Ethiopia Addis Ababa (4)

>> Yes, my name is Colonel Melese Tessema. I'm the Korean War Veterans Association president presently. I've been to Korea during the war, the second battalion, and the journey was very long. From Addis to Djibouti, we took train, and from there we back on the ship, American military ship named [INAUDIBLE]. Then we arrived through Pusan port. Then your previous president, Syngman Rhee, received us, and from there we went to training center. We took some training and studied weapons, and we stayed there for about 1 month under training, and we then adapted the climate, and we had been through [INAUDIBLE] with the people at that time. When I arrived to Pusan, it was my first [INAUDIBLE]. I was very sad to see demolished buildings, and I saw many children crying on the street. They lost their families, and that was very sad to see that, so we stayed in that training center for about a month. Then we went to the front line, and we had been deployed to the battlefield. We hadn't started our mission. Realizing all the war is war, there's no mercy for war. We took part, and we participated, and we joined the United Nations forces there, and we received many operation orders, so we had been fighting as a fighting patrol and ambush patrol. That was very tiresome, so then ... But the most surprising thing that ... which made our participation in the war, which made it special that Ethiopian soldiers never gave up. No war prisoner took, and we have never left behind our injured soldiers or killed in action, so that was very special going for us, so we stayed there for about a year, and then we had been replaced by another battalion, and we returned home. When we went to Korea, we received a banner, a special banner of the old leader. We received that banner from His Imperial Majesty. The troop which has been to Korea is a special bodyguard, the elite force, so that's why maybe we don't give up, and we have never lost even the front line. We never lost the ground, and we have been successfully captured our objectives very proudly, so now the time is so long. Everything is forgotten. To me, today, what surprised me, to see the Koreans to visit us after 65 years, that was very special. I consider that the Koreans has given a special consideration to our battalion and to our war veterans, and that makes me proud, and, also, we have been to Korea as I told you at the beginning. It was barren and demolished buildings. We see the children crying at the street. That Korea was a very poor country. This is the true story. I can tell you now. At that time, Ethiopia was better than Korea, but after 65 years, Korea is now among the very civilized country, and I think it is 10th or 11th developed countries now. Now that makes us proud. Not the Koreans proud of that because it is we, the Ethiopians who proud more than Koreans because we gave our lives not for nothing. Now at this time, when we see Korea developed, it is we who can be happy. Yeah, but you tell us still to all Koreans that we are more happy than the other Koreans. >> Can you explain a little about the battalions? Why were they called the Kagnew Battalion? How many were there? How many were in each battalion? How many in total went to the war? I know even after the armistice, you stayed. Ethiopians, the battalion stayed, like, for example, Colonel [INAUDIBLE]. He went after the armistice. You know? So can you explain a little bit about this? >> Yeah, although the Ethiopian forces had been to the battlefield about 600, more than 600, 600-something, and among this, 122 died. No prisoner at all, no lost in action, and that makes the Ethiopian force special, and as I told you, this is the elite force. We were very much trained here in Ethiopian also if we're going to Korea, so that's why our participation is very special that time. When we arrived there, we were very young officers. We went to Korea soon after our graduation. We graduated April 11th. We left for Korea April 12th or 13th like that. At that time, we were about ... Our age was between 21 and 22. I myself had been to Korea when I was 22. You can see that is my picture in the museum. When you see I'm very tiny, that's your story. >> You were all kids, and did you all volunteer? Or were you drafted? >> I beg your pardon? >> Did you volunteer? Or who went? >> Yes, yes, I can say, "Volunteer," yes. All of them are volunteer because it was very sad. The Ethiopian situation almost is the same like Korea. At the beginning of the Second World War, we had been invaded by Italians, so at that time, when we appealed to, not to the United Nations but [INAUDIBLE] organization, so at that time, His Imperial Majesty appealed to that organization. They did not give attention to his appeal, so we had been invaded by Italians, so when we had been asked or ordered to go to Korea because we are volunteer because our situation was the same like Korea, so we give priority to save lives of the illegally invaded countries and that we save lives of the oppressed people. >> Mm-hmm, so a total of I believe 6,000 Ethiopians served from 1951 to 1964? Can you tell us a little bit about that battalion that stayed after the armistice? >> After? >> The armistice? >> After armistice, yeah. After armistice, we thought we were returning home, and we started our usual work, so we returned to our unit after armistice, so in between, as you read the story, our country was overthrown. The emperor, Haile Selassie, and the communist regime was adopted, but that communist regime, we were hated by that regime because we had been fighting with the communist