Veteran Stories:
Terry Tae Kim


  • Photograph of Tae (Terry) Kim.

    Dr. Terry Tae Kim
  • Newspaper article published in the August 9, 2013 issue of Korean Newsweek.

    Dr. Terry Tae Kim
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"I was 19 years old, medical student attending Chungbuk University, Taegu, Korea, and we had a big student rally a few days after the Korean War... about 10 or 15 students went up the stage… and declared that we're going to join ROK Army to fight for the country. And I was one of them. "


The Korean War from 1950 to 1953 was one of the most tragic period in modern Korean history. Three years of bitter fighting between North and South Korea left, in its wake, millions of civilians and military casualties, and two Koreas are still divided. Sixty-three years ago, during the early morning of 25 June 1950, North Korean troops equipped with heavy artillery and tanks, backed by the then-Soviet Union, invaded South Korea with the goal of forcefully unifying two Koreas under the communist regime. The surprise attack came from several points along the 38th Parallel, but was concentrated on the west of the Korean Peninsula towards Seoul. South Korean army, much smaller in number, was poorly grouped and lacked training, compared to the North Korean army. While they fought bravely, the South Korean army were unable to hold off rapidly advancing North Korean troops and within three days Seoul fell to the North Korean army.

The South Korean government, the beleagured South Korean army and tens of 1,000s of civilians fled south crossing the Han River. The North Korean army continued its rapid advance down south of Korean Peninsula. I was 19 years old, medical student attending Chungbuk [National] University, Taegu, Korea, and we had a big student rally a few days after the Korean War, and at the rally, about 10 or 15 students went up the stage… A podium and declared that we're going to join ROK [Republic of Korea] Army to fight for the country. And I was one of them. At the rally there were a few students… Some… About eight or nine students, they bite their finger and some of them used their surgical scalpel, cutting their finger and drew blood. They sign with the blood on the white linen, that kind of expression of patriotism. And in Korean we call [inaudible], that means sign with your own blood, kind of many… You know, tradition many years before, you know, that kind of tradition in Korea, that kind of expression of loyalty, you know, express patriotism. Then spontaneously, another 15 or 20 students followed, and they decided to join ROK Army.

Then on 15 July 1950, we got notice from the army headquarters to report to the training centre, that was beginning of my military life. On 15 September 1950, the United States along with UN Allied Forces, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, launched the counter attack by amphibious landing at Inchon Harbour,* behind the North Korean line and retook Seoul. They advanced north of 38th Parallel, and continued for the north of North Korea and the Chinese border. At that time, the army headquarters decide to send military doctor to the… The advancing troops, but the… Since shortage of medical doctor in the army, all senior medical students were commissioned to the officer, then they dispatch the advancing… The unit, but all junior students were sent to the Cheju Island for training of the recruiters at the force… ROK force recruit training centre. My unit was assigned to Cheju Island program was the intense training of the new recruit, and I remember almost every day about 100s of recruits coming from mainland and LST [Landing Ship Tank]** landed on the Cheju Island, then those people coming to the training centre. They have 16 weeks of training, then they dispatch the frontline, they are… New recruit coming in is kind of a training centre, so I spend most of my time at the Cheju Island recruiting training centre. Canada's contribution to Korean War was quite large. Canada contributed more than 26,000 troops to Korean War and approximately 7,000 continued to serve in Korea between the army's… You know, the Ceasefire Agreement in July 1953 and August 1957.*** Canada's military contribution was the third largest contribution followed by United States. Of course USA spent… contributed the majority of manpower and war equipment, all the resources. And UK, so Canada was… United States followed by USA and United Kingdom.

So it was quite a large contribution to the Korean War. And the… The … Because of that, Canada's effort to the Korean War and also Canada's influence in the Korea War was quite large, you know, it was… throughout Korean War and also after the Ceasefire, Canada's participation to the Korean War is very significant compared to other countries. And this year marked 60th anniversary of Armistice Agreement, but, sadly, two Koreas remain divided and 38th Parallel remains one of the most militarized zone in the world. Canada's military contribution to the Korean War was most likely a key turning point in the bilateral relations between two countries — this I’d like to mention this. There were some Canadian missionaries, physicians, scientists and teachers worked in Korea in 19th century and early part of 20th century. They made a notable contribution to Korea's development. Canada's political trade and cultural ties with Korea were very little. And Canada had no specific interest in Korea, likewise Korea knew very little of Canada. However, with the participation of more then 26,000 Canadian troops in the Korean War to help liberate South Korea from North Korea's hostile aggression, this opened a door to strong tie between two countries. In the decades that followed, Korean War… South Korea, with assistance from the developed countries, including Canada, was able to rebuild its shattered economy and eventually developed into a modern, free, democratic and industrial society.

As the 13th largest economy in the world, South Korea has a prosperous economy and assume more prominent role in the global political stage. And this year also marks 50th anniversary of Canada–Korea diplomatic relations, and after Korean War and since establishment of the official diplomatic relations in 1963, Canada and Korea are… Have developed friendly and likeminded relations, and also forward-looking and strategic partnership. This year also we are celebrating Royal Assent of Bill 213… Bill S-213,**** I'm sorry, that is a Korean War Veterans Day, a national day of remembrance in honour of Korean War veterans to be celebrated every year on 27 July. We hope future younger generation revisit the history of the Korean War, and recognize and appreciate the immense sacrifice made by their parents and grandparents, and also all of the veterans of Korean War. Today as an old generation Korean Canadian and a Korean War veteran, I continue to express my respect and gratitude to all the Korean War veterans in Canada, and will never forget the 516 brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives in Korea. We thank you for your immense effort to help liberate South Korea when its existence as a sovereign nation was deeply in question. Without your heroic contribution, many of us who lived through this calamitous period of the Korean War, would probably never exist today.

^Dr. Kim is saying something in Korean here. I wasn’t able to nail down the word he is using. The closest I could come was the concept of “hyulmaeng,” which translates into “a relationship forged in blood,” but it sounds like Dr. Kim is saying “Hursa”.

* On 15 September 1950, the US Marines, army and navy personnel, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, landed at Inchon, behind enemy lines, in a daring move to cut off North Korean supply lines.

** The Landing Ship Tank transported personnel, equipment and supplies.

*** The armistice, for ceasefire, agreement ending active hostilities between South and North Korea was signed on 27 July 1953. Canadian troops withdrew from the Korean Peninsula in August 1957.

****Bill S-213, inaugurating a national day of remembrance for Korean War veterans, was given royal assent on 19 June 2013.


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