Korean War Legacy Project

Asfaw Desta


Asfaw Desta served in the Ethiopian military during the Korean War. Growing up in Ethiopia, he experienced an aggressor nation trying to take over another nation. Later, he was part of the famed 1st Kagnew Battalion. He arrived in Busan in 1951 with other United Nation troops from Turkey and Greece. He is proud of his service to keep South Korea from becoming a communist state. His service came at a cost. When the Communists took over in Ethiopia, they resented Korean War veterans. He has revisited Korea and the changes are difficult to explain.

Video Clips

Korean Battle

Asfaw Desta describes his Korean service. He describes being trained upon arrival in Busan. The M1 was the weapon he trained with. He also describes battles and rough terrain. Many people died and these memories stick with him. He recalls fighting conditions on Hill 1073, which is near the Iron Triangle.

Tags: Basic training,Chinese,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Personal Loss,Weapons

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Two Different Koreas

Asfaw Desta describes the two different Koreas, war-torn and present. He never thought there would be such a significant change. Korea was so broken during the war. However, hard work by the people was able to transform Korea into what it is today. He compares the change between Ethiopia and Korea over the same time period.

Tags: Seoul,Communists,Home front,Living conditions,Modern Korea,Physical destruction,Poverty,South Koreans

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Korean Service

Asfaw Desta describes the details of his service in the Korean War. He describes how Korean civilians were so helpful during the war. American supplies were a necessity. Engagements with the Chinese were frequent. He describes how he did not want to even blink to give his position.

Tags: Chinese,Civilians,Fear,Personal Loss,South Koreans,Weapons

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Video Transcript

00:00:00          [Beginning of Recorded Material]

Interviewer:                Its November 15th 2019 the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. My name is Jongwoo Han, I am the president of Korean War legacy Foundation. We are commissioned by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affair of Republic of Korea to conduct this interview series for the special occasion which is 70th anniversary of the break out of the Korean War it’s my great pleasure and honor


…to have you here thank you for coming. Please introduce yourself your name and spell it for the audience please?

Translator:                   የመጣሁት የናንተን ታሪክ ለወደፊቱ ለማስቀመጥ እና የናንተን ይሄን ድንቅ የሆነ ታሪክለተማሪዎች መማሪያ እንዲሆነ በሚል ነው የመጣሁት። እና ይሄንን ቃለመጠይቅ አድርጌ ይሄንን ከኮሪያ የመጡትንመንግስት ለነሱ አስተላልፌ ለሚቀጥለው አመት ለሚከበረው ክብረ በዓል ለ70ኛው እንዲቀመጥ ለማድረግ ነውየመጣሁት። ሙሉ ስሞትን ይንገሩኝ? (I came here to save your story for the future and to make this wonderful story of your’s so that we could teach with lesson for students. And we are doing this interview  for the upcoming occasion commissioned by the government of Korea for the 70th anniversary of next year’s celebration. Tell me the full name?)


Asfaw Desta:              የሀምሳ አለቃ አስፋው ደስታ ብዬሀለው። (Asfaw Desta.)

Translator:                  My name is Asefa Desta. I will spell it A S E F A the middle name D E S T A. (: Correction: – First name A S F A W middle name D E S T A.)

Interviewer:                What is your birthday sir?

Translator:                  መቼ ነው የተወለዱት? (When were you born?)

Asfaw Desta:              በ1922። (In 1922 e.c.)

Translator:                  I was born in 1929.

Interviewer:                29? So you are 90 year old is that right?


Translator:                  ዘጠና አመቶት ነው ማለት ነው? (That means you’re ninety year old?)

Asfaw Desta:              አዎ። (Yes)

Translator:                  Yes.

Interviewer:                Wow, you look great sir.

Translator:                  በጣም የሚገርም ነው አቋሞት። ወጣት ነው የሚመስሉት። ወጣት ነው የሚመስሉት። (Your position is amazing. You look young. You look young.)

Interviewer:                And where were you born?

Translator:                  የት ነበር የተወለዱት? (where were you born?)

Asfaw Desta:              እኔ ፋሌ መድሃኒያለም ነው። (Me I was born in “Fale Medhaniyalem”)

Translator:                  I was born in “Fale Medhaniyalem”

Interviewer:                And tell me about your family background? What your father do and so on when you were growing up?

