Perth is the only capital city in Australia with no standalone memorial to the Korean War, but that is set to change with plans to build a memorial in Kings Park in time to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in 2023.
The Korean War, sandwiched between the end of World War II and the start of the Vietnam War is sometimes known as the ‘Forgotten War’.
It began when North Korean troops pushed into South Korea on June 25, 1950 following a period where the United States and the then Soviet Union accepted mutual responsibility for Korea at the end of World War II.
Australia was the second nation, after the US, to send personnel from all three of its armed services to the defence of South Korea. In all, 21 nations contributed troops, ships, aircraft, and medical units to the conflict.
The most significant and important battle for Australian troops was at Kapyong between April 22 and April 25, 1951.
Thirty-two Australians were killed and 53 were wounded for their part in stalling a Chinese advance and preventing Seoul from falling into enemy hands.
Although an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, no peace treaty followed and North and South Korean forces continue to face each other across a four kilometre-wide demilitarized zone along the 38th North parallel.
On September 5, 2019, the Returned and Services League of Australia unanimously voted to support the construction of a memorial within Kings Park in commemoration of Western Australia’s contribution to the Korean War.
Later that year, the then Republic of Korean Ambassador, Lee Baeksoon instigated a proposal to ship stone from Gapyeong County in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea to form the centre piece of the proposed memorial.
Gapyeong County is where the Battle of Kapyong was fought.
The offer – recently given in-principle approval from WA’s Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority – is in line with established Korean War memorials in other states and represents the latest symbol of gratitude by the Republic of Korea for the sacrifice made by Australia.
The Korean War Memorial committee will begin fundraising for the new memorial that will be designed in consultation with Kings Park and Memorial Gardens. The Honorary Consul to Korea, Fay Duda, is a member of the Korean War Memorial Committee
The Republic of Korea has issued Peace Medals to all identified WA veterans of that campaign.
Both the Returned and Services League of Australia and the Vietnam Veterans unanimously voted to support the construction of a memorial within Kings Park in commemoration of WA’s contribution to the Korean War.
The Vietnam Veterans also support the construction of a memorial, noting that many Korean War veterans also served in Vietnam.
As stated by Veterans Issues Minister Peter Tinley:
“Australia’s involvement in the Korean War came only five years after the end of World War II. In many respects we were still recovering from the impact of that conflict which overshadowed the Korean War.
“Korea is sometimes called ‘the Forgotten War’ but Australia’s involvement was significant, as were its losses.
“More than 17,000 Australians served during the Korean War, 340 were killed and more than 1,216 wounded. A further 30 were taken prisoner.
“According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 1,673 people born in WA served in the conflict 34 of whom were killed and six classified as missing in action.
“About 225 WA veterans of the Korean War are still with us and provide a valuable human connection to the conflict.”
As stated by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:
“The Korean War is the only major conflict that is not commemorated by a stand-alone memorial within Kings Park.
“I’m pleased to say that much work has occurred between Korea’s Ambassador to Australia, Lee Baeksoon, Commonwealth Senator Dean Smith and the Botanical Gardens and Parks Authority on locating a Korean War memorial in Kings Park.
“While most Australians may not be as familiar with the Korean War as they are with either of the two World Wars, or the Vietnam War, those who served Australia in Korea did so with pride, courage and best of the ANZAC tradition.”