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South Korea Expedition 2004

A diary


31 August 2004 - By Capt Rob Dodds

Back row (l to r): Capt Robert Dodds (ACO, Pacific Region); Capt. Shawn Crabbe (2708
RCACC, Newcastle, NB); C/WO Randy Cunningham (2563 RCACC, Petrolia, ON); C/WO Jean-
Benoit Déry (1532 RCACC, Chicoutimi, QC); C/CWO Sheming Lau-Chapdelaine (2784 RCACC,
Ottawa, ON); C/CWO Matthew Wade (2893 RCACC, Burnaby, BC); C/CWO Leander Volz (3080
RCACC, Burns Lake, BC); C/CWO Mark MacInnis (2893 RCACC, Charlottetwon, PE); C/MWO
Melissa Pichette (2846 RCACC, Ancienne-Lorette, QC); C/CWO Eric Shalom (2806 RCACC,
Pointe-Claire, QC); Capt. Sandra Heidel, CO 3018 RCACC, Orleans, ON).

Front Row (l to r): C/Sgt Victor Shih (2824 RCACC, Brampton, ON); C/WO Landon Ryan (2964
RCACC, Naughton, ON); C/WO Sandra Procyk (2988 RCACC, Montmartre, SK); C/CWO Deborah
Coss (242 RCACC, Fredericton, NB); C/WO Alisha Ingram (2978 RCACC, Arnold’s Cove,
NL); C/CWO Matthew Dumas (2701 RCACC, Winnipeg, MB); C/WO Tim Lukaniuk (2551
RCACC, Edmonton, AB); C/CWO Amy Leblanc (1442 RCACC, River Hebert, NS).

Group at Panmunjeom site of meetings between North And South.

After an 11 hour flight we are here! We arrived around 1500 hrs Seoul time on Monday, which was 2300 hrs on Sunday back in Canada. We were met at the airport by WO Dumont, who took us in hand and got us through customs in record time. A bus just for us was waiting to take us to the Hamilton Hotel, and soon after we were off to a traditional Korean BBQ, followed by some much needed sleep.

On Tuesday we did a tour of the DMZ, which included the Joint Security Zone and the site of the Conference buildings where North and South meet. Our tour included going into the conference room, and being able to step into North Korea. Next we went to the Bridge of No Return, which is called this as this is traditionally where all exchanges of prisoners has happened. We also toured Tunnel 3, a North Korean tunnel that was discovered in the 1970s, as well as OP Dora which is the site of a crossing point for transport trucks between North and South.

All together a very eye opening day for the cadets, and one that was definitely worth seeing. We will have the cadets do up some thoughts of their own to send your way later tonight. Tomorrow we are doing a cultural tour of Seoul, which looks to be exciting.

1 September 2004 - By Capt Rob Dodds

Canadian units that served in Korea. 

Today was the cultural portion of our program. We started off at the Korean War Museum and it was unbelievable. The statues of heroic Korean soldiers were very inspiring, and Yeung-Ju Kim had arranged for a English guide. We saw many Korean War articles, stories and pictures. The UN part of the museum had both a good Canadian section and two examples of Canadian soldiers which of course were a PPCLI officer and corporal. Only problem was that they had a collection of cap badges of Canadian units that served in Korea, and some of them were mislabeled. The cadets quickly pointed this out to the museum staff, who assured us they would correct it. Also at the museum was the largest collection of vehicles and planes we had ever seen, including real T-34 tanks, H-13 helicopters, an actual B-52 bomber, along with Cobra helicopters and M-1 Abraham tanks - the list goes on! It was incredible.

Next we had lunch at the USO, which was interesting and inexpensive! We walked over to the subway, and later I will tell you about traveling with a 20 cadets on the Seoul subway. We stopped off in a fashion area for some shopping and then toured the ancient Korean palace. It was huge and definitely good to see. Next was the Korean Folk Museum, and then supper in a little Korean restaurant.

We arrived back at the hotel around 2045 hrs and sent everyone to their beds. After a long, hot, but fun day, it was time to get ready for tomorrow: Kapyong.

2 September 2004 - By Cadet Matthew Wade 2893 RCACC

Group in front of the Kapyojg monument 

Today we visited the Kap Yong-gun monument. The monument is there to commemorate the battle of Kap Yong, 23-25 April 1951. This battle was fought by the 2nd battalion PPCLI and took place on Hill 677 in the village of Kap Yong-gun. The result of the battle was that D Company had to call artillery down upon their location, in order to save themselves. Ten were killed and 23 were wounded in the battle. Due to the valiant effort of the PPCLI, the Chinese were forced to break off their attack and spare Seoul.

While we were at the monument we took part in a small ceremony. C/WO Shih and C/WO Ryan raised the Canadian flag, while C/CWO Voltz, C/MWO Pichette and C/CWO Coss laid wreaths in the name of the Army Cadet League of Canada, the Korean Veteran's Association and the Royal Canadian Army Cadets.

