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  • Kim Ju-young

[Feature] The Story of the Ethiopia Army, Kagnew

No.164 / Jun 12, 2023

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, triggered by an invasion by North Korea. Many innocent people were killed by the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) under the direction of Kim Il-sung, and many captives arose in this period as well. A variety of nations participated in this war, choosing a side based on their ideology. Prominently, China backed the NKPA and the United States (U.S.) backed the Republic of Korea (ROK) army. Other countries also participated in this war as members of United Nations (UN) army. Of the UN armies, Kagnew was the only one dispatched army from Africa. They are the imperial army under the direct control of Emperor Haile Selassie. The word “Kagnew” means to establish order in chaos. The Kagnew participated in the Korean War by the emperor’s command, who believed that it was the righteous duty of the Kagnew to help any country being unfairly attacked by other countries. Although the ROK and Ethiopia did not have any relations at the time, the Kagnew participated in the Korean War to protect the ROK’s sovereignty and democracy.

Not only were the climate and circumstance not suitable for them, but the telecommunication conditions were also poor. However, they achieved victory in all 253 battles in which they participated, creating a meaningful record in Korean War history because none of UN armies were as successful as the Kagnew. Even after the war, they protected the ROK in alliance with the U.S. army. They dispatched new army units every year until 1956. Furthermore, they collected their salary and established homes for war orphans.

To commemorate Ethiopia’s sacrifice and bravery, the Rhee Syng-man government presented a presidential commendation to the Kagnew. In addition, the Korean government built the Korean War Veterans Memorial for Ethiopia’s contributions in Chuncheon-si, while Ethiopia has made significant efforts to commemorate the Ethiopian veterans of the war. For instance, the ROK Village was established in the downtown of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where Korean War veterans were settled upon returning to Ethiopia. However, this interaction ceased once Ethiopia fell to communism in 1974 and resulted in great suffering for the veterans. Their assets were forfeited, and they were regarded as reactionaries by the communist government. Despite their worsening conditions, they were steadfast in supporting ROK’s democracy, stating that “Even if the same thing happened repeatedly, I would have fought in the same war.” Relations between Ethiopia and the ROK resumed in 1991 once the communist government of Ethiopia collapsed. After a democratic government was reestablished, the Lee Myung-bak government legislated a law to support Kagnew veterans of the Korean War.

Many countries that participated in the Korean War made a decision based on their political and economic benefit, besides the protection of Korean freedom; however, the Kagnew’s sacrifices were purely honorable. Many South Koreans should remember the Kagnew, whose bravery and sacrifice remain forgotten in South Korea. Thus, civil related to the remembrance of the Korean War must raise awareness of the Kagnew. The Ajou Globe (The AG) wishes for many South Koreans to know the Kagnew’s accomplishment.


By Kim Ju-young, AG Cub Reporter

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