Last week, on the Thames embankment in London, I was honoured to attend the unveiling of a Memorial to the sacrifices made by British troops in the Korean War of 1950 to 1953. The Memorial itself, a magnificent bronze statue by sculptor Philip Jackson, is of a British soldier standing with head bowed, and with Korea’s rugged mountains carved into a stone obelisk behind.
The Memorial was a generous gift from the Republic of Korea, to recognise the brave contribution made by 81,084 British servicemen and women – and the ultimate sacrifice of the 1,106 of these who lost their lives – in the first ever United Nations action against aggression. In a moving service, we remembered what this campaign had achieved in its defence of freedom and democracy. Today, of course, the Republic of Korea (RoK) is an open and prosperous member of the international community, and a key partner to the UK. While we have had diplomatic relations with the Korean Peninsula for more than 130 years, the truly profound friendship which we now enjoy with the RoK, exemplified by the visit of President Park last year, was born out of our shared sacrifices just over 60 years ago.