3 September 2004 - By Cadet Eric Shalom 2806 RCACC

Today we went to Bukhansan National Park, which is just north of Seoul. We hiked up to Backundae Peak, which has a elevation of 810 meters. From the top we could see all of Seoul and its surroundings, a truly magnificent sight.

The peak of Mt. BukhansenIt was hard work to get to the top of Backundae but what was surprising was the number of Koreans who go up there for a day hike. They are incredibly fit and it ensured we kept a good pace, so as not to block the trail, as there were so many hikers with us. We started after 0900 hrs and completed a 8 km route that took us till 1700 hrs. The trail was very steep in places, and we had to use the steel cables that were set along side to pull ourselves up. Finally we returned to where we had started, tired but happy with the sights we had seen.

4 September 2004 - By Cadet Tim Lukaniuk 2551 RCACC

Hotel Marriott 

Today we woke up at 0600 hrs and had an early breakfast in the hotel. By 0730 hrs we were on the bus and on our way to the port city of Busan. We arrived at the Hotel Marriott around 1400 hrs. The hotel was fantastic. Many of us took the opportunity to swim or use the weight room. The hotel was located on the beach and after supper we all went out to stand in the South Sea, which is part of the Pacific Ocean. We watched the drumming, fireworks and other activities on the beach.

5 September 2004 - By Cadet Amy LeBlanc 1442 RCACC

United Nations Memorial Cemetary

Today we went to the United Nations Memorial Cemetery, which is where all the fallen heroes from the Korean War are buried. The Korean government granted the land to the United Nations without charge, as a permanent tribute to all those who gave up their lives in resisting aggression in Korea and in upholding the cause of peace and freedom from 1950-53.

The cemetery contains the bodies of 2,300 soldiers from the following countries: Australia (281), Canada (378), France (44), the Netherlands(117), New Zealand (34), Norway (1), South Korea (36), South Africa (11),Turkey (462), the United Kingdom (885), and the United States of America(36), as well as unknown allied soldiers (4) and non-belligerents (11).

We had a ceremony in which the UN Ambassador to the Cemetery, Mr. Byun, spoke as well as the Canadian Military Attaché Colonel Wermenlinger. Ambassador Byun spoke about how honoured he was to be the custodian of the UN Cemetery. He said he was proud to contribute back to the veterans who had died for his country when he was a young boy of 12. He said that Canada's fallen and veterans will never be forgotten. Col Wermenlinger talked about how devastated Korea was after the war, and how much Korea had changed due to the incredible hard work of the Korean people. However, no matter how much they grow they will never forget the war. Each year 50 to 100 Canadian veterans visit Korea to pay their respects, and they are amazed with the development and hospitality of the Koreans. During the Korean War, Canada was the third largest contributor of troops, with over 27,000 serving from 1950-1953. We laid wreaths in memory of the Korean Veterans on behalf of the Army Cadet League of Canada and the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. There is a very moving statue of a Canadian soldier standing with two Korean children - this is the same statue that is in Ottawa.

After the ceremony we placed poppies on all the Canadian graves. The staff at the cemetery had already marked every Canadian grave with a Canadian flag. We had a short reception with the Ambassador and then we changed into our hiking clothes to go to Jirsan Park. We arrived at the park and campground after a three hour bus ride. After setting up our tents and eating an IMP (Individual Meal Pack) supper, it was time to sleep as the night got dark very fast.

We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow starting at 0600 hrs.

6 September 2004 - By Cadet Sandra Procyk 2988 RCACC

Jirsan Park

The Steep and Rocky trail at Jirsan ParkWe woke up early this morning and packed up our camp and had a another enjoyable IMP breakfast. We started our wonderful hike around 0830 hrs and walked for about 15-20 minutes to a Buddhist temple. We dropped our rucksacks there and we were amazed at how much we had sweated already! We stayed with the monks and toured the temple until 1000 hrs.

We started hiking up a nice path, which quickly changed into a very steep, rocky trail. The rest of our morning and afternoon were spent following the rocks up and up and up! We stopped halfway and ate our cold lunch. We were probably the stinkiest people you could find! We finally arrived at the top of the mountain around 1500 hrs where we were greeted by Korean hikers applauding for us. What a view we had. We took a nice break at the top of Nogodan Mountain. We continued on through rain, mist and clouds and up more rocks and harsh downhill to the shelter we would be staying at. Everyone's bodies were jello and the rucksacks were beyond heavy. When we got to the sign that said our shelter was 1km away, we were all so excited. It turned out though that it was the longest and hardest kilometer of our lives. We went down, down, down and came across more stairs. You can imagine that at this point our knees were shaking - we were all so exhausted.

We finally reached the shelter we would be staying at, Bamsagol.
We were all too tired to even speak. We showed some Korean hikers where we started and how heavy our rucksacks were and they laughed. We settled into our rooms, with our beds that were more like bench style bunk beds made for for 20 people. We washed up, ate some more IMPs and crawled into bed around 2100 hrs when the lights went out. What a day and what an adventure we all have to tell everyone when we get home!!

