Canadians abroad in South Korea
Almost 9,000 kilometres away is a country smaller than the size of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick combined. It’s surrounded by water on three sides, is 70 percent mountains, and has a population of over 51 million people. It’s dotted with cherry trees and Buddhist temples, has one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders, and is home to over a dozen Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members.
The CAF currently has Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force, and Royal Canadian Navy personnel posted to South Korea as members of United Nations Command (UNC). UNC is the unified command structure for multinational military forces that was established in 1950 to provide support to South Korea during the Korean War.
United Nations Command military forces include support from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, Greece, India, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the USA. This group of nations is referred to as the Sending States. In 2018, Canadian Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre was appointed as the first ever non-American Deputy Commander of UNC.
The Canadian Contingent United Nations Command (CCUNC) in South Korea includes 15 personnel skilled in operations, plans, logistics, administration, communications, and public affairs.
Together these military members work to formalize relationships, enforce the 1953 Korean Armistice agreement, capture and share information. These personnel provide expertise on military technical cooperation, logistic support, inspections and observation, and provide a platform for increased Sending State contributions. The United Nations Command controls access to the demilitarized zone, facilitates the recovery of human remains, and ensures the dignified repatriation of the war dead.
The UNC is committed to providing dignified internment for Korean War-Era personnel. It facilitates remains recovery in the DMZ and provides dignified repatriations. In July 2018, with support from the United States Forces Korea, UNC repatriated 55 sets of remains returned by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. More than 7,700 American troops remain unaccounted for and 16 Canadian soldiers remain missing in action from the Korean War. The difficult task of finding and identifying our fallen must continue.
To achieve all this in a multinational community of military members requires patience and consistent communication, open dialogue, stakeholder engagement, open-minded thinking and planning, interoperability, flexibility, and most of all commitment and cooperation.
The UNC is no longer the war-fighting command it was in the 1950s but it continues to be the multinational force that plays a vital role in Korean-American relations. It is a multinational enabler of security and stability, with the Canadian Contingent United Nations Command helping to contribute to that security and stability.