Memorial for French Veterans of the Korean War in Suwon

in OCDlast year (edited)

There is a memorial for French Veterans of the Korean War in Suwon. It is dedicated to the honour of the French UN forces who gave their lives in an often overlooked struggle far away from home. They fought to uphold human rights and decency against the tyranny of some of the worst authoritarian regimes in history. Their sacrifice made while volunteering to protect the freedom and liberty of Koreans continues to deserve remembrance and respect.

I've written about the Korean War Memorial in Seoul and the UN Cemetery in Busan before and I'm quite familiar with the topic. It's something that can be difficult to avoid in Korea because it happened within living history and the scars are still very present to this day. Although the Korean war was fought from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953, it was a complex and ultimately inconclusive war. The Korean division and the Korean conflict persist to this day.

I promise I will get into French involvement during the Korean War, but first I will cover a few of my favourite quotes and the current status of the Korean conflict.

France 6.JPG
These French soldiers were depicted wearing their combat uniforms. Pretty much all combat uniforms were issued by the US Army.

Sixty-nine years ago, 1.95 million young people from 22 countries around the world rushed to the Republic of Korea when the War broke out. [...]
Now, the Republic of Korea has risen from the ruins of the War to become an economic powerhouse that ranks 6th in the world in terms of exports and boasts a per capita income exceeding US$30,000. Korea turned itself from an aid recipient to a donor country that helps people suffering from war, disease, underdevelopment and poverty.
The Republic of Korea will always remember the devotion of the 1.95 million heroes who came together under the U.N. flag. We will build a country that brings peace and prosperity to the people of the world who sacrificed their lives for freedom.

~ Moon Jae In ~ Current President of Korea ~ June 24, 2019 ~ Opening Remarks at the Blue House Luncheon for Korean War Veterans

I remember the coverage of this event in the media (and on Twitter) well as it happened just last year. It was only a few months after the failed February meeting between President Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jeong Un in Hanoi. At that time, my spirits and dreams of true and lasting peace in Korea were pretty crushed. Despite announcements throughout 2018 to finally make peace and work towards reconciliation, North Korea had launched missiles twice in May 2019.

However, my hopes returned only a week after that luncheon on June 30, 2019, when President Trump, President Moon and Supreme Leader Kim met together at the DMZ, making history. Sadly, this didn't last as additional peace talks failed, no important meetings happened and lots of missiles have been launched including a few earlier this current week. Fortunately, things haven't really gotten worse and we didn't get our spectacular 'Christmas' present. I say it rather skeptically, but cool heads have thankfully prevailed against all odds.

France 1.JPG
Here is a view of the French memorial (프랑스군참전기념비) from a little further away, like most smaller war memorials, it's rarely busy except on important days.

Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description.
They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. Their last words to me were: "Don't scuttle the Pacific!"
I have just left your fighting sons in Korea. They have met all tests there, and I can report to you without reservation that they are splendid in every way.

~ Douglas MacArthur ~ General of the Army of the United States of America ~ April 19, 1951 ~ Farewell Address to Congress

Douglas McArthur is one of the most famous generals of the 20th century and the above quote is taken from one of my favourite speeches during the Korean war when it was at a near stalemate roughly along the DMZ. Unlike many famous military speeches, it's not a victory speech, battle cry, surrender, or even a legal defence or apology. He was retired and saying goodbye.

One of the most impactful sentences from that speech is: "I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting." To provide a little more context, he had been talking about dropping dozens of nuclear bombs in Manchuria and other targets in the far East only weeks before, but was against the nuclear bombing of Japan 6 years earlier.

France 2.JPG
Here is the full view of the statue, you probably notice the UN, South Korea and France Flags. If you look closer you may notice the text is a little different. The French version says 270 deaths while the Korean version says 288.

Sixty years ago, at dawn on June 25, the Korean War broke out when Communist North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. In response, 16 member countries of the United Nations, including the United States, joined with the Republic of Korea to defend freedom. Over the next three years of fighting, about 37,000 Americans lost their lives. They fought for the freedom of Koreans they did not even know, and thanks to their sacrifices, the peace and democracy of the republic were protected.