Translator:                  ስለቤተሰዎ


ያኔ ስንት ወንድም ነበረዎት? ስንት እህት ነበረዎት? ከማን ጋር ነበር የሚኖሩት እሱን በድንብ ይንገሩን? (About your family How many brothers did you have then? How many sisters did you have? Who did you live with? Tell us about that more?)

Asfaw Desta:              ልጅ እያለንማ ቤተሰቦቻችን ከወንድም እናቴ እና ክእህቶቼ ጋራ ነው። (When we were children, our family was with my mother, my brother, and my sisters.)

Translator:                  ስንት ናቸው እህቶቾት? (How many sisters do you have?)

Asfaw Desta:              ሦስት። (Three)

Translator:                  ወንድምስ? (How about brother?

Asfaw Desta:              ሁለት። (Two)

Translator:                  So, in that time I had three sister and two brother and then we used to leave with my mother.

Interviewer:                How about school you went through? What kind of school did you attend?

Translator:                  ምን ትምህርት ቤት ነበር የሄዱት እና ምን አይነት ትምህርት ቤት ነበር የሚማሩት? (What school did you go to and what kind of school did you go to?)


Asfaw Desta:              የቄስ ትምህርት ቤት ነበር የምማረው። (I was learning in religious school.)

Translator:                  I used to be learned in religion school.

Interviewer:                School. And when did you join the military?

Translator:                  መቼ ነበር ውትድርና የተቀላቀሉት? (when did you join the military?)

Asfaw Desta:              በ40 አመተ ምህረት። (In 1940 e.c.)

Translator:                  የተቀላቀሉት? (Joined?)

Asfaw Desta:              አዎ የተቀጠርኩት። (Yes, the time I was hired.)

Translator:                  I joined the military in 1947.

Interviewer:                47? And where did you stay in Ethiopia? What did you do?

Translator:                  የት ነበሩ ኢትዮጲያ ይቆዩ የነበረው? ውትድርና ከተቀላቀሉ በኋላ?


…አዲስ አበባ ነው? ወይስ ሌላ ነበር?

Asfaw Desta:              ምን ወታደር ከተቀጠርኩ? (What after i was hired in the military?)

Translator:                  ወታደር ከተቀጠሩ? (After you get hired in the military?)

Asfaw Desta:              እዚህ ተቀጥሬ በ42 አመት ጎጃም ሄድኩ። (I was hired and in 1942 I went to “Gojam”)

Translator:                  I was in Addis Ababa imperial guard and then in 1949 I got to “Gojam”.

Asfaw Desta:              በትዕዛዝ ነው የሄድነው። (We went by order.)

Interviewer:                Go where?

Translator:                  “Gojam”

Interviewer:                “Gojam”?

Translator:                  Out of Addis Ababa.

Interviewer:                And why did Emperor Selassie decide to send the Ethiopian soldiers to Korea do you know?


Translator:                  ለምን ይመስሎታል አፄ ኃይሌ ስላሴ ወታደሮቹን የኢትዮጲያን ወታደር ወደ ኮሪያ የላኩት ለምን? (Why do you think Emperor Haile Selassie sent his troops to Korea?)

Asfaw Desta:              እርዳታ ነዋ። (It’s for help.)

Translator:                  To help the country.

Interviewer:                Did you know that Korea was attacked by the Japan too as Italy attacked Ethiopia?

Translator:                  ጣሊያን ኢትዮጲያን እንዳጠቃት ሁላ ጃፓን ኮሪያን እንዳጠቃት ያውቃሉ? (Did you know that like Italy attacked Ethiopia, Japan attacked Korea too?)

Asfaw Desta:              አዎ ያኔ በጣም እኛ ስንሄድ ተጠቅተው በጣም ሀይለኛ ነበር።


…በአንደኛ ቃኘው ስንደርስ። ቡሳን ነው የወረድነው ከመርከብ ላይ። ወደዛው ወደ መሳሪያ መጣን ተለማመድንመስመር ገባን። (Yes, they were attacked, it was very violent. At first we arrived in Busan we got off the ship. And came to the weapon and practiced, and we lined up.)

Translator:                  Yes, I know that Japan attacked Korea and then…

Asfaw Desta:              ሲግሪሜሪ ነበሩ ፕሬዘደንቱ፣ የኮሪያ ፕሬዘደንት። እሳቸው ናቸው የተቀበሉን ቡሳን። (Syngman Rhee was the president, the president of Korea. They welcomed us in Busan.)

Translator:                  So, we arrived in Busan and then we started our fight.

Interviewer:                But, when did he arrive in Busan?

