07/27/2011 11:58 EDT | Updated 09/26/2011 05:12 EDT

Korean War Veterans Honoured At Armistice Ceremony


BRAMPTON, Ont. - Scores of veterans, dignitaries and members of the public turned out Wednesday for a parade and ceremony to remember the once "forgotten" Korean War.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among those on hand at the Korea Veterans National Wall of Remembrance for the 58th anniversary of the armistice that ended the bloody conflict.

"For too many years, Korea was called the 'forgotten' war," Harper said.

"But times are finally changing."

In all, 516 Canadian soldiers were killed in the conflict.

Another 1,100 others were wounded in five major battles.

Many of the Canadian dead are buried in Korea, prompting Harper to borrow from British war poet Rupert Brooke.

"We may truly say that there is some corner of a foreign field that is forever Canada," Harper said at the wreath-laying ceremony.

Canada's involvement in the conflict, which was sparked by an invasion of the southern Korean peninsula by the communist China-backed north, began on July 12, 1950.

The first three of eight Canadian destroyers were deployed in Korean waters, followed by a Royal Canadian Air Force transport squadron and 22 fighter pilots.

Canadian ground troops entered the war theatre later that year and are credited, among other things, with saving the city of Seoul from falling to the invaders despite being heavily outnumbered.

Eventually, UN forces were able to drive the invasion back over the 38th parallel -- the frontier between North Korea and South Korea.

"Our sacrifice was not in vain as exemplified by the South Korea that exists today," said retired Lt.-Col. James (Scotty) Martin.

By the time the armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, more than 26,000 Canadians had served in Korea.

Another 7,000 served as peacekeepers until the end of 1955 following the ceasefire.

"Many and noble were their deeds," Harper said of the Canadian vets, who fought for years for the same recognition and respect afforded their First and Second World War counterparts.

"Canada, then and now, the courageous warrior, the compassionate neighbour."

In all, the Korean War cost combatants more than two million casualties and inflicted heavy suffering on civilians.

More than 140,000 American soldiers were killed or injured, as were 4,600 British troops.

Harper said the government would also be offering its support to the Historica-Dominion Institute's "Memory Project" in which Canadian veterans get to tell their stories for posterity.

All living Korean vets will have the opportunity to share their memories, he said.

"Our Canadian veterans of Korea have a story that must be shared with future generations," Harper said.

He also credited Canada's role with helping South Korea grow from one of the world's poorest countries to one of its most dynamic.

Harper said the "selfless sacrifice" of those who served helped establish Canada's reputation as a fighter against injustice and repression.

Harper said Canada would continue to stand with its allies when the cause is just.

By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press