Korean Peacekeepers Depart for Haiti

Korean army soldiers pose before leaving for Haiti at the Incheon International Airport on Wednesday. /VOA Korean army soldiers pose before leaving for Haiti at the Incheon International Airport on Wednesday. /VOA

Korea has dispatched the first group of what will eventually be more than 200 peacekeeping troops in Haiti.

Korean soldiers shout a rallying cry Wednesday for the benefit of news cameras at Incheon airport, as they prepare to board a flight for Haiti.

About 30 troops left on this initial trip, mainly military engineers who will lay the groundwork for more to come. Korean officials plan to send a total of 240 soldiers to join United Nations peacekeeping efforts in the impoverished nation, following an earthquake that devastated the capital last month.

The quake killed more than 200,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Army Captain Roh San led the team departing Wednesday. He thanked the Korean people for their support. He says he and the soldiers pledge to do their best in reconstructing Haiti as well as bringing hope to the desperate people who have suffered.

Roh's young son and daughter were among a number of children saying farewell to their parents. Roh's son says "we will wait for you, Daddy, and we love you."

The elderly father of one soldier says it is not easy to watch his son depart. He says as a parent, he wanted to stop his son from going, but his son insisted. He says it is quite honorable thing his son is doing.

Korea has pledged more than US$16 million in aid to Haiti, and plans to share the estimated $25 million cost for its peacekeeping force with the United Nations.

VOA News / Feb. 11, 2010 08:44 KST