‘They saved our country’ Photo exhibit honours Korean War veterans

A Winnipeg couple wants the “the forgotten war” remembered.

Wonjae Song, publisher of The Korea Times, and his wife Olivia (Eun Kyeong) Do curated The Legacy of Korean War Veterans, a photo exhibit that’s currently on display at Garden City Shopping Centre (2305 McPhillips St.). The exhibition opened on Sept. 26 and runs until Remembrance Day.

Winnipeg couple Wonjae Song and Olivia Do curated The Legacy of Korean War Veterans, a photo exhibit on display at Garden City Shopping Centre until Remembrance Day.
PHOTO BY JARED STORY

Winnipeg couple Wonjae Song and Olivia Do curated The Legacy of Korean War Veterans, a photo exhibit on display at Garden City Shopping Centre until Remembrance Day.

Song and Do, who live in Richmond West, emigrated from Seoul, South Korea nine years ago. Song said it’s important Canadians know about the Korean War, which started on June 25, 1950 and lasted until July 27, 1953, with Canadian troops remaining in Korea for three more years as military observers. Twenty-six thousand Canadians participated voluntarily in the Korean War, with 516 dying in the conflict.

“People don’t know about the Korean War,” said Song, 51. “My wife and I visited many Korean War veterans at their homes and we found very old pictures. My wife and I thought, unfortunately, if they passed away, probably their pictures will go into the garbage, so we will have forgotten history. How do we teach this to the next generation? So, I thought of this photo exhibition.”

Song said he and Do started collecting photos from Korean War veterans and their families approximately one year ago. He said it’s the personal nature of the photo exhibition that makes it unique.

“This kind of exhibition is probably the first in Canada, because if somebody is doing a Korea War picture exhibition, they get resources from a newspaper company or archivists, but we collected most of the photos directly from veterans. You can’t see a lot of these photos from another source,” Song said.

Song said the veterans they contacted were eager to lend their photos to The Legacy of Korean War Veterans, although for many vets, visiting the exhibition is another story.

“Somebody came here crying and crying and also one of the Korean War veterans, he visited here, but he didn’t want to see these pictures, because he doesn’t want to be reminded of the bad memories,” Song said.

Do said despite the fact the Korean War is a major subject of study in South Korean schools, the photo exhibition has taught her and Song a history that’s not in textbooks.

“When they (Korean War veterans) came back to Manitoba, they struggled with their life, because of injuries from the war or even psychological harm,” Do said. “They were not supported well by the government. We heard that kind of story from them and we didn’t know about those things before. It was very valuable to listen to them and to learn about something that we didn’t know yet. This is very amazing thing for them and for us.”

Song said Col. Choi Jang Min, Defence Attaché for the Republic of Korea, visited the opening of the photo exhibition. Song said South Koreans have a great admiration for Canada because of the country’s involvement in the Korean War.

“Through this exhibition I want to say thanks to every Canadian, because they saved our country. We really appreciate their help,” Song said. (Source: Winnipeg Free Press)