Translator:                  ቡሳን መቼ ነበር


…የደረሱት? መቼ ነበር የደረሱት? (When did you arrived in Busan? When did you arrive in Busan?)

Asfaw Desta:              በአርባ ሦስት ቀናችን ነው የወረድን ከመርከብ ላይ። (We got off the ship in forty-three days.)

Translator:                  ስንተኛው ቃኘው ነበሩ? (what was your battalion?)

Asfaw Desta:              አንደኛ ቃኘው። (First battalion.)

Translator:                  አንደኛው ቃኘው? ስለዚህ መጀመሪያ ወደ ኮሪያ የሄዱት በአሥራ ዘጠኝ ስንት ነበር? በስንተኛውአመተ ምህረት ነው ወደ ኮሪያ የሄዱት? (First battalion? So when did you go to Korea in nineteen when? What was the year you went to Korea?)

Asfaw Desta:              በ43 እኮ አልኩክ ሚያዚያ 25 ቀን። (It’s 1943 on April 25.)

Translator:                  በ1943 ነው የሄዱት? (You went in 1943?)

Asfaw Desta:              አዎ። (Yes.)

Translator:                  We go to the Korea war in 1950 I was the first battalion.


Interviewer:                First battalion? So you are the first dispatchment from Ethiopia to Korea. How was the journey to Busan you take the ship right and how was it?

Translator:                  እንዴት ነበረ ጉዞ በመርከብ ነበረ የሄዱት እና እርሶ የመጀመሪያው ቃኘው ኖት። በመርከብሲሄዱ እንዴት ነበር ጉዞ? (So, how was the travel? You were the first dispatch to go to Korea. And how was the journey by ship?)

Asfaw Desta:              በጣም መርከቡ ከባድ ነው። ብዙም ግሪክ፣ ቱርክ እነኚህ አብርን ነው የሄድነው። እነሱን ጭኖመቶ ነው እኛን ይዞ የሄደው


…ከጅቡቲ። ግሪክ እና ቱርክን ይዞ መቶ ከጅቡቲ እኛን እዞ ሄደ። (Journey with ship was very difficult. Greece, Turkey went together with us. First they were in the ship and came to pick us from Djibouti. The ship brings Turkey and Greece and then take us after.)

Translator:                  The road was really difficult the shipment was when we go there. So the Turk and the Greek were in the ship because the ship bring them to our country, that means in Djibouti and then we go together.)

Interviewer:                So, when you first landed in May 1951 in Busan how was Busan like compared to Ethiopia? How was it Korea? How Korea was in terms of


…Korean economy and people?

Translator:                  በዛ ጊዜ ኮሪያ ባረፉ ጊዜ ማለትም ቡሳን ባረፉ ጊዜ እስኪ ስለነበረው ነገር እስኪ በደንብአደርገው ያብራሩልን? ኮሪያ እንዴት ነበረች ፈራርሳ ነበር? (Explain us about what happened when you landed in Korea, Busan? How was Korea that time? Was Korea collapsed that time?)

Asfaw Desta:              በጣም ፈራርሶ ነበረ ችግር ነበረ። የነሱም ሰዎች ተማርከው ተይዘው እንደገና መተዋል። በጣምከባድ ጭንቅ ላይ ነብር ያለነው። (It was destroyed, there were lots of problem. They were captives and captured. We were in a very difficult situation.)

Translator:                  The situation back then was really, really in the middle of difficulty when we were there


…because there were really attacked by the war.

Interviewer:                Did you see any Korean people in Busan and how do they look like?

Translator:                  የኮሪያን ህዝብ አይተው ነበር በዛ ጊዜ? ኮሪያዊ ሰዎች አይተው ነበር እንዴት ነበሩ? (Did you see any Korean people back then? How do they look like?)

Asfaw Desta:              አዎ መቼም ሄደን ለማየት እያንዳንዱ ቤት መሄድ አንችልም። ካምፕ ውስጥ ነው ያለነው በጣምችግር ላይ ነበረ የተጨነቀ ነው። (We were not able to see every house. And we were in our camp we were in lot of trouble we were worried.)

Translator:                  We couldn’t see the people because we didn’t go outside of our camp but


…it was really hard.

Interviewer:                From Busan where did you go?

Translator:                  ከቡሳን ወዴት ሄዱ? (Where did you go from Busan?)

Asfaw Desta:              ከቡሳን ተለማምደን ጦር ሜዳ። (We practiced in Busan and to the battlefield.)

