Language selection

Civilian Population


Anchor: When our men leave Canada to take part in the Korean War, most do not know a thing about the country, let alone its people.

Fighting for an unknown population, Canadians progressively learn about their hosts and their land as the war progresses.

Paul-Émile Pomerleau: First of all, these were very poor people. A previous war had left them with no money.
(Footage of Koreans during wartime. Woman using a broom made of straw. Crouching man washing his hands at the side of a pond)

Jean-Paul Savary: They built their houses with stuff they found here and there.

Gérard Dauray: A small village, maybe 10 or 15 houses made of straw. They had their little piece of land to cultivate their rice... and garlic. They didn't have horses. They only had oxen to pull their little wooden thing. The plow, I mean, a little wooden plough. When they were done at night, they just slung it over their backs and went home.
(Footage of a small village with straw and mud houses. Peasant walking with a donkey, both carrying heavy bags)

William Kane: When the lines advanced, there were places that were completely destroyed or shot up... And it takes a lot of time before people can come back to their homes because they just can't come back while the war is still going on. There was no way of knowing when it would start up again.

Yvan Paquin: They were friends before they separated over there. You know Montreal... Ottawa. If Quebec ever separated, we would still talk to the guys from Ontario and New Brunswick. We wouldn't go crazy, y'know. When they separated North and South over there, they had family on the other side.

William Kane: Seeing a big strong guy dragging a 75-year-old woman with white hair out of her house is not a pretty sight. But things like that have to be done sometimes. What can you do? You can't just leave them there. "Maam, you have to come," says the interpreter. "The war will be on your doorstep tomorrow, or the day after . . . Your house will be destroyed! We can't leave you here." "No, I won't go. I'm staying here."

Charles Trudeau: There's one thing I've always said and I believe it to this day: war is harder on civilians than on soldiers. As soldiers, we went through it too, but at least we had the means to defend ourselves and we ate fairly well. We defended ourselves, y'know. But a kid who's 12, 13, 14 or 15 years old, what can he do?

Jean-Paul Savary: 10,000 people left homeless… that was no big deal for them. They just piled on more cardboard and more corrugated sheet metal... and... it was a terrible sight.

Roland Boutot: That's what hit me the most, to see the people there, and the misery that surrounded them there.

Did you know ...

North Korean troops at the start of the conflict: 125,000

See more facts
Date modified: