18 February 2020
Hamilton youth Donnie Crossland had a valuable cultural experience and a priceless opportunity to remember his family history at the recent Korean Vision Camp 2020 in Wellington and Waikanae.
The Camp brought together young people from South Korea and New Zealand, some of whom were descendants of Korean War veterans.
A Statement of Intent was signed in Seoul last year between Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand and South Korea’s Ministry of Patriots and Veterans’ Affairs, during which Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand agreed that the Camp would be held in New Zealand this year.
Donnie’s great-grandfather, James Mason, served with the Royal New Zealand Navy in the Korean War and died in 2005. His great-grandmother, Margaret Mason, served in the Women's Royal New Zealand Naval Service, though not in the Korean War.
It was his great-grandmother who encouraged Mr Crossland to apply for the Camp.
“She was really enthusiastic about me coming and it was a really cool opportunity to learn more about what my Poppa did,” he said.
Donnie, 18, took photographs of his great-grandfather with him to the Camp and held them during most of the commemorative events, including at a wreath-laying at Otaki School, which has been the site of a memorial and commemorations marking the Korean War since 1993.
“I held the photos during the wreath-laying at Otaki School when we were standing with the veterans, so it’s kind of like I brought him with me,” he said.
He found the experience of commemorating the Korean War with South Koreans emotional and moving.
“The only way we know about the war and of the sacrifices made is through listening to others, so I feel like it’s been a good learning opportunity to learn about what happened,” he said.
Being transgender, Donnie was worried about how other attendees would respond to him.
“I’m glad that the dudes accepted me,” he said. “Other participants asked my preferred pronouns and everything. It was great.”
The Korean Vision Camp 2020 was a free programme of activity supported by the South Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans’ Affairs and New Zealand’s Veterans’ Affairs. The aim was to build on the friendships that were established between those who served in the Korean War.
It was also an opportunity to thank Korean War veterans for their service and to acknowledge their sacrifices through a programme of commemorative activity, cultural experiences, and appreciation activities.