PERSONAL ACCOUNT/PHOTO ESSAY
The Korean War which started 71 years ago on June 25th, 1950, had involved 21 countries under the United Nations peacekeeping command signifies the world’s first attempt at collective security under the UN system. Ethiopia joined the peacekeeping mission under the UN command and sent the first unit of the imperial army battalion to South Korea which arrived in May 1951 and engaged in combat 238 times. Since the wartime, the two countries share a very strong friendship and there are special places dedicated to wartime participation in Chuncheon city– a monument, a memorial hall for veterans and a cultural center called Ethiopia Bet. The city is located about an hour and a half by subway from Seoul.
As an Ethiopian who lives in Korea it’s always interesting visiting the city where the link is stronger in the Far East and the whole city itself is a wonderful cultural space and a unification hub city dreaming of a future unified Korea.
To commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Korean War on June 25, 2021, we had a group trip to Chuncheon city on the Cultural Exploration Program for descendants of Ethiopian war veterans organized by a social enterprise company called Shareplus Co., LTD in collaboration with the city administration. The social company is located in Dongjak-district, in Seoul city, which runs a program called “Finding the footprints of Ethiopian Veterans in Korea” initiating various social programs. During the city hall visit, we were met by the city’s mayor Lee Jae-su, who offered a welcoming speech and expressed gratitude for the veterans who sacrificed a lot for Korean peace during war times and he reminded the visitors that Chuncheon also has a sister-ship agreement with Addis Ababa city for citizen diplomacy in 2004.
The city also has an abundance of natural scenery, cultural festivals and manmade wonders alongside popular cuisine. Chuncheon’s signature food is Dalk-galbi, which we enjoyed for lunch and which had a taste quite similar to Ethiopian chicken stew dish.
During the visit, having a quiet, peaceful moment at the literary village of Kim You Jeong was so refreshing and was a bit like an experience in time travel to the past. An online travel booking website Trazy.com exactly described the area, writing that the literary village was named after the famous novelist Kim You-jeong who was recognized as the icon of Chuncheon. The House of Literature is a restoration of his birth house and there are efforts being made to turn the whole village into a literature village to commemorate him.
The warmest season of the year is already here with strong sunshine, therefore we needed a coffee break time with a unique setup. The organizers planned a coffee tasting program at COBEANS Coffee factory, which directly imports coffee from Ethiopia. The company president Jay Y Kim gave an interesting lecture on the coffee plantation and the long process of coffee making it conducts.
The final visit to the Soyanggang Skywalk was spectacular! The skywalk is the longest in Korea (174m), space where you can relax and watch Uiamho Lake flowing gently under the transparent glass floor.