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Remembering Peftok: Heroism of Korean War vets cited

Filipinos should not forget the bravery and heroism of the 7,500-strong Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (Peftok) during the Korean war in the early 1950s, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday.

Citing a report of the Philippine Embassy in Seoul, the DFA pointed out the Philippines was one of the first nations to heed the United Nations’ call to defend South Korea from a communist invasion, an open warfare which started on June 25, 1950.

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The move reinforced the friendship between Manila and Seoul.

The DFA recalled then President Elpidio R. Quirino’s words as he sent the Peftok contingent to war: “What you will do will prove to all the world that this republic and all of you who are part of it have the will and power to survive and to make our own lives as we want them to be, and to keep them that way.”

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The Peftok, which arrived in the Korean peninsula sometime in August 1950, was the fourth-largest force among the 16-nation coalition under the UN command in defending South Korea against the communist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).

Between 1950 and 1953, the Filipino soldiers belonging to the Army’s 2nd, 10th, 14th, 19th and 20th battalion combat teams fought alongside the US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division and 35rd, 25th and 45th infantry divisions.

The Peftok, including then 2nd Lt. Fidel V. Ramos, who later became the Philippines’ 12th President, took part in the battles of Yultong Bridge and Hill Eerie, among others, where more than 50 of the Filipinos soldiers were killed, 15 others  were declared missing in action and at least 128 were wounded.

Wreath-laying

The embassy also reported to the home office that on June 22, Philippine Ambassador to South Korea Luis Cruz joined 11 surviving Peftok members and their close relatives in a wreath-laying ceremony at Philippine Heroes’ Monument in Goyang City, located north of Seoul.

“The ceremony was organized by the Presbyterian Church under the South Korean government’s Revisit Korea Program for War Veterans in coordination with the embassy, Goyang City officials and the South Korean Army,” said the mission.

On March 29, President Aquino inaugurated the Peftok War Memorial at Libingan ng mga Bayan, which Malacañang said aimed to “immortalize our men’s gallantry and serve as a fitting symbol of the enduring friendship between the Philippines and South Korea.”

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Growing relations

On Aug. 4, 2000, then President Joseph Estrada issued Proclamation No. 353 declaring September 7 as “Korean War Veterans of the Philippines Memorial Day.”

In November last year, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took a three-day state visit to the country, where he discussed with Aquino “ways to further enhance the rapidly growing relations between the two countries.”

According to the foreign office, Lee’s visit “comes at an important point in the 62-year history of Philippine-South Korean bilateral relations,” which were formally established on March 3, 1949.

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TAGS: Diplomacy, Global Nation, heroism, Korean War, Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (Peftok), Philippines, South Korea
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