Maria Claudia Latore de Pinilla hosted a reception at the Grand Ballroom of the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square in Seoul on July 16, 2014 to celebrate the 204th Independent Day of their country.

▲President Juan Manuel Santos of the Republic of Colombia delivers a speech on a large screen.

There were a lot of distinctions at this party from other National Day and other diplomatic functions.

Offhand, there was an extra large display screen completely occupying one side of the spacious grand ballroom wall end to end, which showed President Juan Manuel Santos delivering his congratulatory message on the 204th Independence Day of Colombia.

Another difference of the function from other diplomatic events was the attendance of many distinguished guests, who included Minister Park Sungchoon of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, Rep. Sung-Tae Kim (chairman of the Korean-Colombian Parliamentary Friendship Association) and Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander-in-chief of the United Nations Command, the US/ROK Combined Forces Command and the United Forces Korea.

▲Ambassador Tito Saul Pinilla Pinilla of Colombia (right) welcomes guests in a speech while Rep. Sung-Tae Kim (chairman of the Korean Colombian Parliamentary Friendship Association of the National Assembly) and Minister Park Sungchoon of Patriots and Veterans Affairs look on (left and center, respectively).

Perhaps the biggest contrast was made by the Korean Navy Band presenting Korean and Colombian music and the Colombian Navy Honor Guards who entered the the ballroom and stood on the stage at attention while the Korean Navy Band presented the National Anthems of the Republic of Korea and the Republic of Colombia.

The celebration, following the National Antthems of the two countries, began with the delivery of the National Day Message of President Juan Manyel Santos of the Republic of Colombia which appeared on the large screen together with his portrait picture. President Santos said in part:

“Colombia is celebrating its 204 years of freedom since the Call for Independence, in an atmosphere of hope and optimism as we had never known before, and we have reasons for it, motives that spread enthusiasm and allow you, the ones that represent us beyond our borders, feel proud of your country and feel proud of being Colombians.

▲From right, Ambassador Pinilla of Colombia. Minister Park Sungchool of MPVA and Rep. Sung-Tae Kim (chairman of KCPFA).

“Today I want you to know that here in your homeland we are working with all determination and we are making our greatest efforts for you to find a gentle country prosperous and in peace. The country we dream of and the one we are working for.

“Our soccer team, that turned a wonderful, historic role in the World Cup 2014, is the best example of what we can achieve when we are together, when we team with discipline, promoting our telent.

▲Fom left: Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti (CIC, UNC/CFC/USNK), Mrs. Scaparrotti, Mrs. Pinilla, Amb. Tito Saul Pinilla Pinilla of Colombia and Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post.

“I would like to say that here from your beloved nation, from this country that is progressing with faith, we are looking for you, missing you and waiting for you. We are doing our best to make possible our real independence, to reach our real freedom, without poverty, without backwardness, without injustice and most important, without war. Colombia deserves it and united as nation we succeed.”

President Santos’ message was followed by a welcome speech by Ambassador Pinilla of Colombia, who stated: “As one of the officials who assists in different projects to strengthen our partnerships, or as one of our many students, who thanks to the opportunities of the Korean Government and the Korean universities, is building a better future in this part of the world, or as one of the several Colombians who stands out by working in companies like Hyundai, Samsung or LG, or, why not, as one of our acclaimed soccer players who delights here in Korea and in the whole world.” (See excerpts from his speech at the end of this Article.)

▲Rep. Sung-Tae Kim (chairman of the Korean-Colombian Parliamentary Friendship Assoication of the National Assembly (right) speaks to the guests shortly before offering a toast of congratulations.

Other guests invited to the reception included Rep. Kim Sung Chan (member of KCPFA), Assistant Minister Lee Yong-Dae of National Defense for Military Force & Resources Management, Director General Jang Myung Soo of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vice Mayor Cho Dong Young on Investment Policy of Busan Metropolitan City, Chairman Han Duck-soo of KITA and Chairman Park Jong-soo of KOFIA. There also were business, social, cultural and media representatives, who included Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post.