invaders so this communist regime, so then they hate us. They don't like to see even our face. We existed only that we were Ethiopians, so if we had been foreigners, we would have been ordered out from Ethiopia by force. >> Yeah, so tell us about the story of the fence. >> Oh? >> With Grandpa Melese and the Korean soldier. >> Melese? >> And the Korean soldier. >> Uh-huh. >> Tell us that story. >> Well, really, accidentally, I had been alongside with the Korean outpost. I was from the right side, and from the left side was the Korean outpost. They were brave fighters, really. Even I admired them. They were brave fighters. They were never afraid. They would never retreat, and I saw them, and we were very close to each other, so I saw them. They were very brave fighters because they are defending their country. They are giving their life for their country. Therefore they are giving their life for their independence. Therefore maybe that's why they are best fighters. >> Oh, no, tell us the story about the fence. >> The fence? >> Yes. >> What fence? >> The blood brother, the blood. >> Okay, you know what happened there once upon a time? The Korean service team came at the front line to strengthen the front line, their defense line, so they were fencing with barbed wire to strengthen the front line, so at that time, they were fencing during the night, so at that time, the enemy heard the noise when they hammer. Then they fired the mortar fire, and that was the fire exploded among the Korean service team, and this explosion killed some of the Koreans and injured some of them also. The injured ones were shouting, asking for help, so the Ethiopian soldiers went out from their defensive position, and they tried to save the lives of those injured or before dying to give aid, so that time, it was only the Ethiopian soldiers went out from their defensive position from the bunker and tried to save the lives of the injured Koreans, so the second round came and exploded, but one of the Ethiopian soldiers, who carried the Korean, the wounded Korean, the second explosion killed both grasping each other, and they died together, and probably they were also graved in the same coffin, maybe, yeah. >> Mm-hmm. >> This is now we ... Our relationship between Korea and Ethiopia is not like others. We have a blood relationship. We use this word. Still we use, and even we use forever. >> Mm-hmm, yeah, so that's why you're my grandpa. >> Mm-hmm. >> Yes, thank you so much. >> That's the story of our ... His name is Melese. He's bearing my name. >> We saw. We saw the grave, yes. >> Melese [INAUDIBLE]. >> What was the name of the Korean? >> Really, it is difficult for me, and even now I cannot call the name of the Korean since it's too difficult. >> Yes, and you returned, you said, to Korea, so can we talk about your role as the president of the Veterans Association? What do you do? How often do the veterans meet? When was the memorial built? You know? Can you share? >> It's not clear for me, your question. >> You're the president of association. >> Yes. >> What does the association do? How many members are there? How often do you meet? You know? There's a memorial. Right? And the park, when was it built? I think the Korean government donated. Right? So can you share with us that information? >> You know, the story of our association, our association has been established in 1931, I think. >> '31? After the war. >> After the war, yes. It is after the war, yeah. >> 1961. >> Our association established after the war ... >> Yeah, so '60. >> ... because during the communist regime, we cannot establish, and we are never established because we have been refused to establish our association, so after this government came, they permitted us to establish our association. >> What year? >> Well, about 24, 25 years ago, we have established our association, and now I'm the second president of our association. Since I have been elected, it is now 7 years since since my election, so within 7 years, you know, our association is built just to help each other and to maintain the story of the Korean War and the relation between Korea and Ethiopia, so now we are doing that. Within this period, we received ... After we had established our association, many Koreans came and visited us. During this time, they gave us a lot of help because during the communist regime, we could not do anything. We were very poor, as you know, and even not only us, but also Ethiopia due to drought, we became very poor and were in very catastrophic condition. So even though it is worse for Korean veterans, so all the country was under poverty at that time, so they were better than ever, so now since we established our association, as you know, as you have seen also, it is [INAUDIBLE] has been controlled, Ethiopia. The first mayor, he went to Korea for visit, has been to Chuncheon. You know the story why this monument, the same monument is in Chuncheon? Because Chuncheon, it was our battalion who controlled that place the first time because the place was very strongly defended by the communists. It was Kagnew Battalion who controlled that area. >> Mm-hmm. >> So then the Chuncheon people gave this importance to Kagnew, and they built that monument there. >> Mm-hmm. >> So the same kind of monument is built here. >> Mm-hmm. >> Now as I told you, the first mayor of the [INAUDIBLE] went to Chuncheon and had seen that monument, and he signed a sisterhood agreement and came and gave this place to Korean veterans as a memorial. Then this monument is built by the contribution of Korean, the Chuncheon people and the Korean