~ Lee Myung Bak ~ Former President of Korea ~ JUNE 25, 2010 ~ From South Korea, a note of thanks

Although Mr. Lee was a very controversial president (he is desperately trying to avoid an extended retirement in prison), I do think his speech on the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korea War was incredibly touching and the full text linked above is definitely worth a read (as is the text of the ithers quoted). In this case, the last sentence is particularly touching. He goes on to talk about how poor Korea was and how rich they became in the meantime, From an annual GDP/capita of 40$ to OECD and G20 member (this president was obsessed with money). By any measure, this is phenomenal growth.

However, at the time and during the past 60 years, development hasn't always been easy for Korea. Korea is still divided and the struggle to get where they are today was not easy for the people enduring it.

France 4.JPG
Here is the entire wall of remembrance. There are 288 names on the wall. 270 are French and 18 belong to their Korean brothers in arms who fought beside them on the battlefields.

The 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War

In about 3 months on June 25, 2020 it will be the 70th anniversary of the Korean War. 70 years ago, North Koreans invaded and tried to destroy South Korea. I really don't want to give a history lesson (this post is already getting long), so read about it on wikipedia.

However, regarding the 70th, anniversary. I don't think I'm alone when I say enough is enough, end it please. The amount of understanding and trust-building that has gone on between the two Koreas and America is enough to drive anyone mad. To say we are going in circles is an understatement. Some people may ask why is America involved? Well, not only is the history of the division of Korea really complicated (and deeply involvex Russia and Japan at times and still very much China to this day), but there is also the issue of the UN Command.

Therefore the dissolution of the unified command does not fall within the responsibility of any United Nations organ but is a matter within the competence of the Government of the United States.

The UN has said it isn't responsible for UN involvement in Korea. If you want a thoroughly confusing explanation, read the actual source.

We had our hopes of a peace treaty shattered in 2018 and 2019, despite all the superficial progress. To be honest, I don't expect a lot to happen in the next 3 months. Currently, there is a Coronavirus outbreak so face to face talks are unlikely. South Korea has an election in Mid-April and America has an election in the Fall. Hopefully, there will be another lovely and inspiring speech.

Well, since we know it's probably not going to be resolved without a miracle happening, let's get on to the French involvement.

France 3.JPG
This wall explains a little about some of the important battles the French soldiers were involved in during the Korean War.

French Involvement in the Korean War

I actually don't know much about France or it's involvement in the Korean War. I studied French while I was a student in Canada and almost minored in it at university. But I've only been in France once and that was a 90-minute layover at DeGaulle Airport (Yes it counts :P). I got most of my information for French Participation in the Korea War from reading that sign (I still know enough and I know Korean, too), from various media sources and from Wikipedia.

The French fought in several battles in Gangwando Providence, however, the Battle of the Twin Tunnels and the Battle of Chipyong-ni were the ones where French soldiers made up a significant portion of the fighters. These two (along with 1 other) are said to be turning points during the stalemate period of the Korean War (the landing of Incheon was a decisive turning point).

At the battle of the Twin Tunnels around 3000 American and French soldiers fought unknown hordes of Chinese Soldiers during a 2 month period. On a single day of particularly fierce fighting, 50 of the UN forces were either MIA or KIA and somewhere between 1600 and 3600 Chinese soldiers were lost.

After, the battle of Chipyong Ri happened which along with the 3rd Wonju Battle (France was involved in 1 and 2) is referred to as the Gettysburg of the Korean War. For those who don't know, this means the battle was tremendously fierce and there were a lot of casualties. "Casualties on the UN side of the conflict were 51 killed, 250 wounded, and 42 missing. The Chinese lost approximately 1,000 killed and 2,000 wounded."

Although I've heard some pretty awful things said about France during WW2 (I don't agree with most of it), during the Korean War they definitely fought hard and earned respect from their allies. During the early 1950s, France was a socialist country recovering from a terrible occupation during WW2. On the global front, they were losing what little of their empire remained. They were even fighting colonial wars in Algeria and Indochina (Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos).

Despite all this, it was pretty amazing that 1,017 - 1185 (sources really vary) French soldiers volunteered given the state their country was in at the time. Further, given that 270 didn't come home the death rate was alarmingly high for a modern army (the Korean War was really devastating). It goes to show the absolute courage and devotion these men had to join a cause based on standing up for what they believe is right.

