New Zealand soldier tells of
HISTORIC LAND OF
The call for volunteers to serve in Korea met with a remarkably wide response from the Maori people. Of those accepted as volunteers since the war began 15 per cent. have been Maoris.
How did they find Korea? From history books one remembers Korea as the country of learning where the polite form of address is not “mister” but “scholar”—not Mr Han but Scholar Han, even though Han may not know the alphabet; the country which invented the printing press, and taught the Japanese their wonderful arts and crafts, many centuries ago.
With this view Mr Arthur Kahui, who returned to Wellington last year after seventeen months with K-force, does not agree at all. Telling Te Ao Hou some of his experiences, he said Korea to him was first and foremost a land of dust, cold and dirt.
—Did you make friends among the Koreans?
—We got to know quite a number of them.
We found the younger ones much easier to talk to.
—How did you manage to talk to them at all?
—Mostly in Japanese. Many of the Koreans know Japanese through the Japanese occupation.
One feels the ancestors of these young Maori warriors would never have guessed any of their blood would cross the ocean to talk Japanese
to the Koreans. It was, of course, not quite so odd as it sounded. Many of the K-force volunteers had been in the occupation force in Japan just after the war. This had not only given them a taste of Asian lands, but also a knowledge of the Japanese language.
In Japan, Mr Kahui said, shops were more modern than in New Zealand; one department store even kept a zoo to attract children. While mum did the shopping, the little ones would watch the elephant.
But there is nothing like that in Korea. The Koreans are behind in many things, but yet, he said, in others they are far ahead of us. Mr Kahui particularly admired the heating system in the houses. Especially during the first winter, he had often been billeted in Korean homes. The floors are constructed of thin flagstones, resting on flues extending over the entire length of the house. The flues run off from the fire-
1 “My deah! Until you've seen Seoul you know nought about building restrictions.”
Cartoon by Sgt. Roy Ryan.
2 This old grand piano being played by L/Bdr. T. Roa, Te Awamutu, was found in a wrecked condition in a bombed out Seoul building, but with parts of another wrecked piano he went to work and reconditioned it. Although there are one or two notes off key it has been a valuable asset to 161 Battery, particularly when they are camped in the one position for a number of weeks.
3 “Come and get it.” A Korean mess boy, Kim, rings the bell for dinner at Regt. H.Q., 16th N.Z. Field Regt.
place in the kitchen, and end up at the chimney at the far end of the building. There are usually three parallel flues. The heat circulates from the fireplace, through the flues, and heats the rooms through the floors. The flagstones are covered with plastered mud and grass mats for sleeping on. The bigger houses are L-shaped; sometimes there are two heating systems starting at each end of the L.
Mr Kahui told how, the first night when the met with this heating system—a very cold night it was—the men threw some big logs on the fire. Soon the floor was so hot they could not sleep on it. The stove is meant to be fed on little pieces of fuel at a time, to maintain the heat needed. In a Korean home, he said, the women-take turns at feeding the fire with the little pieces during the night.
Army Life in Korea
We did not talk much about the actual fighting. Mr Kahui found the Chinese fanatical, are very similar to the Japanese in their fighting habits. When making a charge, they called out ‘Banzai’, which is a Japanese word. He was struck by the part women took in the Chinese army; one charge, he said, was led by a woman who kept on shouting at the men behind her until she was shot, just before reaching the United Nations lines.
Mr Kahui had very high praise for the Indian ambulance unit, which he said was absolutely spotless, extremely well equipped and wonderfully obliging. He made several friends among the Indian ambulance men. Together with a Canadian unit, the Indians provide the ambulance service for the British Commonwealth Division.
What would be the future of Korea? Mr Kahui did not think the Koreans would altogether the worse off for the war. He thought the war had brought very important road improvements, which would otherwise have taken a very long time to put in. Yet the destruction was of course very great, and Korea to whom he had spoken told him it would take as long as twenty years to repair all the damage.
Korea can look back on a glorious past. Koreans used to be famous for making finely decorated iron caskets, inlaid ware, lacquer work, bowls, vases, wooden money chests and brass ware. One of their most famous article was paper made of the inner bark of the mulberry tree, much sought after in China and Japan.
In war, Koreans were above all inventive. The most famous war in their history was the great fight with Japan at the end of the sixteenth century. The Japanese then invaded Korea with big forces, but were beaten off after a ruinous war. It was then that the Korea developed an explosive shell–the first in the world–which the Japanese were unable imitate. They regarded it as supernatural, and it caused far more havoc through the soldiers.
HISTORIC KOREA—Continued from page 30
fear of it than the actual casualties. Equally famous was a large round battleship, known as the Giant Tortoise. This wonderful weapon, which won two naval battles, was covered all over with iron plates and spikes, to prevent boarding. Its prow, shaped like a turtle's beak, was most sinister and fearsome; not only was it used as a ram, but it also emitted fiery arrows, fired by bowmen within.
The Koreans, however, had more taste for scholarship than war. They invented moveable metal type, that is, modern printing, before anyone else in the world. Popular education was particularly well developed. Higher schooling was in six ‘liberal arts’, which consisted of: ceremonial, music, archery, charioteering, literature and arithmetic.
Although Korea repelled the Japanese in 1599, she never recovered from the destruction of that war, and many of her skilled tradesmen were taken as prisoners to Japan, transferring Korea's traditional craftsmanship to that country. In the nineteenth century, when Western powers started to become interested in Korea, decline had already set in. The Koreans refused to come to any terms with the West, and did not even allow European ships to land. They wished to keep foreign greed far from their shores. Japan, however, was able to intrigue her way slowly into Korea, by pretending to
protect the Koreans from Chinese imperialism. She obtained commercial privileges, became Korea's financier, took sides in Korean internal disputes; its “paramount political, military and economic interests in Korea” were recognised by the European nations, and in 1910 Japan annexed Korea.
Japan modernised the country, put up fine buildings and such railways, roads and harbours as there were when the present Korean war began. Land was developed, rice production was raised enormously. But the Koreans do not seem to have benefited a great deal from this development. The Japanese permitted no higher education in Korea; the more skilled and responsible work was done by Japanese, who flooded the country in great numbers.
So the Second World War came, and finally the liberation of Korea from the Japanese. Following the sudden attack in June, 1950, by North Korean Communist forces on the Republic of Korea, United Nations forces were sent to defend South Korea. After two and a half years there is no sign yet of a satisfactory solution being found for the Korean problem, and the time has not yet come to think about the future of the Korean people.