19 February 2020
Whangarei woman Cara-Lee Kerewaro had a valuable cultural experience and a priceless opportunity to remember her 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.
Ms Kerewaro’s grandfather Heta Kerewaro served in the peace-time Kay Force in South Korea from 1954-56, as a transporter and signalman.
He died before Ms Kerewaro was born, so engaging with programmes like Korean Vision Camp 2020 have been a way for her to connect with her family history.
“Last year I had the opportunity to go to Seoul as part of the Peace Camp that is put on by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans’ Affairs,” she said.
“That was significant, seeing some of what my grandfather had seen and getting to celebrate how South Korea is now and knowing that New Zealand has helped.”
Meeting Korean War veterans during the Camp, including one who had served with her grandfather, was a significant moment for Ms Kerewaro, 22.
“It is easy to forget what they went through together,” she said.
Inspired by her family connection to South Korea, Ms Kerewaro is planning on teaching English in Seoul, after graduating last year with a Bachelor of Social Work from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute in Tauranga.
She believes that remembering the Korean War and embarking on her own journey to that country is important, because it is connecting her to something bigger than herself.
“I think it’s an important thing that many people miss. Taking the time to remember and to celebrate how far we have come is very important,” she said.
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.