government. Since then, we have been celebrating our memorial days every year in April because we left Ethiopia for Korea in April, so we are choosing this month as a memorial. >> Mm-hmm. >> Since then, we have been celebrating every year and this year also. I don't know, maybe 21st or 22nd April, we are going to celebrate. >> What do you do to celebrate? What happens? >> Well, we invite guests, and we make a speech. We lay wreaths in the monument, and we give also luncheon. All this are by sponsorship. We can't get it also, and mostly the Korean embassy help us. >> Oh, today we saw Efrim and the descendants of Korean War veterans. Now they volunteer for the association. You know? Sons and daughter, they work for the association, so can you explain about why they started to get involved and what you hope from them? >> Well, from the descendants, you mean? >> Mm-hmm. >> Well, of course, we are all old now. Maybe we are passing now. You know? So the story should not be passed, so this story should be kept by the following regimes, so we pass this story to the present descendants, and they also pass to their children, so the story will remain as a story of relation between Korea and Ethiopia will reign for indefinite time. >> Mm-hmm. >> So that's the amend purpose. >> Mm-hmm, how ... >> We want to not do the ... The story should not be forgotten. >> How many veterans are living right now? And how many maybe widows and descendants are part of the association? >> Presently? >> Mm-hmm. >> Well, it's difficult to know the number of the children and the widows, difficult to know that, but we definitely know. We can precisely tell the number of veterans who are alive, but maybe the widows ... It was just guessing about 1,000, about 1,000 widows maybe present, but the children are ... Soldiers always like to have many children. >> Mm-hmm. >> You know? So therefore it is difficult one to tell you exactly the number of the descendants. >> But they are welcome to participate in the association? >> Mm-hmm, well, I have been trying to find many times before the present ones. I tried about three times. Now the last ones, they are successful, and they are very volunteer. >> Mm-hmm. >> They don't ask for any payment. They work voluntarily. You know, they are young people. They have better ideas than us. They have better physical condition, so they are now trying to improve the association's memorial. >> Yeah, so I met three of them today, and we had lunch together. >> Yes. >> We had a lot of fun. It was very good to see young people respect the memory and honor your contributions and to carry the legacy because, like you said, it's important that they carry it. They pass it onto their children indefinitely because many other associations around the world, that's their number-one concern. What do we do when the veterans are no longer there? What happens? And for Ethiopian Korean War veterans to have already descendants part of the association, it's very good. You know? >> Yeah, thanks to the Korean people and the government of Korea and so many [INAUDIBLE] of Korean such like [INAUDIBLE]. They give scholarship privilege to many descendants, and the Korean government also is giving the patient otherwise [INAUDIBLE] entrance. Now those who are privileged of getting the free scholarship, and these descendants are from among them, so they do understand our problem and are 100 percent volunteer to assist us. Now we also rely on them now. >> Mm-hmm, that's wonderful, and last word, lastly, you visited Korea. When was the last time you went to Korea? >> Myself? >> Mm-hmm. >> I think about a year ago. >> One year ago? >> One year ago, yeah. >> Oh. >> What is that year? >> 2016? >> Yeah. >> Oh. >> I have been many times, several times to Korea, about five, six times ... >> Mm-hmm. >> ... after the war. >> And I'm sure they greet you with so much thanks and love and right? They treat you very well, I hope. Right? >> Yeah. >> And when you go, do you go with other Ethiopian veterans? >> Oh, yes, even, yes, yes, I go always with the other veterans. >> Mm-hmm. >> And even I am invited. They invited me with my children. Two of my children have been there, and my two grandchildren also have been to Korea. >> Oh, wow, and that's ... >> And the one also is still there now. She left us recently for a scholarship. You know Korea? >> Mm-hmm. >> And you know the universities of Korea? Hankuk University, do you know? >> Mm-hmm. >> Yes, my granddaughter is there now. >> Hmm. >> She attended about 8 months ago. She's still there. I received a call this morning from her. >> Hmm, oh, one last story, why is your nickname Kim? >> Pardon me? >> Your nickname? >> Okay, my nickname, you know, during the war, there was a famous fighter. Marshall Kim was a famous fighter, so I also ... When I was in Korea, I had been several times to patrol action, and I made many actions. I engaged many times by communist forces, so then my course of it, they gave me this name. They gave me his name to call me as a nickname, Marshall Kim. >> Marshall Kim. >> Yeah because he was very brave fighter. >> Mm-hmm. >> And they called me also a very brave fighter, so we have to give this name to him. >> Mm-hmm. >> That's why they called me Marshall Kim. >> Mm-hmm, well, like you said, Koreans and Ethiopians are blood brothers, and I'm very glad to be here to meet my grandpa and my Ethiopian brothers, so thank you so much for your time, and thank you so much for your contribution. >> I thank you also. Thank you very much. >> Mm-hmm. >> [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] >> [FOREIGN LANGUAGE]