A Ministerial Summit on Veterans’ Affairs was held in the Republic of Korea this week. Ministers with veteran responsibilities were invited from all 22 countries that had been part of the United Nations Forces during the Korean War (1950 – 1953).
The Summit marked the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the war. It included an opportunity to honour those who had taken part, with a visit to the United Nations Cemetery in Busan. Thirty-four New Zealanders who lost their lives in the conflict are buried in Busan.
Because of the pandemic, many Ministers could not travel to Korea, and were represented instead by members of their respective diplomatic missions in Seoul. New Zealand was represented by the Deputy Head of Mission at the New Zealand Embassy.
New Zealand’s recently-appointed Minister for Veterans, Hon Meka Whaitiri, was delighted to have the opportunity to sign on behalf of New Zealand a communiqué that was issued after the Summit. The communiqué confirmed the ongoing cooperation on veteran matters between the Republic of Korea and the states that had been part of the UN Forces.
“These ties have been close and cooperative for many years” the Minister said. “I’m the daughter of a veteran who fought in Korea, and I’ve seen for myself what strong bonds were forged between our two countries at that time. It was special to me to know that one of my first tasks as Minister for Veterans was to sign a document agreeing that we would continue to build on our relationship, and work together to support and honour those who served in that conflict.”
It is estimated that around 500 of the approximately 6000 New Zealand personnel who served during the Korean War, are still alive. All of them are eligible for support and services from Veterans’ Affairs.”