Unveiling of Korean War Memorial, Wellington Harbour

  • Mark Burton
Veterans' Affairs

Veterans and their families, other guests.

In 1950 North Korea launched an invasion of South Korea.

The United Nations declared its support for the South and asked member nations for assistance. New Zealand responded quickly – just four days after the war broke out, the New Zealand Government announced that two frigates would be sent to the region.

In answer to further UN calls for assistance, New Zealand offered a ground combat force. Volunteers were called for and over 6000 men replied to this call.

1100 were selected to form Kayforce, and training was carried out at Burnham. Linton and Papakura camps.
After specialist training at Waiouru, the men of Kayforce came here to Wellington to embark for Korea.

The SS Ormonde carried the main body of Kayforce. The troops, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Moodie were farewelled by the then Prime Minister Sid Holland and the leader of the Opposition Walter Nash, from near this spot, exactly 50 years ago today.

After a long voyage via Brisbane and Manila, Kayforce arrived at Pusan on the 31st December 1950. It was the start of an active combat role that would continue for the next two and a half years.

Two other ships took reinforcements to Korea, and both also sailed from Wellington. These were the Wanganella; and the Wahine, which was wrecked en route on a reef in Indonesia. The 579 troops on board were taken to Darwin and later went to Korea by air.

The monument which we are unveiling today is one of two rocks which the Korean port city of Pusan sent to New Zealand. The other rock is at the naval base in Devonport, and commemorates the important role the New Zealand Navy played in the Korean War.
This rock from the harbour at Pusan has been generously installed by Centreport (The Port of Wellington).

It's unveiling today is part of a commemoration programme which has caused all of us to reflect on that conflict of 50 years ago.

The nature of military service places a special obligation on governments. I am fully aware of the service given to our country by New Zealand defence force personnel in Korea. We have not forgotten the 6000 who served in Korea, and we remember and honour the 43 who lost their lives.

Throughout the conflict, New Zealanders acquitted themselves with pride and professionalism. Now fifty years on, it is appropriate for all New Zealanders to remember with pride and gratitude the contribution that their countrymen made.

I am proud to be here today to participate in this ceremony, and consider it an honour to now unveil this rock from Pusan that will serve as a permanent reminder and memorial.