Soo Youn Profile picture
17 Sep, 19 tweets, 4 min read
So the other day, I had mentioned to my dad that I went to an Ethiopian coffee shop and ended up buying beans, (even though I'm trying to give up caffeine). It was empty and I felt bad.
For the past couple years, when I come home, we always have Ethiopian coffee, and I don't remember my parents having gone there. But my dad has a friend who teaches medicine there, and I know they had donated some money to the medical school.
So the other day, he mentioned that he was building a cellphone charging station Addis Ababa. When they were Africa he noticed women on their cell phones all the time and was wondering where they charged them. Long story, "It's solar powered. Robby's dad is building a well."
Some other talk of buildings and his friend asked him to pay for a student's medical school fees, so sure, he's doing that for 4 years. Total throwaway conversation. Then this is where he gets all Korean. "You know, Ethiopia really helped us during the war. V good soldiers."
3,000 Ethiopians fought in the Korean War. (This is a v. special tweet for my African/Black friends who are into Kdramas, you know who you are) bbc.com/news/magazine-….
"The first battalion of Ethiopian soldiers arrived in Busan in May 1951. Known as the Kagnew ("to bring order out of chaos") Battalion, it was viewed with a degree of skepticism by American officers." koreatimes.co.kr/www/opinion/20…
"Things were not easy. The Ethiopian soldiers could not speak English, were unfamiliar with American army tactics and many were leery of Western doctors.
"After several weeks of training (3 to 6 weeks, depending on the source) near Busan, the Kagnew Battalion was sent north ― to the front ― and within days the unit distinguished itself in combat."
"The Ethiopian soldiers soon gained a reputation. The Chinese feared them. The Kagnew Battalion never left a man behind ― wounded or dead ― and none of their soldiers were ever captured by the North Koreans or Chinese. It was like they were ghosts."
Anyway, I had never known about this although I feel like I've heard about the Korean War my whole life. All from a side comment about grabbing beans at a local cafe. Thank god for these little moments when you learn about your parents and what shaped them.
And the description of the Ethiopian soldiers and that unit is not entirely unlike descriptions of Korean soldiers (the ROK army) in the Vietnam War. 420,000 Koreans fought for the U.S. in Vietnam.
2 anecdotes I heard from Koreans who served haunt me. Korean was unbelievably poor in the 60s. One former soldier told me about how when the Americans sprayed Agent Orange in the jungle, they thought: America is such a rich country, they spray water to cool down their soldiers.
They collected it in their helmets, washed their faces in it, because they were so hot and miserable, they welcomed the liquid. They obviously were not told, nor had any idea what it was.
Koreans were left out of the massive Agent Orange settlement in the 80s. Australia, which sent about 15,000 troops was included. Some had no idea what they were exposed to until the cancers started and the birth defects in their children and grandchildren showed up.
The other comment that stuck with me is from a relative who worked for the Americans. "Koreans took care of their own KP duties, which is why we never had a problem with Vietcong spies. Americans outsourced their KP duties which is why they were infiltrated."
The metaphor of the US farming out their mess for other people to take care of, without thinking about the consequences, seems apt.
"The Ethiopians fought as part of the US 7th Division. At the time, the American army had only just started to become racially de-segregated. But for Mamo discrimination was not an issue."
"You know Ethiopia has a 3,000-year history as an independent country. We Ethiopians were proud and boasting that we were Ethiopians. We don't care about any colour. The Americans didn't call us 'Negro' as we would be angry," he says."
In 2012, the South Korean government announced it would give pensions to the surviving Ethiopian veterans of the Korean War. -- via @BBCWorld

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