After its defeat in World War II, the possession of the Japanese empire on the Korean Peninsula from 1910, ended in 1945, therefore, on 15 August of that same year the peninsula was independent. However, this did not last long since the winning countries came to occupy this territory. The Soviet Union took the north and the United States took the south, dividing the territory in two by the parallel 38.
In this way, on 9 September 1948, it was proclaimed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) under Kim Il-Sung’s command, and on the other hand, Rhee Syngman became the first president of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Even though there were some attempts at reunification, all were in vain due to the great ideological differences between the two territories, and this was what gave way to the start of the war in Korea on 25 June 1950, when the head of state, Kim Il-Sung, decided to invade South Korea. In just two months, southern forces were completely displaced in the Busan area. Therefore, the United States decided to intervene with other 15 UN member countries, including Colombia.
Now, it is important to remember that in these moments Colombia was not in its better conditions because of a strong social and political crisis. However, economically and militarily Colombia was in a good position to support the Korean War. Moreover, this decision stood out due to Colombia was the only country in Latin America that helped South Korea militarily, despite having no relationships or alliances before with this country. With a frigate and an infantry battalion of 5062 men in total, Colombia, left for Korea. This support was not only beneficial for the eastern country but also strengthen the relationships between Colombia and the United States.
More precisely, in July 1950, the Colombia Battalion set sail for South Korea, and along with the other allies, they significantly pushed back the North Korean forces. A year later, on 15 July 1951, the Colombians landed in the bay of Busan, where Rhee Syngman the president received them personally. From that moment the battalion was devoted to surveillance tasks and intelligence. This was the case until October of the same year when they began their first big mission.
The Nomad Operation was a success overall to take by surprise to Chinese forces, which had to go back and leave much of their weapons, for this reason, Colombians excelled in their work and were recognized by Bryan Blackshear Major General in his famous phrase about the Colombia Battalion.
“I’ve fought in three wars, I thought I had nothing left to see in the field of heroism and human fearlessness, but watching the “Colombia Battalion” fight I’ve witnessed the most august, the most superb of my life” (Major General, Blacksheard U.S., Bryan, s.f).
Then, in May 1952, the Colombians had involvement in the Thunderbolt Operation, which was intended to seize the power of the Chinese, the Hill 400. However, the result of this operation was uncertain, because a victory was not precisely achieved, so in June of the same year, the Climber Operation was carried out, with which it was expected to finally assault and take control of this strategic point. After a strong fight, the Chinese had to retreat again against the Colombian forces, that, again, received praise from the Americans due to their excellent tactics and strategies.
Again, until February 1953, the Colombia Battalion was in charge of the Bárbula Operation, to also conquer Hill 180. However, this operation was not as successful as the others since there were quite a few Colombian casualties due to the great defense that Chinese forces had armed, which ended in a withdrawal from the hill.
Finally, in March 1953, the Korean Battalion was entrusted with the task of taking care of the hills of Baldy Old and Porkchop, which, just days later, were attacked by the Chinese with numerical superiority. Therefore, despite their considerable resistance, the Colombians had to retreat. Luckily, a week later the armistice was signed, thus giving the exit to the Colombians from Korean territory, having left the name of their country very high. After this, several soldiers were decorated in both Colombia and the United States.
As we saw earlier, Colombia’s participation in the Korean War turned out to be quite beneficial, since it strengthened its relations with the United States, and even more with South Korea, which, nowadays, continues to vividly remember all the support that Colombia gave to its territory. In that sense, after 70 years, relations between the two countries continue to be one of companionship and mutual support in all situations, something that we can notice with the great contribution that South Korea offered to Colombia, both during the pandemic and in the development and cultural exchange for the constant strengthening of the relationship and alliance.
In fact, in 2018, the city of Incheon decided to make several monuments located in Colombia Park or Gyeongmyeong Park, where the great service of the Colombian Battalion and the memory of the soldiers who left their lives in the fight for South Korea are commemorated.
At the same time, several events and ceremonies are held in this park to honor the effort of the Colombian Battalion. Precisely on July 26, 2022, the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of Colombian troops to Korean territory was commemorated, the day on which the National Anthem of Colombia was played for the first time in Korea.
Written by: Brenda Torres
Reviewed by: Luisa Quintero
LatinoTV. (23 de junio de 2020). ¿Hay un Parque de Colombia en Corea? | La Amistad Especial Entre Colombia y Corea del Sur 🇨🇴🇰🇷. https://youtu.be/wtJ0PTT5DsU
Leander Auditore. (6 de marzo de 2018). El Batallón Colombia – Los Colombianos que Pelearon en la Guerra de Corea. https://youtu.be/waFo_-NLNYM
Academia Play. (23 de abril de 2020). El conflicto entre Coreas. https://youtu.be/WqKQecn50FU