Founding the NZ-Korea Defence Relationship: Annual Cease Fire Parade, Auckland Region New Zealand Korea Veterans Association

  • Wayne Mapp

This is the 57th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that brought to an end the hostilities of the Korean War - which is not the same as peace.  It is, of course, also the 60th year of the commencement of hostilities. It is therefore a year of reflection on the events of 60 years ago.

Since that time New Zealand and South Korea have forged strong people and trade links and built many common interests.

The Korean War was one of the first great challenges of the Cold War era, which extended from 1945 to 1990. For Korea it became a war in which nearly a million lost their lives.

New Zealanders demonstrated great willingness from the outset to contribute to the defence of the Korean Peninsula - there were 10,000 volunteers for Kayforce within 10 days, despite only 1500 being required.

New Zealand understood its duty. We stayed for the duration. On land our soldiers persevered in difficult conditions. For three years we kept two frigates on station. This was six ships in a total of eight deployments. 

We also remember the 33 New Zealanders from all three services who lost their lives during the conflict itself. In total, 45 New Zealand service personnel have died in Korea since the outbreak of hostilities. We also remember the 12 who died in service since the signing of the Armistice.

I want to emphasise that the New Zealand Government is still strongly committed to recovering the remains of Able Seaman Robert Marchioni, who was killed in action on 25 August 1951.

Able Seaman Marchioni was killed while a member of a shore raiding party from HMNZS Rotoiti. Despite the heroic efforts of other members of the raiding party to recover his body, his remains were left behind.

Apart from those lost at sea, Able Seaman Marchioni is the only New Zealand service member since World War 2 whose body has not been recovered.

I also reaffirm the commitment that successive New Zealand Governments have made to remember and support all our Korean War veterans - and indeed other veterans from all conflicts - many of whom are still carrying the physical and mental scars of those conflicts.      

I would also like to acknowledge and remember the losses suffered by the Korean people.

It is estimated that there were two and half million casualties in the North and in the South. The people of the Republic of Korea suffered almost one million casualties - an unbelievable sacrifice.

The New Zealand Korean war veterans and the people of South Korea have forged strong links. These are a foundation for the enduring bonds between our two countries today.

We appreciate the South Korean Government and people's ongoing recognition of our veterans.

We appreciate the way the Republic of Korea honours and remembers our war dead who lie in their soil.

Our veterans not only contributed to the defence of South Korea. They also left other legacies.

The popular Korean song Yeon-Ga is based on the melody of the great New Zealand ballad Pokarekare Ana. This was sung by our sailors and soldiers to local children while serving in Korea.

The sacrifices of all those who defended the Republic of Korea against aggression laid the foundations for the very successful country South Korea has become.

New Zealand remains committed to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

This is particularly the case given that more than 50 years after the Armistice, the people of South Korea still live in the shadow of potential conflict on the Peninsula.

The ongoing issues regarding North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan continue to significantly heighten tensions on the Peninsula. 

New Zealand has strongly condemned this unprovoked attack, and considers such conduct disturbing and unacceptable. I would like, once again, to reiterate New Zealand's condolences to the families of the 46 victims of this tragic incident.

We contribute four personnel to the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission. New Zealand is the third largest contributor to this Commission.

This contribution is part of a robust defence relationship between the New Zealand Defence Force and the South Korean armed forces.

South Korea has become a significant economic power. Later this year it will host the G20 meeting of major global economies. South Korea has also hosted the Olympic Games and the World Cup soccer finals.

South Korea is now one of New Zealand's most important partnerships - a modern relationship underpinned by the shared experience of history.

We value our trade - South Korea is our seventh largest trading partner - as well as our education, science and cultural links. We value the migrants and visitors who come to New Zealand from South Korea. Over 33,000 former South Korean nationals now call New Zealand home.

Many of you here and thousands around the world made many sacrifices for the people of South Korea. There could be no better reward for that service than to see what South Korea has become, and to see what it is giving back to the community of nations.

Finally, I would like to comment on regional dynamics.

Our engagement in Asia has been a key element of the ongoing Defence Review.

This is particularly important as East Asian nations increase their economic capacity and their engagement in wider international affairs.

The sheer scale of China's success over the past four decades and more has meant the nations of the Asia-Pacific region need to adjust.

In June I attended the 9th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. This event is now a pivotal one for regional defence engagement.

President Lee Myung-Bak gave the opening keynote address. His words were measured and restrained, despite the recent Cheonan incident.

The President described Asia as "one of the main pillars sustaining the global order of today", leading the world in politics, economics, science, technology and education. He urged Asia to think more about its global role.

He also noted South Korea's own experience of war, and his country's resultant commitment to global peace and prosperity. South Korea plans to increase its overseas development aid and will expand its multi-national peacekeeping.

As veterans of the Korean War, you can be proud your actions helped to establish the constructively engaged and strong Republic of Korea working together with us in the international community.