▲Colombian Navy honor guards bear the National Flag of Colombia (left) and the National Flag of Korea (right)

The guest attendance from the Diplomatic Corps in Korea was also very large and included many missions chiefs who included Ambassadors Jorge Roballo of Argentina, Ramzi Teymurov of Azerbaijan, Md. Enamul Kabir of Bangladesh, Edmundo Sussumu Fujita of Brazil, Petar Andonov of Bulgaria, Hernan Brantes Glavic of Chile, Manuel Lopez Trigo of Costa Rica, Sylvestre Kouassi Bile of Cote d'Ivoire, Nicolas Fabian Trujillo Newlin of Ecuador, Dibaba Abdetta (Dr.) of Ethiopia, Nikoloz Apkhazava of Georgia, Ngovi Kitau of Kenya, Duishonkul Chotonov of Kyrgyzstan, Ceferino Adrian Valdez Peralta of Paraguay, Dusan Bella of Slovak Republic, Tissa Wijeratne of Sri Lanka, Mohamed Ali Nafti of Tunisia and Vasyl Marmazov of Ukraine.

Presence of Gen. Scaparrtti, CIC of UNC/CFC/USFK, reminded the fateful Battle of Dabudong, which was a dicisive battle on the fate of the Republic of Korea in 1950.

▲The Republic of Korea National Defense Ministry Band presents various Korean and international songs in addition to the National Anthems of Korea and Colombia.

In a brief interview with The Korea Post, Gen. Scaparrotti was reminded that the Republic of Korea owed its very existence today as well as its miraculous economic and social development to Gen. Walton H. Walker who successfully defended the Dabudong area north of the Daegu City in August 1950. Whereupon, Gen. Scaparrtti disclosed that he stayed together with his son, Gen. Sam Walker. What a happy coincidence!

Now the national defense of the Republic of Korea was in good hands, the bosom friend of the son of Gen. Walton Walker who declared, “I will stay here to protect Korea until my death” in his brief statement at his assignment ceremony in Daegu on July 13, 1950.

Here are excerpts from a full story on the Battle of Dabudong to be published in its July 2014 issue:

At the pre-dawn hour of 4 am Sunday 25 June 1950, the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) started an unwarned all-out invasion of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the South along the entire stretch of the border line of the 38th parallel dealing a massive artillery fire on the ROK defense positions.
At the same time the YAK fighter aircraft of the North Korean Air Force invaded the Seoul airspace and bombed the Gimpo Airport on the outskirts of Seoul and dealt strafing attacks on the street in the heart of Seoul.

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▲Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti (CIC, UNC/CFC/USNK) stayed with Gen. Sam Walker, son of the late Gen. Walton H. Walker who won a big victor at the Battle of Dabudong and turned the tide of the Korean War from defensive to offensive. Many Koreans believe that without Gen. Walker, there would be no Republic of Korea on the Korean peninsula today but the so-called ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (Communist North Korea).

The ROK (South Korea) was completely taken by surprise. There had been an extensive and intensive peace offensive by the North Korean regime toward the ROK in the South with the result that the military security precaution in the ROK was lifted on the mid-night of June 23 and more than one third of the total personnel strength of the ROK Armed Forces were given a weekend leave. In other words, North Korean started its military invasion against the ROK when one third of the entire ROK Armed Forces personnel were off duty on that fateful Sunday.

North Korea started the invasion with a total of seven well-armed infantry divisions, one motorized division and several independent bridges totaling in strength over 111,000 persons, 1,610 artillery guns and over 280 tanks plus many self-propelled guns.

The ROK Armed Forces were miserably outnumbered by the invading North Korean forces. The ROK had no tanks nor any fighter aircraft (except 22 trainers). The ROK Armed Forces had only 27 small armored vehicles and small-caliber artillery guns.

Little wonder, Seoul, its capital city, fell within three days after the North Korea started invasion.

The North Korean Armed Forces thenceforth moved deep into South Korea almost unchallenged, and occupied most of the land space with the sole exception of the perimeters of the Daegu and Busan in the southeastern corner of the Korean peninsula.

▲The ice logo work at the venue of the Independence Day celebration of Colombia.

Then came the fateful Battle of Dabudong near Daegu, which was so important and critical that it could decide on the fate of the Republic of Korea. Marshal Kim Il-sung of the North Korean regime, who also was the supreme commander of the NKPA, personally visited the frontline of Dabudong to encourage his troops to defeat the ROK and UN Armed Forces and “bury the enemies under the sea off Busan.”

