Korea to Deploy 3,000 More Soldiers to Northern Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 2, 2004 More than 3,700 Korean soldiers will deploy to either Irbil or As Sulimaniyah provinces this summer, Korean officials announced April 1.
The commitment will make the South Korean contingent the third largest foreign contribution in Iraq after the United States and the United Kingdom.
Army Lt. Col. Michael Finnegan said the Korean contingent is expected to deploy in mid-June. The Korean Joint Staff worked closely with U.S. Central Command to see where the Korean contribution could be best used, said Finnegan, the Korea country director in the Pentagon's policy office.
"We welcome their announcement and we look forward to working with them," Finnegan said. Korea has been a "steadfast partner" in the war against terror, the colonel said. "They have sailed and flown in support of the global war on terror, and they have had troops serving in an exemplary manner in both Afghanistan and Iraq."
Finnegan said the unit to arrive is a "hybrid" specializing in reconstruction. "It is a mixture of logistics types," he said. The unit will contain engineers, medics, truck drivers and other reconstruction skills. But the unit will also contain security and civil affairs personnel.
The Koreans have named the hybrid the Zaiyatun Unit which means "olive" in Arabic.
There are currently 500 South Korean soldiers based in Nasiriyah, mostly engineers and medical personnel. They will deploy with the rest of the arriving troops.
Finnegan said the unit will report directly to Combined Joint Task Force 7, and a major general will command it.
Finnegan said there were 50,000 South Korean volunteers for the 3,000 spaces in the Zaiyatun Unit. He said the U.S. military is looking forward to working with the South Korean military personnel.
South Korea has had a wealth of peacekeeping experience. It has participated in operations in Cambodia, the Western Sahara, Afghanistan and East Timor.