NZ-Korean Veterans and Spouses, Consul of Korea and members of the Korean community, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen….
It is an honour to have been given the opportunity to speak at this anniversary ceremony. As Mayor of the North Shore City, I had the privilege of attending this parade in the past.
I am pleased that I am able to be present again, speaking as Veterans’ Affairs Spokesperson and MP of the New Zealand First Party.
I extend greetings from our leader the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters who would very much have liked to be here today, but is away on a government mission in the Pacific Islands this week with the Foreign Minister.
In commemorating the 59th Anniversary of the Korean War Cease Fire, we are paying homage to the courage, determination and loyalty of those young Kiwis who served in the Korean theatre and kept the Communist threat at bay.
When war broke out on the peninsula on the 25th June 1950, it was only a matter of days before New Zealand ordered the deployment of our personnel.
One month later, the government announced their intention of establishing a volunteer force to deploy to the Korean peninsula.
Over 5,000 New Zealanders, instilled with a sense of duty to both their country and continued stability in the region, quickly took up the call.
Of those, 1056 were chosen and departed to join the war effort in December 1950.
K-Force was formed.
Of these brave men, many gave their lives.
Others gave the best years of their lives.
All gave their loyalty and commitment to New Zealand, to Korea and to the cause.
An American commander during the Viet Nam war put it best when he said that soldiers do not start wars.
He was right.
Wars are started by politicians, by people that will not have to be on the front-lines.
It is important that politicians remember that every soldier has family and loved ones – as I well know having lost my brother Jack, killed in action in the Vietnam War.
Every soldier has personality and ideas of their own, whatever their conditioning.
They all have dignity and worth.
The true toll of the Korean War has not yet been realised.
The true toll of the Korean War was not just the 45 New Zealanders that lost their lives.
In 2012, in commemorating the 59th anniversary of the Korean War Cease Fire, our returned personnel are still left marginalised.
On the 1st of June 2010, the Law Commission Report, A New Support Scheme for Veterans: A Report on the Review of the War Pensions Act 1954 was published.
The report was a long time coming.
Since 1954 the way New Zealand compensates and manages veterans has been static.
The report contained 170 recommendations, many of which will have a great effect on veterans who served both before and after 1954.
New Zealand First has long aligned itself with Veterans’ advocacy.
In late March I asked the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs why the recommendations in the report had not been implemented.
He told me it was all ready to go, the recommendations had been costed, it was all sorted out and was awaiting that rubber stamp.
Two months later we are still waiting for action. This is not good enough and New Zealand First will continue to pursue this matter on behalf of all Veterans.
New Zealand’s engagement in the Korean War was a pivotal moment in history.
We strengthened diplomatic relations with a number of our friends.
Moreover we founded a bond of solidarity with the Republic of Korea – a strong bond which remains so today.
Some 30,000 Koreans now live in New Zealand and the ties between our two countries are very strong – culturally and economically.
I would like to acknowledge and thank the New Zealand Korean War Veterans Association (NZKVA) which actively supports veterans and their families, along with ensuring that people remember the sacrifices of New Zealand in the conflict.
The Association has expressed gratitude for the Korean Government’s continuous support for the veterans, and an example of their activities is their educational assistance for descendants of veterans which was established in 2006.
The Korean government, through their officials in New Zealand continue to support our veterans from the Korean War including the Korean Embassy’s continuous support for them through the annual re-visit programme.
This ceremony is a reminder of the strong bonds between our two nations and the friendship that will endure as we remember those who gave their lives in the Korean War.
May they Rest in Peace. Lest We Forget.