South Korea has now formally terminated its military deployment to
Iraq, with a ceremony to welcome returning troops home to the capital,
Seoul. South Koreans had mixed feelings about the four year deployment.
and military fanfare were part of the welcome home for several hundred
South Korean forces returning to Seoul Friday from Iraq. Their return
closes the final chapter in a deployment that numbered about 3,600 four
Troops mainly involved in reconstruction, humanitarian aid
South Korea was once the third largest contributor of
international forces to stabilization efforts in Iraq, following the
U.S.-led removal of Saddam Hussein from power in 2003. Most of the
non-combat military personnel served in the relatively peaceful,
predominantly Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
The South Korean
non-combat unit "Zaytun" -- meaning olive branch in Arabic -- engaged
mainly in civilian reconstruction and humanitarian aid, such as
providing medical care. A South Korean air force unit named "Daiman"
-- or "always with you" in Arabic-- supported the Zaytun detachment
from neighboring Kuwait. The Daiman unit made its return home Friday,
Colonel thrilled after successful mission
Air Force Colonel Park Jin-yong tells reporters he is very glad to come back home safely after a successful mission.
Iraq deployment was controversial here, where many ordinary South
Koreans questioned why they should become embroiled in the middle
eastern country's problems.
Former President Roh Moo-hyun, who
ordered the first detachment, argued the deployment was necessary to
strengthen the military alliance between South Korea and the United
States. Washington stations about 28,000 forces here in South Korea
and guarantees the country's security, particularly against a potential
repeat of North Korea's 1950 invasion.