Translator:                  ሀገሩን አያውቁትም? (Don’t know the country?)

Asfaw Desta:              ቡሳን ሄድን እንግዲ የጦር ሜዳ መስመር ነው የገባነው። ቡሳን ዋና ያረፍንበት ነው። ከዛተለማምደን መሳሪያ ተሰቶን መሳሪያ ይዘን 10/73 ገባን ውጊያ ላይ። (We went to Busan and entered the battle line. Busan is where we rest. We were then trained and armed and entered the battle on 10/73.)

Translator:                  From Busan we straight


…go to the battlefield. And then we trained in Busan and then they gave us our gun and go to battle field.

Interviewer:                Was American gun good?

Translator:                  የአሜሪካ ጠመንጃ ጥሩ ነበር ወይ? (Was the American gun good?)

Asfaw Desta:              ኤሜ ዋን ነው ጠመንጃው ስምንት የሚጎርስ ነበር። (The gun was M1 it took 8 bullets.)

Translator:                  ጥሩ ነበረ? (Was it good?)

Asfaw Desta:              አዎ። በያኔ ጥሩ መሳሪያ ነው ይመታል። (Yes. In that time it was good gun, it hit good.)

Translator:                  In that time it was the best gun, it called M1.

Interviewer:                M1? Yes I know I used that too. So how was the


…battle situation in front line how severe? Who was enemy and how close were you to Chinese soldier’s things like that? As him to provide more detailed description of the battle situation there?

Translator:                  በፍልሚያው በነበሩበት ጊዜ እስኪ በደንብ አድርገው ያብራሩልን ከማን ጋር ነበር ጠላቶ በጣምብዙ ጠላት የነበረው ማን ነበረ? ከማንስ ጋር ነበረ በደንብ በጣም ይዋጉ የነበረው? ስለ ጦር ሜዳው ላይ ስለነበረውበደንብ ይንገሩን? (When you were in the battle, try explaining to us clearly who was the enemy and who was the greatest enemy? Who did you fight so hard with? Tell us more about what happened on the battlefield?)

Asfaw Desta:              እኔ ሰሜን ኮሪያ እና ደቡብ ኮሪያ። ሰሜን ኮሪያ ነው


…አይደለም እንዴ? እነሱም እንደርዳታቸው እንዳላቅ ከዚህ እርዳታ የሄዱ አሉ የኛ የተባበሩት መንግስታት። (I mean North Korea and South Korea. It’s North Korea, isn’t it? Some of them have gone to this aid to help them from United Nations.)

Translator:                  በደንብ ያብራሩልን እሺ። (Explain it to us. OK.)

Asfaw Desta:              እንግዲ ስም ዝርዝር ለማወቅ ብዙ ያስቸግራል። (So it is very difficult to know the list of names.)

Translator:                  አዎ። (Yes.)

Asfaw Desta:              ከአፍሪካ ውስጥ እኛ ነው የሄድነው። እኛ እና ደቡብ አፍሪካ ነው ከዚህ የሄድነው። እንግዲሌሎቹ አውሮፓ ውስጥ ነው ያሉት። (We are from Africa. We and South Africa went from here. Well, the others are from Europe.)

Translator:                  በደንብ የሚያስታውሱት ነገር የለም በጦር ሜዳው ላይ? (Do you remember anything on the battlefield?)

Asfaw Desta:              ጦር ሜዳ ላይ ብዙ ችግር አለ።


…ውጊያ የኛ ነበረ አጥቅተን ስንገባ ወንድሞቻቸን የሞቱም የተመቱም አሉ። (There are many problems on the battlefield. The battle was ours. When we attacked, our brothers were killed and some were wounded.)

Translator:                  The thing I remember in that time was there are so many our friends has passed away in that time. They killed in that battle field. It was really, really hard time in that battle.

Interviewer:                So what was your specialty? And tell me were there any dangerous moment during your service there in Korea?


Translator:                  ያኔ ተኳሽ ነበሩ ወታደር ነበሩ ምንድን ነበሩ?

Asfaw Desta:              ወታደር ነኝ እኔ። (I am a soldier.)

Translator:                  እና በደንብ እስኪ እዛ ጋር በጣም አደገኛ ጊዜ ነበር ብለው የሚያስቡት ትውስታ አለ? (And were there any dangerous moment time you remember?)

