|President Lee Myung-bak meets with workers|
In May, 1952, B Company of the 1st Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment received mysterious secret orders to entrain for points south. They got onto a rattler on the famous Pusan Express line, where they joined up with a British unit, B Company of the King’s Own Shropshire Light Infantry. There were rumours of a secret commando strike.
They would soon learn they had been assigned to the rioting prisoner of war camp on Koje Island where North Korean prisoners had recently captured the American general commandant, murdered several of the prisoners thought to be disloyal to the communist cause, and were generally playing havoc.
The deployment of Commonwealth forces to Koje would – by a stretch – perhaps save my life many months later.
One night on the Hook position in November, I was whispering to my friend Vern Lacy. We had been doing a lot of night patrolling, things were hot and we were both nodding off on our feet.
There was a quick rustle right overhead. A mortar bomb was coming in on us. Neither of us had a chance to even duck.
There was a solid thud about 50 feet behind us. Where we stood the reverse slope was virtually flat, so if the large caliber bomb had exploded we would have been raked with blast and shrapnel.
Lacy forced a chuckle. “Heh, heh… Dud.”
But it wasn’t. We watched white, ghostly things start to creep toward us.
“Leaflet bomb,” Lacy whispered, correcting himself.
The next morning I picked up several of the leaflets that had drifted into the trench. They depicted a British soldier at Koje with bayonet fixed on his rifle. The caption said something like, “Uh, er, yes I had to bayonet a few of the prisoners of war.” It was very unimpressive, except that if it had dropped on us in place of a high explosive bomb, the propaganda had probably saved our lives.
It’s not such a stretch. You would have to be there to appreciate it. Neither of us saved any of the leaflets.
Regardless of the ham handed propaganda leaflet – when you are under attack from the enemy you are not much concerned about any of them being bayoneted – The Royal Canadian Regiment committed no atrocities. In fact, they brought order to their sector of the compounds by meeting the prisoners as soldiers, not roughing them up, doing the policing job with the military decorum for which the RCR are famous, and going about lightly armed and in very small numbers.
Their move to Koje caused a great deal of consternation, as American commanders at the Corps level had actually sent an order that resulted in breaking up a Canadian battalion to detach one of its best rifle companies for duty as prison guards. The Canadians were not in Korea to guard prisoners of war, nor was anyone other than Canadians permitted to deploy the rifle companies. The UN Command and the British Commonwealth Division commander could ask, but not independently issue such orders. It was never done again.
"Koje Commandos" was the term given to B Company in good nature by their RCR comrades.
Anyhow, that out of the way, now read below how Korea has developed an amazing subocean and over ocean route to directly connect Koje Island (now spelled Geoje) with Pusan (now spelled Busan), Korea’s second largest city, where our Fallen Comrades are buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery.
Incidentally, B Company of the RCR returned to the front to participate in the defence of Hill 355, “Little Gibraltar or Dagmar” as it was sometimes called. The company had very heavy casualties, both on fighting patrols, also during a prolonged heavy shelling that went on for weeks and when Hill 355 was attacked by large enemy forces on October 23.
Today the old prisoner of war camp is an indoor-outdoor museum and two of the world’s leading shipyards flourish on the island. Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering is located near the small city of Okpo and Samsung Heavy Industries is located at Koje City (Geoje City). Koje City has a population of roughly 200,000.
Koje Island is the second largest in South Korea, second only to Cheju Island (Jeju Island). Cheju-do is 60 miles to sea and is a beautiful semi-tropical island sometimes called “the Korean Hawaii.” The island has been long famous for its diving women who harvest marine life and seaweeds from the ocean floor. It is said to be rich in three things: beautiful women, stones and wind. However, it is also cloaked in beautiful flowers. The dialect is quite different from the mainland language.
S. Korea's first bridge-undersea tunnel link opens in southern area
|four lane Geoga Bridge that links Koje Island with Busan,|
Lee attended a ceremony to mark the end of the six-year construction of the fix link, which connects South Korea's second-largest city of Busan, 453 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and Geoje Island, home to two of the country's largest shipyards and many tourist attractions.
The 8.2-kilometer fixed link, dubbed "Geoga Bridge," will cut travel hours between Busan and Geoje Island to around 50 minutes from the current two hours and 10 minutes, enabling South Korea to save as much as 400 billion won (US$350 million) in fuel and other logistics costs a year.
The president described the fixed link as a "historic construction project," as it involves a 3.7km undersea tunnel, the first of its kind in South Korea.
"The project included an immersed tunnel under part of the wild open sea, which is a remarkable feat illustrating Korea's top-notch construction and engineering technology to people around the world," Lee said in his televised congratulatory speech during the ceremony held on Geoje Island.
"This route will now serve as a great new boulevard for tourism encompassing the scenic national marine park in the South Sea and connecting Busan, Geoje and Tongyeong with Yeosu and Mokpo," he added, numerating southern cities known for their picturesque landscapes.
He said it is also expected to become a "linchpin" in regional economic growth.
"Today's opening represents a historic milestone in that it heralds a new era for the southern coast of Korea," he said. "The connection between Busan and Geoje will finally be extended to Mokpo." Mokpo is a southwestern port city.
The fixed link built in a public-civilian project will be open to the public starting at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, free of charge until the end of this year. Its operator plans to levy a 10,000 won fee on passenger vehicles from next year.
By Lee Chi-dong