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Envoys remember 100th year of WWI end

French Embassy organizes event to commemorate the day
Nov 12,2018
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Ambassadors and other representatives of embassies and armed forces in Korea remember the soldiers who gave their lives in World War I and the Korean War at the War Memorial of Korea in central Seoul on Sunday. World War I ended on this date 100 years ago. [ESTHER CHUNG]
In marking 100 years since the end of World War I, ambassadors of countries including France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Ireland, Belgium and the European Union honored fallen soldiers of the conflict at a ceremony at the War Memorial of Korea in central Seoul on Sunday.

“On November 11, we remember,” said French Ambassador to Korea Fabien Penone in addressing the diplomatic corps, representatives of armed forces and students gathered at the memorial. “And as the president of the Republic will say a little later today in Paris, ‘We remember our soldiers who died for France, and many civilians who also lost their lives, our veterans whose bodies and minds would never be same, our villages and towns that were destroyed.’”

The commemoration on Sunday was organized by the French Embassy in Seoul. It honored not only the soldiers of various countries who fought in World War I (1914-1918), but also those who gave their lives for the Korean War (1950-53).

“Here in South Korea we also remember the soldiers killed during the Korean War to preserve the freedom of this country and the future of its population,” he said. “As where we stand now clearly reminds us, valiant combatants from many nations fell during this conflict. While hope is born today on the Korean Peninsula, I propose that we include them within our thoughts.”

Ambassadors and representatives of the embassies of France, the Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, and the director of the War Memorial of Korea laid down wreaths to remember the soldiers who fought in the two wars. Representatives of foreign governments present at the event agreed on the importance of remembering the conflicts in order to promote peace around the world.

“The Netherlands was neutral in the First World War but the war taught a lot of us a very important lesson about peace,” said Lody Embrechts, ambassador of the Netherlands to Korea. “[Holding the commemoration in Korea] means a lot for us, because we were a member of the UNC [United Nations Command] and we lost 123 soldiers during the [Korean] War. We commemorate [the lives of soldiers] every year in Hoengseong. For us it symbolizes the efforts we made on the Peninsula and hopefully, peace on the Peninsula.”

“Many nations came to help in the First World War and many nations came to help in the Korean War,” said Michael Reiterer, ambassador of the European Union to Korea. “The European Union was a result of the Second World War, with hopes to prevent a third world war, so it’s a peace project.”

The diplomatic corps were joined by students of the French and international schools, including the Lycee Francais de Seoul and Lycee Xavier International. They commenced the commemoration by reading out loud texts and literature related to World War I.

“It is up to them to continue the path of hope and freedom which the older ones have traced,” Penone said. “It is up to them to unite, to promote peace and prosperity and not to repeat the wanderings of the past.”

The date held additional significance for some nations like Poland, who regained independence on Nov. 11, 1918. “After 123 years of occupation by Russia, Prussia and Austria-Hungary, on November 11th 1918, Poland regained its independence and the streets of Polish cities were swept by a euphoric mood,” the Polish Embassy in Seoul said in a statement. To commemorate the day, the Polish Embassy hosted a marathon from Ttukseom Hangang Park in eastern Seoul on Sunday.

The Republic of Austria was also founded after the end of the war.

“November 12th dates the foundation of the republic and there will be big events in Austria,” said Michael Schwarzinger, Austrian ambassador to Korea. The Austrian Embassy in Seoul hosted a celebration on the birth of the republic last month.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]