Speech by Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan (Korea)
Minister Park, Vice Mayor Kim, Ambassador Lippert, ladies and gentleman, and above all: honoured veterans,
This year we commemorate the 66th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War. More than 120 Dutch soldiers died in that war, and it changed the lives of many more who were lucky enough to return home safely.
Today we honour their sacrifice and their efforts in defence of freedom and democracy on the Korean Peninsula.
Today we honour all those, from every nation, who fought for what is just and right. Four Korean veterans are with us today.
We are humbled by your presence.
In his impressive book on the Korean War the American journalist David Halberstam called it 'the most bitter kind of war'.
Dutch veterans still remember the hardships they suffered at Hoengseong [Heng song] and the notorious Hill 325. They also remember the constant fear, never knowing when or where all hell would break loose. As one Dutch soldier said at the time, 'Right now, the night is the worst thing of all.
The day comes as a relief, for then you can sleep.' For those of us who have never experienced war, stories like these give us pause to reflect.
The importance of memorial services such as today's in the peace and serenity of the UN Memorial Cemetery has not diminished in any way. Here, we can feel the past. Here, we remember with deep respect all those men and women who gave their lives for freedom and democracy. For a safer world and for human dignity. We will not forget them.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to those who made this remembrance ceremony possible and the people who care for the graves of our fallen soldiers with such respect. This peaceful place offers comfort to the comrades and the families of those buried here, and it invites younger generations to reflect on the deeper values that unite us. It is important that we continue to reflect and to pay our respects.