Asfaw Desta:              በጣም ሁሉ አስቸጋሪ ነው። እሱን ለመዘርዘር መቼስ በጣም ከባድ ነው። ከዛ ከ 10/73 ወተንደሞ እንደገና ፈረንሳይ ይዞት የነበረ ተራራ ላይ ገባን በጣም እዛ ላይ ክፉ ውጊያ ላይ ነበርን። (It’s all very difficult. It is very difficult to list it? Then, after we left 10/73, we went back to the mountain that was occupied by France, and there we were in a fierce battle.)


Translator:                  So, I was in infantry so everything was in that time was really difficult to be honest. Because we were in 10/73 battle name.

Interviewer:                What?

Translator:                  10/73.

Interviewer:                Ten Seventy Three.

Translator:                  So, it’s called 10/73 when we finished there we just go to the mountain which France take over and then we also had a fight there.

Interviewer:                What was it like to take over the hill


…the mountain? How hard was it?

Translator:                  ያን ተራራ መቆጣጠር እንዴት ነበረ የሚሰማዎት እና ምን ያህል ከባድ ነበረ? ምክኒያቱምበጣም ከባድ ነበር? (How did you feel about controlling that mountain and how hard was it? Because it was so hard?)

Asfaw Desta:              በጣም ከባድ ነው በጣም። ገመድ ተሳስሮ በገመድ ነው የምንወጣው። ምክኒያቱም ገመዱጭለማ ነው የምንቀሳቀሰው ተጠንቅቀን ነው። ከተንከባለለ ሄደ። (It’s too hard. We go out with a rope. Because it is dark, we move with caution. If we rolled, we will be gone.)

Translator:                  We used to use rope to climb them up because it was really difficult


…to go out just with walking and also it was in the night time so it was hard time back then.

Interviewer:                What about Chinese soldiers? Were they good fighter or how do they do?

Translator:                  የቻይና ወታደሮችስ እንዴት ነበሩ? በጣም ጎበዝ ተዋጊ ነበሩ? እስኪ እንዴት ነበሩ? (What about the Chinese army? Were they a very good fighter? How do they do ?)

Asfaw Desta:              አዎ እንዴ በበኩላቸው ውጊያውንማ ገትረው ይዘው የልም እንዴ። (Yeah, off Corse they were good fighter they were strong, they hold back right.)

Translator:                  Yeah they were really strong because they almost resist so hard in that time.


Interviewer:                Who was better Chinese or Ethiopia?

Translator:                  ማን ነበረ የሚሻለው ኢትዮጲያዊ ወይስ ቻይኖች ነበር የሚሻሉት የሚበልጡት እነማን ነበሩ? እሚበልጠው ማን ነበር ጀግና ማን ነበር ከኢትዮጲያ እና ከቻይና? (Who was better Ethiopian or Chinese? Who was the best? Who was the hero, the Chinese or the Ethiopians?)

Asfaw Desta:              ጀግና? እኛ በበኩላችን ነው እንጂ ይሄንን አላቅም። እነሱ ይወቁ እንጂ በበኩላችን እኛን ነውየምናውቀው። (Hero? We in our self we know. But about them they know better, but in our side we are better.)

Translator:                  We are the strong and the heroes one the Ethiopians.

Interviewer:                Off course.

Translator:                  በሚገባ። (Off course.)

Interviewer:                Then where did you sleep and what did you eat? While you are constantly moving from


…one point to the other? Wasn’t it hard to get all those supplies?

Translator:                  የዛኔ ውትድርና በነበሩበት ሰዓት የሚተኙበት የሚበሉት ምግብ ምንድን ነበረ? እንዴት ነውአያስቸግርም ነበር? (When you were in the army what did you eat where did you sleep? How was it? Wasn’t it difficult?)

Asfaw Desta:              አሜሪካን የሚያቅርብልን ሬሽን። (The American provided food.)

Translator:                  የት ነበርስ የሚተኙት? (Where did you sleep?)

Asfaw Desta:              መኝታማ አይደለም ምሽግ ውስጥ መኝታ የለም። ጓደኛዬ እዚች ጋር ይተኛል እኔ እዚህእጠብቃለሁ። መስኮት አለ መተኳኮሻ


…በዛ ተጠንቅቀን ነው እንዲ እንዲ ውልብ የለም አልሞ ይመታሉ። ስለዚህ ጥግ ይዞ ነው የምጠብቀው። ቦምብ አለኮሽታ ስንሰማ ጥይት አንተኩስም ጥይት ለማስጨረስ ስለሚፈልጉ እኛ በእጅ ቦንብ ነው የምንጠብቀው። ያንን ነቅለንስንወረውር ሲሮጡ ይሰማናል ጭለማ ውስጥ ቅጠሉ ኮሽ ኮሽ እያለ ሲሮጡ ይሰማል ለማየት ሲመጡ። (Not sleeping, not sleeping in a front line. My friend sleeps here and I wait here. There is a window so we just wait in the corner. We have a grenade, when we hear someone coming we don’t fire we use grenade, cause they want us to fire and empty our gun. But we wait and we throw the grenade. When we pull it out, we can hear them running away.)

