Manila: A South Korean military contingent consisting of engineers, doctors and technical specialists arrived in Cebu on Saturday to take part in relief and recovery operations in Central Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
The troops, 300 of whom flew in aboard a 747 Korean Air flight and 229 via a South Korean naval vessel, were accompanied by Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Na Si Lee-hyok.
In a statement, Lee said the arrival of the South Korean soldiers are part of humanitarian assistance provided by his government to victims of Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda).
“After having committed to providing humanitarian assistance worth $5 million (Dh18 million) to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda and, recently, $20 million for reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in the affected provinces, the government of the Republic of Korea has decided to send around 540 members of the Korean Armed Forces, composed of medical, recovery, as well as engineering teams, to assist in relief and recovery operations,” he said.
The sending of troops by South Korea would be its second largest overseas deployment since joining the United Nations in 1991.
Lee said the presence of the South Korean military contingent in Central Philippines was both a gesture of goodwill and in response to a similar benevolence extended by the government in Manila to Seoul during a difficult period.
“Koreans have never forgotten the role that the Philippines played during the Korean War. The effort of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (Peftok) was not in vain, for Korea was able to rise from the ashes and achieve a remarkable economic development. Now that the Filipinos are in dire need, many Koreans see an opportunity to repay the sacrifice, bravery and heroism of the 7,420 Filipino soldiers who fought under the United Nations Command,” he said.
The presence of the Peftok in Korea during the early 1950s, was in response to the UN’s call for assistance to enforce a UN mandate to help dislodge North Korean and Chinese forces from a demilitarised zone called the 38th parallel.
Ambassador Lee added that South Korea is optimistic that the Philippines and its people will quickly recover from its difficulties with the help of the international community.
“This movement of troops reflects the overwhelming sentiments of the Korean nation and people in their desire to help the typhoon survivors as they face the daunting task of rebuilding their community and their lives — a collective aspiration that has not lost intensity. Many Korean NGOs and civil societies nationwide continue to actively participate in donation campaigns to maintain assistance to the Filipinos,” Lee said.
The members of the South Korean contingent will be deployed in the Leyte towns of Palo, Tulusan, Tan-awan as well as some portions of Samar.
The troops will stay in the Visayas period of six months.
Haiyan, considered as one of the most powerful weather disturbance to hit the planet for the year, struck the Philippines on November 8 leaving 6,111 people killed, 28,626 injured and 1,779 missing.