The world is still in a buzz after Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, the leaders of North Korea and South Korea, held a historic summit meeting at Panmunjeom village, Friday, April 27, 2018. The summit serves as a milestone to the long road to peace for the two Koreas.
South Korea (Republic of Korea/ROK) and North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea/DPRK) are still technically at war. A sort of infinity war, which has not yet come to an end.
The Korean peninsula has been divided since 1954 following the armistice of 1953, the resulting stalemate of the Korean War of 1950-1953. It is in this war that Philippine history is related to Korea.
Also known as a “forgotten war” of Philippine history, the Korean War saw the valor and blood of our soldiers through the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK), one of the largest armed forces under the United Nations command. Our soldiers fought and served in the Korean Peninsula from 1950 to 1955.
A total of 7,500 Filipino soldiers fought under five successive PEFTOK Batallion Combat Teams (BCT). These BCTs were mostly composed of veterans from the Anti-Huk insurgency campaigns:
10th BCT (Motorized). Served from September 1950 to September 1951, it is the Philippines’ only armored battalion. The 10th BCT became known as the “Fighting Filipinos” for their grit in the 1951 Battle of Yuldong where they were awarded the U.S. Gallantry Award.
20th BCT (Leaders). Served from April 1951 to April 1952, the “Leaders” distinguished themselves in the Battle of Eerie Hill where, under the command of the future president, Fidel V. Ramos, the UN forces were able to recapture the strategic Eerie Hill from the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF). It has the most decorated PEFTOK personnel to receive recognition such as the Gold Cross Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, the Distinguished Conduct Star, US Silver Star, and the Military Merit Medal.
19th BCT (Bloodhound). Served from April 1952 to March 1953, the Bloodhound BCT was the first PEFTOK battalion awarded with the South Korean Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation. The US X Corps also awarded it with an equivalent battle citation.
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14th BCT (Avengers). Served from March 1953 to April 1954, they were named “Avengers” by the future president, Ramon Magsaysay. They were awarded the South Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.
2nd BCT (Black Lions). Served from April 1954 to May 1955, the “Black Lions” saw the division of Korea and the sporadic skirmishes along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
The road to peace is long and harsh. Ironically, peace is attained at the cost of lives snuffed-out by blood and iron. It is our hope, that a just and lasting peace will descend, not only in the Korean Peninsula but in all places of conflict.
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Resume the Peace Talks. Address the root causes of the armed conflict. Pursue a just and lasting peace.
Less we forget, remember the words of the PEFTOK memorial:
Freedom is not free. it is paid for with the blood of fighting men and stained with the tears of loved ones left behind.