France 5.JPG
Here are some pictures on the opposite side of the monument. I like this direction better because it looks towards the mountains

About the Monument

The most comprehensive source I could find on French involvement is in a PDF file available here. Fortunately, it also contains a few notes about various monuments including the one I visited in Suwon.

Other French “places of memory” [42] exist in Korea, and especially the French monument in Suwŏn, devoted to the memory of the 288 men killed in action, including the 18 missing in action, both Frenchmen and South Korean KATUSA [43] attached to the battalion. The memorial was constructed in October 1974 by the South Korean Ministry of Defense, “in tribute to and in memory of the French armies who came here as the crusaders of justice, to protect the security and freedom, made remarkable military gains, and died in the Korean War” [44]. Though the monument was restored in 2001 and developed as a memorial combining French and Korean cultures, it is deteriorating quickly, but had been renewed for the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. It is, however, used only once or twice a year for ceremonies.

Full Source: Quisefit, Laurent. (2013). The French Participation in the Korean War and the Establishment of a “Path of Memory” in South Korea. Societies. 3. 10.3390/soc3040427.

Suwon is nowhere near Gangwondo or Wonju where the French did most of their fighting, so it may seem like an odd place for a memorial. However, I did read that after French Troops arrived in Busan, they regrouped in Suwon before going into battle. Whether true or not, I would like to think it is the last place where all the French soldiers felt safely together.

In Living Memory

The reason I'm attached to this topic is that I read so much about it. I don't think I will ever be able to fully understand what went through the minds of these volunteers. After the horrors of WW2 were exposed, and fully knowing the savagery of Stalin's USSR and Mao's China, the absolute bravery that would have required someone to volunteer to fight these combined forces of evil is truly inspiring.

From time to time, I read stories about the Korean War Veterans passing away peacefully in their home counties and requesting to be buried with their fallen brothers in a foreign country. Clearly their experience impacted them so much to make these requests after decades long past.

Here is the story of Andre Belaval, a French Veteran who died in 2015 and was buried at the UN Cemetry in Busan.

And here is the story of Jean le Houx, another French Veteran who died in 2016 and was buried near another French memorial inside the DMZ.


I think I will go and visit the memorial around the 25th of June this year for the 70th anniversary. I pass by it nearly daily and it is usually empty, but hopefully never forgotten.



that was a very high death rate. There was 27,000 Canadians fought in Korea, 591 died there. Not near as high a death rate as the French. My husband was a Korea War vet.

That's so neat to hear about your husband. Very thankful for his service. Canada and Korea have a very good relationship now, but at the time they were strangers with just humanity in common.
I think if we look at frontline soldiers only, Korea was fairly rough for everyone.
From what I understand, the French came over in one group and pretty much all served in the front lines (and sometimes were trapped behind enemy lines). All the auxiliary and logistics from the professional army were involved in other wars. The French soldiers in Korea were fighters who wanted nothing to do with preventing colonial wars of succession.
In Canada's case, there were no other wars going on at the time and they were able to deploy a lot more of their armed forces, many in supporting roles. I know several large Canadian ships showed up and quite a few Canadians involved in the Korean War would never went near the front lines. One of my older relatives was a cook on one of the Candian vessels, a necessary but quite safe job.
That isn't to say Canadians didn't see combat (as I'm sure you know). I watched a video, that I believe is available on Youtube, about Princess Patricia Light Infantry. They saw some very fierce combat in the Gapyeong region. There is a memorial near there, too. I've been to the area a few times, but I've never actually been to the memorial. Maybe next time I'm around there, I will have a look.

That isn't to say Canadians didn't see combat (as I'm sure you know). I watched a video, that I believe is available on Youtube, about Princess Patricia Light Infantry. They saw some very fierce combat in the Gapyeong region. There is a memorial near there, too. I've been to the area a few times, but I've never actually been to the memorial. Maybe next time I'm around there, I will have a look.