At the beginning of August 1950, the North Korean Army deployed five divisions including the 3rd, 13th and 15th Divisions, and launched an all-out attack on the Dabudong line in Waegwan, with an aim to capture the Daegu City by August 15 the same year which was significantly the Liberation Day of Korea from Japan.
The ROK and US troops took advantage of shortened supply routes and a relatively good road network to exploit the advantages of "interior lines". Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker of the Eights US Army was able to quickly shift his units from point to point, stopping North Korean attacks before they could be reinforced. The US troops were greatly aided by decoded radio intercepts of enemy communications, giving them advance knowledge of where North Korean attacks would occur. Lt. Gen. Walker was also able to employ artillery and airpower to great effect.

▲Rep. Sung-Tae Kim (chairman of the Korean-Colombian Parliamentary Friednship Association of the National Assembly), left, with Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post.

The US and ROK Forces gradually solidified this defensive position on the southeast side of the Korean peninsula, dubbed the "Busan Perimeter." Walker received reinforcements, including the Provisional Marine Brigade, which he used along with the Army's 27th Infantry Regiment as "fire brigades," reliable troops who specialized in counterattacking and wiping out enemy penetrations.

As more reinforcements arrived, the combat advantage shifted toward the ROK and US Forces. North Korean forces had suffered terribly and their supply lines were under constant aerial bombardment. Almost all of their T-34 tanks, which spearheaded the invasion, had been destroyed. Lt. Gen. Walker ordered local counterattacks while planning for a large scale breakout in conjunction with MacArthur's Incheon landing in September.
The ROK Army 1st and 8th Divisions fought alongside the US Army 1st Calvary Division in defense of the Dabudong line.
The allied troops were pushed back and forth dozens of times in a bloody battle, and finally slowed down the advancing North Koreans. The North Korean Army attempted their final attack to break through the defense line at the Nakdong River in early September.

By mid-September, the allied ROK-US Forces annihilated the main force of the enemy with overwhelming firepower and daring counterattacks. As a result of this bloody battle, the enemy lost 13 tanks and 17,500 men, and the ROK-US allied forces suffered 10,000 casualties.

The victory of the Battle of Dabudong enabled the allied forces to hold the Daegu-Dabudong line, giving them a base for a future counterattack against the enemy.

On the Battle of Dabudong, The Korea Herald arranged and published a conversation between Gen. Paik Sun-yup (ret.) and Prof. Park Myung-lim of Yonsei University on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. Excerpts follow:

▲Guests watch screen with President Santos making the Independence Day speech for his people overseas followed by speeches of the ambassador of Colombia and Korean guests.

Prof. Park: Kim Il-sung was seeking to occupy Busan in a short period of time, but with the participation of the U.S. forces, the war got protracted. Kim Il-sung went down to the frontline in the South to encourage his troops as many as three times. It was the desperate resistance along the Nakdong River perimeter, particularly the Battle in Dabudong (north of Daegu), which led to Kim Il-sung’s failure to communize the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea defended the perimeter with only one division consisting of 7,500 troops against three North Korean divisions comprised of 21,800 soldiers in the battle that lasted for 55 days.

Gen. Paik: We were in a very desperate situation. Had the battle in Dabudong been unsuccessful, the last defense line would have fallen. So, in an unusual move, the U.S. 25th Division sent the 27th and 23rd regiments to us along with the 10th regiment of the 8th Division. The U.S. forces offered tanks and cannons in the rear and we engaged in a serious fight each day along the frontline, shedding blood and sweat on the ground.

The first battalion of the 11th regiment, which protected the U.S. 27th regiment on the left side of the ridge, all of a sudden withdrew after they had not eaten anything for two days. After that, I was notified by the U.S. military that it would also retreat.

At the time, though I was suffering from Malaria, I went to my soldiers in a jeep and shouted out, “If we retreat from here, the only place we can go is the waters off Busan. I will stand at the vanguard and charge, and shoot me if I retreat.” After the then Col. John Hersey Michaelis (later promoted to a 4-star general) watched me saying that, he was impressed and apologized. It was the first time for the commanding general of an infantry division to move at the vanguard of his troops.
The Battle of Dabudong near Daegu is considered the fiercest one throughout the three-year Korean War and compared to the Battle of Verdun. In the Battle, the ROK Armed Forces and the United Nations Forces successfully stopped any further advances of the enemy forces and thus turned the tide of the Korean War in favor of the ROK and the United Nations Forces.

