THE KOREAN WAR REMEMBERED

A MEMORIAL TO AN EPIC CONFLICT

Just five years after the Second World War, Australia was “called to arms” to fight in a foreign country, Korea. The Australian Government under Prime Minister Robert Menzies immediately offered military assistance to the United Nations Security Council. From 25 June 1950 until 27 July 1953, 17,000 Australians in the Army, Navy and Air Force served as part of the United Nations (UN) multinational force, defending South Korea from the Communist forces of North Korea.

As we approach the 70th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice on 27 July 2023, it is important that Western Australia has an appropriate memorial dedicated to commemorating and reflecting on the service of those who fought in Korea and honouring those who lost their lives. It has been very heartening to see this recognition through the work of the Perth Korean War Memorial Committee, bipartisan political support, the unanimous support of the RSLWA Board, the Perth Korean Community, and the Vietnam Veterans Association of WA.

In 2021 Australia and the Republic of Korea celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations. The two countries enjoy a strong bilateral relationship underpinned by trade, shared regional strategic interests, and people-to-people links. These strong ties also exist as a result of a bond which was created during the Korean War.

In Western Australia the Korean community has embraced the strong relationship between Australia and Korea and through its own Korean Veterans Association, they have joined with service organisations such as the West Australian Branch of the Royal Australian Regiment Association and the RSL Highgate Sub-Branch in delivering and assisting to promote and nurture the wholehearted support of Australian veterans of the Korean War and their families.

The campaign for the establishment of a Korean War Memorial at Kings Park began with a small working group created in 2018 and with bi-partisan support from the Hon Peter Tinley AM MLA and the Hon Tjorn Sibma MLC. In March 2019, then Korean Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Mr Baeksoon Lee was guest speaker at Highgate RSL Sub-Branch and gave a presentation about Australia’s contribution to the Korean War. It became clear that a formal committee would need to be established to take the project forward and gain the necessary approvals.

The Honorary Consul for the Republic of Korea, Fay Duda set up a meeting with Bill Munro (RSL Highgate), Peter Heeney (RAR Association), Dr James Lee (Korean Community) and Oliver Lovelle (RSLWA Life Member). The outcome of this meeting was the creation of the Perth Korean War Memorial Committee Inc. The committee comprises Australian veterans from other conflicts, members of the Korean community and the Honorary Consul.

The Perth Korean War Memorial Committee worked in close consultation with the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (BGPA) to establish a Korean War Memorial at the Tobruk Memorial Precinct located at the intersection of Saw Avenue and May Drive in Kings Park. In July 2020 a joint announcement was released by Ministers, Hon Peter Tinley AM MLA, and Hon Stephen Dawson MLC that the State Government would support the building of a memorial at Kings Park to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in 2023.

There has been significant progress since that announcement with the Korean War Memorial design being approved by the BGPA Board. In 2021 the WA State Government Minister for Veterans, the Hon Paul Papalia CSC MLA announced approval of a grant of $150,000 from the Anzac Trust and in 2022, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash confirmed a DVA Saluting Their Service Grant of $120,000 with a further $30,000 confirmed by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, the Hon Matt Keogh MP in May 2023. Some initial funding was provided by Santos Ltd, by members of Perth’s Korean community and by Australian veterans of the Korean War, as well as personal donations. More recently funding support has been received from a number of Korean companies.

The support for a Korean War Memorial from the Republic of Korea’s Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs and then Ambassador to Australia, H.E. Kang Jeong-Sik, was extended to honour the commitment of Australian servicemen and women in Korea and who are never forgotten. Upon confirmation of State and Federal Government grants, the Republic of Korea invited the Committee to make an application for matching funding.

On 9 February 2023, H.E. Kim Wan-joong, the new Ambassador for the Republic of Korea to Australia, announced a donation of KRW 433,000,000; approximately AUD 500,000 in support of the Perth Korean War Memorial Project. Ambassador Kim expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Perth Korean War Memorial Committee Inc. He emphasized that the memorial will be an important and meaningful symbol that freedom ultimately prevails and that the ultimate sacrifice by young Australian men and women in uniform during the Korean War will never be forgotten (see SBS links to the announcement in English and Korean language below).

The County of Gapyeong in South Korea donated and shipped the 10 tonne centrepiece stone and plinth for the memorial. This was stored with the assistance of Peter Henderson, Donnybrook Sandstone Supplies and Perth Korean-born sculptor Jina Lee. The stone is from the area where the Battle of Kapyong took place in 1951. It was a critical year for the Korean War and the men of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment showed great courage in this significant battle. Michael Kelly, an historian at the Australian War Memorial wrote an article for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2016 and said that: “The Battle of Kapyong turned the tide of the Korean War, the legacies of which can still be felt today”.

Committee representatives continued to work with the memorial landscape architects Plan E and BGPA to finalise the design for a public amenity component (Stage 2 of the memorial project) which will be in the area opposite the Tobruk Precinct. Additionally, the Perth Korean War Memorial Project includes a footpath which separates the bushland from the grassed area of the Tobruk Precinct and will extend to the amphitheatre area once complete. Further information about the community gathering and performance space will be announced following the unveiling of the memorial on 27 July 2023.

Of the 340 Australians who gave their lives, many are buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery at Busan, some remain unrecovered inside the demilitarised zone. According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 1,673 people born in WA served in the conflict, 34 of whom were killed of which six classified as missing in action.

Kings Park is a fit and proper place for a memorial to be erected to honour veterans of the Korean War, to commemorate those who served and those who lost their lives and to provide a quiet contemplative space for their families.

About The Perth Korean War Memorial Committee

Committee Members

Position Name
Chairman Bill Munro
Honorary Co-Chairman: Jin Kil Lee
Deputy Chair: Fay Duda
Secretary: Maj Peter Heeney (Retd)
Treasurer: Dr James Lee
Committee: Brig Duncan Warren AM RFD (Retd)
Cdre Brett Dowsing JP RAN (Retd)
Clive Robartson AM
Jack Hwang
Maj Nigel Earnshaw (Retd)
Auditors: RAAFA WA

Our Incorporation

PERTH KOREAN WAR MEMORIAL COMMITTEE INCORPORATED is listed by name as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) from 01 Jul 2021 to 30 Jun 2024. It is covered by Item 1 of the table in section 30-15 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

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The Perth Korean War Memorial Committee acknowledges and expresses its appreciation to all its donors.
We thank you for your contribution to the construction of the Perth Korean War Memorial.