Korean Veterans' Day 27 July
On 27 July each year, we commemorate Korean Veterans' Day. This is the anniversary of the day in 1953 when an armistice was signed to end the fighting in Korea. This day is a time for us to remember the almost 18,000 Australians who served in the war, including some 340 who lost their lives.
Significance of the date
The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 when the Korean People's Army of North Korea invaded South Korea. The North Koreans captured South Korea's capital, Seoul, within days.
The United Nations Security Council declared North Korea the aggressor and set up the United Nations Command, a joint force to support South Korea.
Australia was one of 21 members of the United Nations to send military forces to help South Korea.
The Korean War became one of the most destructive conflicts of the modern era. Many of Korea's major cities were affected. The death toll rose to approximately 3 million, including many civilians.
Fighting formally ended on 27 July 1953 when an armistice was signed by officials from the United States, North Korea and China.
Some Australian defence personnel remained in Korea until 1957. They served as part of a multinational peacekeeping force in the post-armistice period.
The Korean War is sometimes referred to as the 'forgotten war' because it occurred between two very high-profile conflicts, World War II and the Vietnam War.
Australia at war
Each of Australia's three defence services was involved in the Korean War. It was the first war for the newly formed Australian Regular Army.
Korea was the first and only time an aircraft carrier of the Royal Australian Navy had conducted wartime operations.
It was also the last time the Royal Australian Air Force engaged in air-to-air combat.
Of almost 18,000 Navy, Army and Air Force personnel who served in Korea, 340 lost their lives, over 1216 were wounded, and 29 became prisoners of war (POWs).
More than 150 Australian nursing sisters served both in Korea and Japan during the war. They treated the wounded and sick in hospitals, aboard hospital trains and on aeromedical evacuation flights.
In Australia, there was little political or community opposition to our involvement in the Korean War. Very few Australians opposed the Australian Government's military commitment.
Australia's involvement in Korea reaffirmed a view, formed after Japan entered World War II, that Australia's security interests now lay within Asia and our region.
The war also formalised Australia's military alliance with the United States in the ANZUS Treaty.
The Korean War also had implications for a much wider conflict, the Cold War.
Commemoration of our Korean War veterans
Australian National Korean War Memorial
The Australian National Korean War Memorial on Anzac Parade, Canberra, was dedicated on 18 April 2000 to those who served in the Korean War.
Cemeteries and Gardens of Remembrance in Australia
Some Australians died after returning to Australia during the Korean War period. They now rest in civil cemeteries and crematoria, with their official commemoration either at the gravesite or crematorium or at an OAWG Garden of Remembrance, following the wishes of their family.
United Nations Memorial Cemetery, Korea
The United Nations (UN) established a cemetery in Korea for the war dead during the war. Some 2300 UN soldiers, sailors and airmen rest there, including 281 Australians. The large cemetery at Tanggok, Busan (formerly Pusan), is maintained by the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG).
Memorial to the Missing, Korea
The Korean War Monument at Busan (formerly Pusan) sits within the United Nations (UN) Memorial Cemetery. A Memorial to the Missing commemorates 44 Australians and other members of the UN forces who died during the Korean War but have no known grave. This memorial is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
Yokohama War Cemetery, Japan
Ten Australian war dead are buried in the Post-War Plot at Japan's Yokohama War Cemetery.
Letter of gratitude
As part of commemorations on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the President of the Republic of Korea sent a letter to all surviving Australian veterans of the Korean War. Then President Lee Myung-Bak expressed the gratitude of the South Korean people for their service.
Commemoration of war dead in Korea
Important days to remember the Korean war dead are:
- Memorial Day on 6 June in the Republic of Korea (South Korea)
- Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War (Victory Day) on 27 July in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea).