The Forgotten War

by E.B. Lapointe

On the 28 September, 2003—fifty-three years after the armistice was signed with North Korea—a monument to the Canadian Fallen who died during the Korean Conflict (1950-1955) was unveiled in Confederation Park in Ottawa, in a dedication ceremony held before a thousand Korean Veterans.

Known as the Forgotten War, the Korean Conflict was a police action to secure South Korea from aggression from both North Korea and China, in their efforts to reunite the peninsula that had been divided at the end of World War II. In response to the United Nations (UN), Canada sent 34,000 volunteer troops, of which 516 were killed in action. It should be noted that although 15 other countries sent troops, Canada—on a per capita basis—sent the third-largest contingent.

Vincent Courtenay, the Korean War Veteran who designed the monument, said in an interview that there were no memorials to the Canadian Fallen in Korea before last year, only flat grave markers, and he wanted to "put a face on the young men who fought there." In so doing, he designed the memorial that now stands at the cemetery in Pusan, South Korea, and its copy, which was dedicated in Ottawa.

Dignitaries included the Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien, and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Sheila Copps, along with His Excellency, Chang Ki-ho, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Canada, and his wife. Also in attendance were the South Korea Child's Choir, who sang, in addition to the South Korea National Anthem, a special song entitled "Hymn of Korea, Hymn of Canada," which had been composed for the occasion, and had been first sung in Pusan.

The prime minister, in his remarks to those in attendance, called the men who had fought in the Korean Conflict as "Strong, dedicated, and brave." He noted that this was the largest gathering of veterans of the Korean Conflict since it had ended.

Heritage Minister Copps, as she addressed whom she called, "The distinguished heroes of the Korean War," said that they had fought for "freedom, democracy, and for Canadian values." She further stated that the monument "marks our sorrow for the loss."

Ambassador Chang brought greetings from the South Korean people and thanked the Canadians who came over and fought so that "my country would know peace, and that there were no adequate words of thanks." He also brought words from the President of the Republic of Korea, His Excellency, Roh Moo-hyun, who said that the presence of Canadians in the conflict helped bring freedom, democracy, and peace to his land. He reminded everyone that 2003 was also the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Canada. Canadians, he said, "were legends in South Korea because they had given so much in the defence of freedom."

The ceremony ended with a march past of the veterans who were present, with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien taking the salute.

The Monument to the Canadian Fallen—on which stands a soldier without headdress, weapons, or rank—is showing that the war has ended, and the soldier is holding the future of South Korea, two young children.

The child on the left is holding Canadian Maple Leafs, representing the national emblem of Canada, while the child on the right is holding more Canadian Maple Leafs as well as Rose of Sharon, the national flower of South Korea. The Maple Leafs represent the sixteen Canadian soldiers and five Canadian sailors who are still listed as missing in action.

The names of all 516 Canadians killed in the conflict are listed at the bottom under the heading, "We Shall Not Forget." The base on which the monument stands is of granite donated to Canada from the Republic of Korea.

The names of those who were killed in the conflict can also be read in the Korea Book of Remembrance. It is found online at

The Monument to the Canadian Fallen - Ottawa (Korean Conflict)
Photo Credit: Mario Lapointe CD

For those who wish to read further about Canada's contribution in the conflict, there is the Korea Veterans Association of Canada Inc at

Note: Every year—on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (1100 hrs, in the morning of 11 November)—a large, national memorial service is held at the War Memorial in Ottawa to honour the Canadian, Newfoundland, and Merchant Navy dead of the following conflicts: the South African War/Nile Expedition, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, and Peacekeepers. For those who cannot attend, this Remembrance Day Ceremony is always broadcast on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio and television networks, both locally and internationally, as well as on the CTV and Global television stations.

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