Translator:                  So at that time


…we used to eat from the American ration the American brings us food. And then the sleep we never sleep because if one friend sleep we have to wait eyes open because we couldn’t even blink, if we blink they will aim and shoot. So we don’t sleep and then the Chinese were really fast we hear them running. So we don’t use gun because they want us to finish our gun so we use a hand bomb.

Interviewer:                Did you see


…many of Ethiopian soldiers being killed in action at that time?

Translator:                  በዛ ሰዓት ብዙ ኢትዮጲያን ወታደሮች ሲገደሉ ያስታውሳሉ ያዩ ነበረ? (Did you remember seeing many Ethiopian soldiers killed at that time?)

Asfaw Desta:              የማን የኛ? (Whose ours?)

Translator:                  የኢትዮጲያ አዎ? (Ethiopian Yes?)

Asfaw Desta:              እንግዲ ውጊያ ላይ ይመታሉ። ለማጥቃት ስንሄድ እየተመቱ በየሻምበሉ እንግዲ። በኛ በኩል ደሞአራተኛ ሻምበል ነው። አንደኛ፣ ሁለተኛ፣ ሶስተኛ ሻምበል አለ። ስለዚህ በኛ በኩል ለማጥቃት ስንሄድ ይመታል


…አንሺዎች አሉ ኮሪያኖች ቁስለኛ ወይም የተመታ መተው ያነሳሉ። (So in the battle they get shoted. When we go our to attack they will be shoted. Our captain is the fourth captain. There is First, Second, Third captain. So when we go to attack on our side, there are strikers. There are Koreans who take the body of the dead and wounded soldiers.)

Translator:                  ኮሪያዎቹ እሱን ነው የሚሰሩት? (The Koreans doing it?)

Asfaw Desta:              የኛ ኮሪያኖች? እኛ ወገን? ሁለት ጊዜ ነው የሚሰሩት ወታደርም ይሰራሉ ጦር ሜዳም ሄደው ሬሳየተመታውንም ያነሳሉ። ሃገራቸው ግዳጅ ነዋ። (Our Koreans? Our side Korea? They work twice as well as soldiers and they go to the battlefield and pick up the corpses. In their country is a must.)

Translator:                  So in that time when we were in the fighting the Koreans soldiers do two things, they bring the wounded soldier


…and then even they fight in the war. So that was what we do in the war most of the time when we are in the fight.

Interviewer:                So the Korean people fighting together with the Ethiopian soldiers?

Translator:                  Yes.

Interviewer:                So how do they do? Did they do well or what do you think about the Korean people at the time?

Translator:                  በዛ ጊዜ የነበሩት ኮሪያዎች ያው እንዳሉት አብርዎትም ይዋጉ ነበር እና… (You said that the Koreans fight together right and…)

Asfaw Desta:              አዎ። (Yes)

Translator:                  እንዴት ነበሩ ጎበዝ ነበሩ ጥሩ ነበሩ ወይ? (How were they? Were they good?)

Asfaw Desta:              ማን? ኮሪያኖቹ? (Who? The Koreans?)


Translator:                  ኮሪያኖቹ። (Yes the Koreans.)

Asfaw Desta:              የኮሪያን ዲቪዥን ለምሳሌ ከኛ ጋራ ተሰልፎ ነበረ። (The Korean Division, for example, joined us.)

Translator:                  ስለዚህ ጥሩ ነበሩ? (So were they good?)

Asfaw Desta:              አዎ በውጊያ ላይ እንዴ በክፍላቸው ሄደው ወገኑ ነው የሚያውቀው እንጂ እኛ አናቅም። ከኛአብረን ጎን ለጎን ገብተን እንዋጋ ነበር እኛ። (Yes in battle but there people know them how they were good we dont know that. But we fought side by side.)

Translator:                  We go side by side with the Korean division and higher fire. So I couldn’t say they are clever or they are not good because they self-decide that question.

Interviewer:                So looking back


…all those years what was the most difficult thigs during your service when you were in Korea?

