Imjin Classic a show of appreciation for Korean-Canadian officer

Article / December 2, 2022 / Project number: 22-0111

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On March 11, 1952, Canadian soldiers on the frontlines of the Korean War played the first game in a hockey tournament on the frozen Imjin River. It culminated in a final showdown between members of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and the Royal 22e Régiment (R22eR).

In partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Canada, an annual celebration of that moment was inaugurated in 2013 with a game between those same regiments.

Dubbed the Imjin Classic, the game was back on this year for the first time since 2019 after being paused during the pandemic.

The Master of Ceremonies for the game was Canadian Army (CA) Captain Jun Bae. His story, as told in the following interview, perfectly captures the Imjin Classic’s significance – not only as a great moment in hockey, but also as a celebration of the great binational friendship.

Was your family aware of the original Imjin tournament? Has hockey become a part of your lives?

The history is something that my family were not aware of. Hockey was a foreign sport to me until I came to Canada, but little did I know that it would eventually become a part of my life. For example, in 2011, I cheered for the Vancouver Canucks when they were in the Stanley Cup finals. I was always a spectator and did not really become a player until I joined the Royal 22e Regiment. At R22eR, hockey was a preferred winter sport, and I learned to skate and hold the hockey stick there. But to this day, I am certainly a better spectator than a player.

What inspired you to join the Canadian Army?

My inspiration comes from my heritage. Growing up in South Korea, I was surrounded by the military conscription system for its male citizens. I grew up listening to stories told by my older family members, and saw the importance of duty and serving your country. Both my grandfathers served during the Korean War and, in fact, against each other. My paternal grandfather was 16 years old when he was conscripted into the North Korean army, while my maternal grandfather was a 19-year-old infanteer in the Republic of Korea’s Army. When I immigrated to Canada, I still firmly believed that a person has a duty to serve, and was dedicated to serving Canada, which has accepted me as one of its own.

What are some of the highlights of your career so far?

A highlight of my career was when I deployed with 3R22eR to Ukraine in 2019 under Operation UNIFIER. I had the privilege of serving alongside the brave Ukrainian soldiers. The camaraderie I have built, and the opportunity to work with the Ukrainian Leadership Academy during the deployment, are some of the highlights of my career. It is to these experiences that I owe my fulfillment of purpose. I hope that the training delivered through OP UNIFIER is helping our brothers and sisters now defending their homeland. Slava Ukraini.

Any other career ambitions you are working toward?

My motivation in life stems from living with a reason. Therefore, my ambitions are firmly rooted in things that I personally believe will make a difference, no matter how small. I am fortunate to be currently working on modernization of CA equipment, and my current ambitions include doing the best I can so that individual soldiers can benefit from the effort. I am also lucky to be part of a team that also has same outlook, and hope our ambitions can make an impact out there.

How do you feel about being asked to be MC at the Imjin Classic this year?

I am honoured. This is certainly a great opportunity to honour and remember the brave Canadians that served in the Korean War. As a Korean-Canadian, and especially an R22eR member, there could not be a better way to show my appreciation than to be a part of the Imjin Classic as the MC. The support of the Canadians to the Republic of Korea during the Korean War will be something that I will forever remember and cherish, as it allowed my family to survive the Korean War and gave them new opportunities in Canada.

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