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Historian’s walk connects Langley to site of Canadian battle in South Korea

Guy Black is walking to Gapyeong to comemmorate battle anniversary
Guy Black, left, and Taeyung Lee, head of the Korean War Veterans Association at the Gapyeong memorial in Derek Doubleday Arboretum in Langley. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

A B.C. man is undertaking a walk that will take him from a battle memorial in Langley to the site of the clash itself in South Korea.

Guy Black noted that his walk has “an 11-hour flight interruption.”

He began walking on Friday, April 14 from the Gapyeong memorial stone in Langley’s Derek Doubleday Arboretum, passing through much of the Lower Mainland before arriving at the Vancouver International Airport.

From there, he will fly to Incheon, South Korea, before walking to Gapyeong County and the site of the battle where Canadian forces fought against a Chinese military force more than 70 years ago. He will arrive in time to commemorate the start of the battle.

A military historian from Coquitlam, Black is undertaking this walk, as he did for a previous walk in 2021 from Tofino to Langley, to bring attention to the history of Canadian soldiers in the Korean War.

Between April 22-25, 1951, a small group of Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand troops, backed up by a unit of American tanks, held off a full division of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army that was marching towards Seoul, capital of modern South Korea.

The battalion of Canadians and their allies faced seven-to-one odds and held back the attack for several crucial days, preventing the encirclement of a larger group of U.S. forces, and blunting the North Korean drive towards Seoul.

The Canadian forces, part of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, spent much of the battle surrounded on Hill 677.

Black will be walking with his wife, stepson, and a friend all taking turns to walk with him, but he’ll be covering every mile.

The march will finish on the anniversary of the battle at the hill where the Canadians fought.

On his first day, he stopped in Maple Ridge to visit the sister of one of the Canadian soldiers who died serving in Korea.

“To me, in my heart, it’s the most important part of this trip,” he said.

The Korean War has often been a lesser-known conflict compared to the First and Second World Wars, although thousands of Canadian Forces members took part in the fighting.

Black and others, including Langley’s Michael Chang, with the Korean Veterans Association, who was instrumental in placing the Gapyeong stone memorial in Langley, have been working to expand the knowledge of the battle and Canada’s part in the war.

Gapyeong County sent the stone from near the site of the battle to Canada to help commemorate the battle. Several other Gapyeong stones are now in other Canadian communities.

Black said awareness is growing.

“There has been a change,” he said.

Part of that is due to educational efforts, but part is also due to the growing Canadian-Korean population, including in Langley.

One of those at the start of Black’s walk on Friday was Taeyoung Kim, president of the Korean War Veterans Association in B.C., a group of Korean-Canadians who fought in the war.

Chang pointed out that their average age is now 92.

In addition, representatives of the Korean Consulate in Vancouver, and of the Royal Canadian Legion were present.

Next week, on Friday, April 21, at 11 a.m., there will be a memorial at the stone marking the date of the battle, with participation by students from nearby Langley Senior Secondary.

READ MORE: Langley battle memorial marks 70 years since pivotal clash in Korean War

READ MORE: Holding on to memory of Canada’s Korean War battles

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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