Locator map of Oecussi-Ambeno district, East Timor
Locator map of Oecussi-Ambeno district, East Timor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a recent blog, I addressed the question many people ask me: why Korea?

On reflection, it is largely through a series of first encounters. The first of these was at the Royal Military College, Duntroon where I was assigned to ‘Kapyong Company’.

The second encounter came almost 15 years after Kapyong Company. The second encounter was when  I was deployed to East Timor with the Australian Army. A battalion of Korean soldiers were sent to the enclave province of Oecussi as part of the United Nations peacekeeping Force.

We would see the Koreans in Dili occasionally, but in all honesty had very little to do with them. The cultural differences were so great, just between the food and the language alone, that there was little bringing us together. We knew they were there, but we were more preoccupied with other people at the time. In fact, that is not too dissimilar as to how things are now in some respects between Korea and Australia: close, yet worlds apart.

That all changed after five Korean soldiers drowned when the vehicle they were driving in was washed away when crossing a flooded river. It was an occasion of much sadness for the United Nations Peacekeeping Force. For a brief moment, they were on the radar.

I returned back to Australia the week after the drownings occurred. A sad story, and the thoughts of their loved ones back in Korea grieving for their loss is something I have reflected on from time to time.

I wrote this article published in The Korea Times last week to highlight the incident.

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