Earlier on Aug. 3, 1950, the United Nations Force had formed a Nakdong River Defense Line linking Masan, Waegwan and Yeongdeok to protect Daegu and Busan which the ROK Government had designated as the temporary capital city of Korea.

In order to breakthrough this defense line of the UN Forces, the enemy put in five infantry divisions.

In a nine-day battle, the ROK and UN Forces killed 6,867 enemy soldiers and destroyed a total of artillery guns and 10 tanks of the enemy.
If the ROK and the UN Forces had failed in defending the Nakdong River Defense Line at the Battle of Battle, the enemy could have infiltrated the Daegu-Busan area and eventually captured Busan, the provisional capital of the ROK, and the free and democratic Republic of Korea would have disappeared from the World Atlas like South Vietnam, Nationalist Chin and East Germany.

Excerpts from Ambassador Pinilla’s speech:
Today is the first time I address to the Colombian community in Korea as the Ambassador of Colombia, in an area where we are accompanied by the distinguished representatives of the Korean government, the head of the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, Mr. Park Sung-Choon, Ambassadors, representatives of the diplomatic corps in Korea, entrepreneurs, leaders and distinguished attendees.

A fraternal greeting to everyone present.

This is an occasion that honors me and fills me with emotion.

I am honored, because speaking here today, in front of you, I do it as a representative of the Colombian Government.

As one of the officials who assists in different projects to strengthen our partnerships, or as one of our many students, who thanks to the opportunities of the Korean Government and the Korean universities, is building a better future in this part of the world, or as one of the several Colombians who stands out by working in companies like Hyundai, Samsung or LG, or, why not, as one of our acclaimed soccer players who delights here in Korea and in the whole world.

I am honored to represent a colony, which has the best of our values and it gives us so much satisfaction. To all of you who are present here, thank you for your work, often silent, often unknown to most, but always professional and honest.

From my understanding, you are the allies of the main goal of our international relations; positioning Colombia as a prosperous and peaceful country.
This was the main mandate that President Santos received with the occasion of his re-election, and the one that we must work for from all corners of the world.

That is an example bequeathed to us by the best of our men, like our winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Gabriel Garc?a M?rquez, "who sought peace, worked for peace, always wanted a Colombia in peace and- in his memory- we will not surrender in this task, the biggest we have as a nation”.

This is an invitation that I allow myself to make to all of the partner countries, and in which the relation of mutual historical cooperation between Colombia and Korea will also play a strategic role.

Today, like 62 years ago, we have a common historical aim, I believe that the project of reunification of the two Koreas, sustaining the desire to have only one nation that wants to live in peace, it is equivalent to the Colombian people’s pursuit of building a society where the respect for life, the pursuit of the common welfare and peace are fundamental pillars of democracy.

In this way, the sum of experiences of the two countries and knowledge that we can share will surely make us reach faster our desired purpose.

Our process is the result of a profound transformation that we live in for the last decade, which has changed the lives of so many Colombians and turned us into an attractive country for tourism and investment, a process that has been accompanied by great achievements in safety.

I had the honor of being part of that effort, that of helping to build a safe country and with investment guarantees and today I am even more determined to attain an even higher objective, such as the construction of a process that will lead us to the signing of a peace treaty.

In this scenario, the internationalization that our countries are facing, allows us today to strengthen our links not only to develop economically, but also to share and build based on the vision of the world in which we want to live.

Of course, a vision based on the principles of a healthy coexistence, in which most certainly the links between Latin America and Asia, and especially for our country with Korea, will play a fundamental role.

In this sense we are very optimistic about the approval and implementation of the Free-Trade Agreement, the first of its kind that our country signs in Asia, as well as the economic opportunities that are beneficial for both countries originate from it.

Today we are proud to build on the trust and the bases of a glorious past, surely in the future we will be able to look back and will have great and pleasant memories, because as our Nobel prize-winning, Gabriel Garcia M?rquez, would say “Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” Thank you very much.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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