My husband was PPCLI 2nd and fought at Kapyong. He went over in 1950 attached to an American unit until the rest of the Canadian force caught up. He was wounded twice, scheduled to be sent home and then redeployed. He often joked his papers were sent home more times than he was. He lost a boyhood friend the day after he was shipped home.

A lot of the Canadian deployment was fraught with politics. The Canadian public didn't want to see their military in another fighting war so soon after WW2 which was why Korea was called a 'Police Action' .. something the Korea War Vets didn't get reversed until the late 80's. As Frank put it, "they told me I was going to a police action. I thought that was cool being police in a foreign country. Then they started shooting at me. I knew it was war."

All the Canadians who went to Korea were volunteers. Frank and his buddy volunteered some what under duress of their own making. The story was they were out into mischief one evening. A beat cop tried to collar one of them and they knocked him down and took off. The cop knew who they were and the next day rounded the two of them up and gave them a choice, join up or jail.

That's the battle I was talking about. The soldiers in PPCLI 2nd were definitely all heroes, and it seems like your husband was one of them. Thanks for sharing this very interesting story. You know the history a lot better than me. It always amazes me how many people I run into who have such personal stories about the war even though it happened so long ago. It's just so overshadowed by WW2. It was a lot more like the Eastern/Russian Front of WW2, a very personal war.
I do remember learning about how it was controversial, not in the way wars in the Middle-East or Vietnam are seen as unjust, but the western powers were fatigued. Few knew a thing about Korea and some were even confused because it was a Japanese colony during WW2. It didn't help that the South's regime at the time was pretty nasty, too.

There is a good chance I've read the name of his boyhood friend on the statue I saw at the UN Cemetery and in the credits of some of the documentary films I've seen.

I don't know if you watched it, but my favourite Korean movie about the war is Taegukgi, there are a few others I like, but they either look at a very different side of the war or are hard to compete.

Life in Korea during the 1950s wasn't easy. Some of my wife's older relatives have incredible stories of struggle and survival. When her father passed away, I spent a lot of time with his older sister who was telling me how she raised him alone because their entire family was killed in the war. Child labour was welcomed because it meant you didn't have to beg to get food. She managed to save enough money to put him through school.

His buddy's name was William Fowler aka Billy

I've not seen that movie. Is there an English version or one with subtitles?

It's an often forgotten aspect of war, what the civilian population goes through. I used to do school presentations at Remembrance time. One year we decided to focus on talking about civilians in war as we had several members of the Legion branch who were children during the war. We had England, France, Belgium and Holland covered.

I usually introduced topics with a question and answer format to gauge how much awareness the children had. I still chuckle at the response of that one.

me: So, war ... we all know about the soldiers fighting in war. A battle is happening in an area, the soldiers are fighting.. planes, artillery... all that stuff. BUT, what do the civilians in the area... people like you and your parents.. what do they do during all that fighting?

child: They go to the next county

me: oh.. well, that's a thought. Go away from the fighting. So, how do they know where there is no fighting?

child: they can find out on the TV

me: well there were no TVs then and often if there was fighting there was no power to run them. Tell you what. Why don't we talk to people who were your age when the war happened and they were right there where the fighting was.

That go to the next county floored me... it was all we could do not to laugh. Simplicity of childhood.

I will have to look for his name next time I visit the memorial.

The movie has English subtitles. It's very popular and was big budget for Korean cinema, so pretty much any Korean over 30 would know of it (Taeguki is what they call the national flag).

I think a lot of Candians are detached from the civilian impact of war because no modern war was fought in Canada. It would be refugees or more recent immigrants who most likely have these stories closer to heart. It hasn't entered the national conscious or it was something that was escaped from. Mostly we just hear about rationing or women entering the workforce impacting the homefront.

It is good to remember and educate the younger generations about these things. I'm fairly detached, and by your story it seems to be getting even worse. Even their grandparents have no direct family experiences with the wars now.
The pacific war was mostly an American story and by far the majority of Canadian education and experience is focused on the European Wars. Maybe with changing populations this will be different.

The legion does some neat work educating people in ways career teachers cannot. Have any of the people you know ever been back to Korea for a memorial service or a visit? I'm sure they would barely recognize Kapyong these days. It's all forrssted now, there is a huge annual Jazz festival. It's a popular tourist spot for South East Asians in particular, who love visiting a place called Nami Island.

