South Korea is an ‘amazing’ country, Gloucester mayor Chris Chatterton has said after returning from an important visit to the city of Paju.
Mr Chatterton returned to Gloucester on Sunday after an historic week in which he signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with Paju mayor In-Jae Lee, in which the two cities will work together for their mutual economic and cultural benefit.
The visit also saw a giant memorial to the Gloucestershire Regiment unveiled in Paju, which sees the people of South Korea recognising the efforts of the Glorious Glosters in the Korean War in 1951.
But the visit also proved to be a moving experience for Mr Chatterton personally. Yesterday, he told the Citizen: “I love South Korea. It is an amazing, breathtaking place. It is a massive country but we have only seen a small part of it. I would love to go back one day with my children.”
During his visit, which was privately funded, he explored underground tunnels that lie beneath minefields in the demilitarised zone between North Korea and South Korea. North Korea constructed the tunnels in a bid to invade their neighbours.
“These tunnels were incredible,” said Mr Chatterton. “We got to within 170 metres of the North Korea border where the tunnel is completely blocked off.”
He also told how he saw what is believed to be the world’s biggest flagpole at the border which holds up a 30 metre by 18 metre North Korean flag. He said: “It is quite a statement.”
Mr Chatterton’s visit also took him to the hustle and bustle of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, home to almost 10million people – leaving the likes of London trailing behind.
During the visit, Mr Chatterton was accompanied by a number of Gloucestershire Regiment veterans who travelled the 5,000 miles to witness the unveiling of the memorial, which features a huge beret and the names of all those who fought in the bloody conflict.
“The way the Korean people treat the veterans is wonderful,” said Mr Chatterton. “They were so well looked after. All of the speeches that were made thanked them for what they did – travelling thousands of miles from their home to fit for the rights of the country.
“It was very moving to be talking about their bravery in front of a number of the veterans with Gloster Hill, where the battle took place, right behind me. It is an experience that I will never forget. It made it a truly unforgettable visit.”