Translator:                  ኮሪያ በነበሩበት ጊዜ የሚያስታውሱት የሆነ ለሰሩት ስራ ጥሩ እና በጣም የሚያስታውሱት ጊዜምንድን ነበረ? (What was the best and most memorable time you had when you were in Korea?)

Asfaw Desta:              እኔ? (Me?)

Translator:                  አዎ። (Yes.)

Asfaw Desta:              እኔ እራሴን በራሴ ምን አመሰግናለሁ። (How can I appreciate myself.)

Translator:                  የነበረውን ሁኔታ የሚያስታውሱትን? (Just the memory you remember.)

Asfaw Desta:              ጭንቀት ባነሳው እኔ በበኩሌ ምን ያረጋል። (What can I say about myself)

Translator:                  ይበሉት። (You can say it?)

Asfaw Desta:              ምስክርነት ያለው ነው እንጂ ምስክር የሌለው ነገር መናገር አያስፈልግም። (It is not necessary to say something without a witness.)


Translator:                  So we had good times in the war because there was so many things happen there. We had a good fight we had a good war. Beside us there are so many Koreans and then I couldn’t say I did good job for myself I couldn’t say.

Interviewer:                Then where you able to go to visit Japan for rest?

Translator:                  ለእረፍት ጃፓን ሄደው ለጉብኝት ሄደው ነበረ? (Did you go to Japan for a vacation?)

Asfaw Desta:              አዎ ሄጄ ነበር። (Yes i did.)

Translator:                  ምን ያህል ጊዜ ቆዩ? (How long did you stay?)

Asfaw Desta:              አራት ቀን። (For four days.)

Translator:                  Yes I have been


…Japan but I just stayed for only four days.

Interviewer:                And were you able to go to Seoul city when you were there?

Translator:                  እዛስ የነበሩ ጊዜ ወደ ሶኡል ከተማ ሄደው ነበረ? (When you were there did you go to Seoul city.?)

Asfaw Desta:              ሶኡል ያኔ ውልቅልቁ ወቷል በቦንም ተደብድቧል ሀገሩ ሌላ ነው። (Soul was in turmoil at the time and was hit by a bomb. The country is different.)

Translator:                  ስለዚህ አልሄዱም? (So you didn’t you?)

Asfaw Desta:              በዛን ጊዜ አሜሪካ ነው የደበደበው ምክኒያቱም እዛ ጠላት ይዞታል ደበደበው ከተማው ሁሉወላልቋል። (That time the American blow the city because the enemy where in the city, so the whole city were destroyed.)


Translator:                  Seoul that time were almost destroyed because the American fought really hard in that place.

Interviewer:                And when did you leave Korea?

Translator:                  መቼ ነበር ኮሪያ ጨርሰው ወደዚ የመጡት? (when did you leave Korea?)

Asfaw Desta:              እኔ በአርባ ሦስት ነበር፣ በአርባ አራት ነበረ እኛን አንድ ሻምበል አስቀርተው ለሁለተኛ ቃኘውአለማምደን እንድንገባ መስመር ለማግባት በሐምሌ ወር ነው የመጣሁት። (Me it was in forty-three. We the first battalion one captain stayed the rest came back, we stayed to train the second battalion and to send them to front line. And I came back in July.)

Translator:                  በአርባ አራት ማለት ነው? (That means in forty-four?)

Asfaw Desta:              በአርባ አራት አንደኛ ቃኘው በአርባ አራት


…ሚያዚያ ወር መጣ እኛ አንደ ሻምበል እዛ አስቀርተው በሐምሌ ወር ነው የመጣነው። (The first one came in April, and we one captain stayed there for a little and came back in July.)

Translator:                  እኮ እርሶ በ1945 ነው ወደ ኢትዮጲያ የመጡት? (So did you come to Ethiopia in 1945?)

Asfaw Desta:              አርባ አራት መጨረሻ ሐምሌ። (Forty-four end of July.)

Translator:                  Okay, we came to in Ethiopia in 1951 in the last.

Interviewer:                Did you remember when you landed in Ethiopia from the ship how, how was it? Were there many people?

Translator:                  የዛኔ ከኢትዮጲያ ከኮሪያ ወደ ኢትዮጲያ


…ያረፉ ጊዜ ከኢትዮጲያ ወደ ኮሪያ ያረፉ ጊዜ ሰዉ አቀባበሉ እንዴት ነበር ያስታውሳሉ ወይ? (How do you remember the time when you landed in Ethiopia from Korea to Ethiopia?)