This June is a pretty big anniversary, so I am excited to see what they have planned. I really hope this virus won't ruin the ceremonies. Anyone who fought would be quite old now, but they ate still organizing a lot of stuff.

I don't know why this post is not in Trending my friend.
So many brave souls died voluntarily for a just cause.
But mankind will never learn and one can only wonder what the future holds for the two Koreas.
A great post here indeed!

I think your prediction worked! =P Thank you.

Looking on the bright side, they have tested no nuclear weapons or long-range missiles recently. It's so surreal being in probably the only free place on Earth where protests don't happen when Donald Trump shows up. The hopes and dreams the Koreans have for his interventions to succeed are bipartisan.

Glad for you.
Donald certainly likes you guys and it's a good thing.
I have recently read that they are test firing short range missiles.
Maybe just to try to scare the USA off.
Russia will have to show that they really stepped away from communism, as the world is watching Putin. In his favor is that he is an Orthodox Christian. We really hope and pray that all works out in peace between the two Koreas.

The test-firing of missiles is nearly continual.
I'm pretty sure China (and to a lesser degree Russia) just gives North Korea these things because fireworks are always a good distraction. He hasn't fired anything really nasty and is just being annoying.

China is deeply involved because North Korea is an important historic buffer state. They also are generally mean to all their neighbours. I don't think that the government is capable of any moral decision making. Party first.
Russia is similar, but not quite as bad as they were when the USSR was still around. North Korea is more of a distraction for them. I don't like Putin, but he does seem to have some positive values, especially compared to the Chinese state. He also has bigger fish to fry on the other side of his country and his people are a lot freer.

Peace would be nice. I'm not sure if other powers would permit unification and I'm not sure if the North Korean government wants peace. The regime fears punishment but is relatively safe if they listen carefully to China and avoid annoying the USA too much. However, normal people want peace. South Koreans aren't all that afraid as they have gotten used to it. But it is sad to see and hear about the nightmare their cousins in the north are living through.

Remember the Berlin wall my friend? Families crying on both sides?
Remember the Roman Empire? The Ottoman Empire? The mighty Egyptian Kings?
Just a few examples how the world works through the ages and I do believe that one day the north and the south will be united.
Whether by war, peace or other means I do not know.
Sooner or later it will happen.

I do hope you are right.
I just hope when it happens it is united under Korea and no some outside force. True governance is self-determined.

There you go my friend. And you guys definitely don't need outside fingers in your pie. The thing must be sorted out between the two Koreas, and by nobody else. In the old colonial days, Portugal was in a war against Spain about colonies in Africa, England was at war with the Boers to claim the gold in our mines, and you can read in history how many countries had agendas whenever they became involved in "peace" offerings in other countries.
We pray for you guys.

Thank you for remembering and honoring the veterans of that war with your writing and awesome photos! ROKs are bad ass too!

It's a topic I really like.

ROK Military is definitely a lot more capable now after all that economic development and training.

Here is a picture of the current president when he was in the special forces. He had at least one very unique frontline experience.

A long time ago I was in an area where a ROK compound was close nearby. They'd light things up every now and then.

I've always lived in the city and they don't play with fire around urban areas anymore. In leaner times, civilians used to swarm the USbases to collect spent rounds for scrap. Dangerous business.
I do live a few km from a ROK airbase, on the flight path. I used to be closer. Those little fighters are quite noisy.
Fortunately it is not a main airbase.

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o love these blogs and to read about the wars we thankfully werent part of. This may holiday we will go to france and visit some was memorial sites. We saw the 1917 movie and thought we live close by and need to tell the kids, these times can never be forgotten. great share , well written i see you love writing about it and also telling the story

I do like covering these topics and there are a lot of memorials around. With so many nations involved, there are a lot of stories.

The Dutch were involved as well. I don't know much about their involvement, but it seems they were involved in a few battles and have some memorials, too. I found this

I've always wanted to see some of the sites in France and a few in Russia, too. These places are pretty much the only destinations you can go to where people aren't trying to sell stuff.
I haven't seen 1917 yet. I should get around to watching it.

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