After three years of brutal fighting on the Korean Peninsula, on July 27, 1953, the Korean War officially ended upon the signing of the Armistice Agreement. This year marks the 70th anniversary of this important chapter in Canada’s military history. The MVLP joins all Canadians in commemorating the immense contributions of our Métis Veterans among our Canadian Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice by serving in the Korean War. Métis servicemen and women fought side by side with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike, united by their motivation to secure liberty, freedom and peace for the people of South Korea.
For five centuries, Korea was an independent nation ruled by the Chosŏn dynasty that maintained solid diplomatic ties with China and Japan. At the turn of the 19th century, every major imperial nation sought to expand its global power by controlling critical international trade routes. The primary strategy to accomplish this goal was to exploit the natural resources and labour of smaller nations within strategic geographic regions. As a nation located between three of the largest imperial powers (Russia, China and Japan), Korea was unfortunately destined to face the rival colonial ambitions of these superpowers.
Koreans struggled to maintain their culture under the oppressive colonial Japanese rule. Koreans were banned from teaching their language and history, were forced to take Japanese names, and were forcibly removed from their traditional lands. Farmers and businesspeople were forced to hand over their assets to colonial Japanese bureaucrats, and Korean leaders were assassinated. Though our people are located on opposite sides of the globe, the experiences that Koreans faced due to these genocidal strategies are very familiar to the Métis.
After years of the United States and the Soviet Union fighting the Japanese in Korea during WWII, Japan formally surrendered to the Allied forces in 1945, marking the end of its 35-year colonial rule over the Korean people. The country was divided ideologically between US Western democratic ideals and those of their Communist Soviet counterparts, which led to the division of the Korean Peninsula into two separate nations, North and South Korea, which each abided by the governing ideologies of their respective alliances.
With the split of the Korean Peninsula occurring amid growing Cold War tensions, the leader of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung and his army invaded South Korea in an attempt to unite the two nations under his communist regime in June of 1950. This invasion began the Korean War, where a once united People fought for ideology, with support from their superpower allied nations (China and the Soviet Union for North Korea; Canada, the United States and the UN for South Korea).
Within the three years of brutal combat, 26,791 Canadian military personnel served in the Korean War as part of the UN’s military efforts. Many were Métis and could relate and sympathize with Koreans and their experiences with colonialism and loss of culture. They served as combat officers when diplomatic tensions were high and peacekeepers when the conflict de-escalated.
On July 27, 1953, the war finally ended with the Korean Armistice Agreement, which declared the mutual withdrawal of military forces and the establishment of a demilitarized zone on the Peninsula to prevent further unnecessary conflict and restore peace and democracy to South Korea. Besides the two world wars, Canadian involvement in the Korean War remains the third deadliest overseas conflict, with 516 Canadian lives lost. The Métis Veterans Legacy Program joins Canada in commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, which ended the Korean War’s bloodshed. Today, we honour our Canadian soldiers and their surviving family members for their heroic efforts, along with their sacrifices, loss and trauma that led to the liberation of South Korea.
Our Veterans are our Heroes today, tomorrow and forever.
Lest we forget.
Photo: Military headstones of Korean War Veterans, Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg. (Riccardo/MVLP, July 26, 2023)
Cover Photo: Korean War Memorial, Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg. (Riccardo/MVLP, July 26, 2023)