7 September 2004 - By Cadet Deborah Cross 242 RCACC

Today began at 0700 hrs. After eating our IMP breakfast we were informed that we might not be following our original planned hike for the day. A typhoon had broken out somewhere in the ocean between Japan and Korea and had caused very heavy rains and winds on the mountains. All the trails were closed so we played cards, read magazines and relaxed. Everyone enjoyed their down time as it was a good chance for us to rest before moving along the mountain.

8 September 2004 - By Cadet Matthews Dumas 2701 RCACC

Crossing a bridge at Jirsan Park

This morning we awoke at 0745 hrs for an early breakfast and to pack our kit. By about 0800 hrs the officers had decided we would hike down to a small village north of Jirsan Park. From there we would be met by a bus and return to Seoul the next day. By 0830 hrs we were on the trail. Around 1030 hrs, Captain Dodds decided it was okay to take a break by a stream. The water was very cold yet relieving to those of us who soaked our feet and dunked our heads. Others stayed up on the overlooking bridge and soaked up the picturesque view.

We carried on after that and arrived down at the village around 1200 hrs. All personnel were relieved to be finished climbing down the mountain. Once we arrived at the campsite we quickly took advantage of the location, being so close to a stream, and many of us went and soaked in the sun and water. Later we went into the village for a spending spree of non-IMP food! The evening quickly came and we were in our tents by 2130 hrs. All in all today was a high paced, physically demanding, yet enjoyable!

9 September 2004 - By Cadet Melissa Pichette 2846 RCACC

Birds eye view of Seoul 

We got up at 0800 hrs for breakfast. Then we packed up our kit because we would be returning to Seoul today at 1200 hrs. At 1000 hrs we had a debriefing with the officers about the expedition. We talked about what we liked, and what could be improved for next time. The bus arrived at 1130 hrs. We stopped for lunch at a highway rest stop that had many different little Korean food restaurants. We arrived back at Seoul at 1700 hrs, as our bus driver took us to the wrong hotel at first. After we all cleaned up we went to a Japanese restaurant for Sushi. We had many different types of sushi and then we went to a Karaoke place to sing. We had a room all to ourselves and everybody had a great time. It was very funny. Then off for a good night sleep.

10 September 2004 - By Cadet Leander Voltz 3080 RCACC

As with our flight to Korea, today was very long day! We got up at 0800 hrs and began our day with breakfast, and it was followed with a subway ride to the Canadian Embassy where we all met Ambassador Denis Comeau. Gifts were exchanged and a short tour was given of the embassy. We then had some time for some last minute shopping and lunch before we checked out. 1330 hrs rolled around and we loaded up and took off for the airport. We passed through customs with no major problems and our plane took off at 1700 hrs. It was a nine and a half hour flight back to Canada, which was very boring despite the three movies. With a big sigh of relief our plane landed in Vancouver around 1100 hrs the same day. That’s right, we went back in time!

We arrived back at the Comfort Inn where we had started nearly two weeks ago, and handed back all our equipment. Lunch was pizza! We all had a nap for a couple of hours and then went for dinner at an awesome steak house across the street from our hotel. The rest of the evening was spent packing to go home, and exchanging emails, and saying our goodbyes.

11 September 2004 - By Captain Rob Dodds

Group Picture at the War Memorial Museum

Well it is over. All cadets and officers were on their various planes back to their homes today, with the last one getting home late tonight. Saying goodbye to everyone was a mixture of sadness and happiness. Sadness as we were saying goodbye to people that we had been together with for the last two weeks doing a adventure that none of us will forget, and yet happy to return home to our families and friends.

This expedition has been more then just a trip to a foreign country. It has been a pilgrimage to a place where many Canadians died, yet very few today know or remember the sacrifices. The sights that we
saw; the Demilitarized Zone at Panmunjom, Kapayong where the 2nd battalion of PPCLI fought, and especially the United Nations Cemetery with its rows of grave stones with Canadian flags, are images that none of us will forget.

To me, the trip was especially meaningful, as I have served with 2 PPCLI and grown up in the Regiment on the stories and deeds of 2 PPCLI in Korea. I am very thankful that the Army Cadet League, the Korean Veterans’ of Canada, and the Royal Canadian Army Cadets were able to sponsor us on this expedition.

All the cadets have spoken of what they saw, and all of them have said over and over how much they enjoyed themselves and how glad they were that they came. I hope that when they are back at their cadet corps they will be able to speak to Korean veterans of what they saw and did, and be able to share with them their knowledge of Korea. Maybe in some small way, we have experienced a little of what it was like to be on those hills in Korea, so long ago. This Remembrance Day, when the minute of silence is honoured, we will bow our heads and remember.


(F. Arseneault coll.)