Asfaw Desta:              ኮርያኖቹ? (The Koreans?)

Translator:                  እዚ ሲመጡ ኢትዮጲያ ሲመጡ ከኮሪያ? (When you come here, when you come to Ethiopia from Korea?)

Asfaw Desta:              ስመጣ በደንብ ነው የተቀበሉን ጃኑሄ ድሬደዋ ነበሩ ከዛ ነው የተቀበሉን እኛን። ከጅቡቲስንወርድ እዛ ድሬደዋ ላይ እዛ ተቀበሉን። (When I arrived, they welcomed us warmly his majesty. When we left Djibouti, his majesty were in Dire Dawa, we were welcomed there in Dire Dawa.)

Translator:                  They welcomed us very nicely when we come back to Ethiopia.

Interviewer:                But in 1974


…communist seized the power how do they treat you?

Translator:                  የዛኔ ሲመጡ ደርግ ገዝቶ ነበረ ደርግ ጀመሮ ነበር መግባት እና እንዴት ነበረ…

Asfaw Desta:              ደርግ ትላንትና ነው እኮ?

Translator:                  እኮ እናንተ ከመጡ በኋላ ማለት ነው። ከጦርነቱ ካለፈ በኋላ? እና እንዴት ነበረ ያረጎት የነበረውይጎዳዎት ነበረ፣ ያሰቃዮት ነበረ? የኮሪያ ዘማቾችን ማለት ነው?

Asfaw Desta:              በኋላ ነው ይሄ ነገር


…ከተስፋፋ እና ከያዙ በኋላ የኛን ወገን ኮሚኒስትን ወግታቹ ነው የመጣችሁት ነው የሚሉን። ኮሚኒዚም አቋቁመውእነሱ ሲል መንግስቱ እንግዲ ኮሚኒስት አደርጎ ከዛ መሳሪያ ሲቀበል የኛ ወገናችንን ወግታቹ ነው የመጣችሁትእናንተ። (It was only later that this thing spread and they took over. When the government became a communist and took up arms, they began to say “You attack our communist people” and started to hunt us.)

Translator:                  All the Veterans he thought, the party he said you killed our communist friends back then because he was a communist one so he hated us because of that.

Interviewer:                Were you in prison?


Translator:                  እስር ቤት ገብተው ነበር እንዴ? እስር ቤት ገብተው ነበር? (Were you in prison? Were you in prison?)

Asfaw Desta:              እኔ? አልገባሁም። (Me? No I didn’t.)

Translator:                  No I never.

Asfaw Desta:              በዘዴ ነው ያመለጥኩት ምክኒያቱም አልገባሁም። (I managed to escape because I didn’t go to jail.)

Translator:                  እንጂ ሞክሮ ነበር? (But he tried?)

Asfaw Desta:              ብዙ ነው ጣጣው። (Its lots of problem.)

Translator:                  But I almost run away but he tried to take me to prison.

Interviewer:                So you went to Korea to fight against the communist North Korea came back but Ethiopia was also


…you know seized by the communist so that you been harassed and you been you know criticized that’s a very dramatic change and it’s very it’s hard to, hard to believe. Have you been back to Korea since then?

Translator:                  ወደ ኮሪያ ለጉበኝት ሄደው ነበረ ከዛ በኋላ? (Did you go back to Korea for visiting after then?

Asfaw Desta:              አሁን ነዋ። (Yes now.)

Translator:                  መቼ ነበር? (When was it?)

Asfaw Desta:              በ60ኛው አመት። (In the 60s)

Translator:                  Yes I have been back to Korea when the


…60s anniversary.

Interviewer:                60th anniversary? So now you are in a great position to give us two different Korea. Please translate as I say. Two different Korea the Korea you so in 1951 you said that it was very difficult and very dangerous lot of battles now you went back to Korea and there are new Korea. How can you compare them please give us detailed



Translator:                  አሁን እርሶ አባባ ሁለቷን ኮሪያ አይተው የመጡ ሰው ኖት። እና ያኔ ሲሄዱ በጣም አስፈሪ እናበጣም ችግር ውስጥ የነበረች ኮሪያን አይተዋል፤ አሁን ደሞ ሲመጡ ያዩት ኮሪያ አለ እና እስኪ እንዴት ነውየሚያወዳድሩት በደንብ አድርገው ያወዳድሩልን? (Now you have seen two Koreas. And when you first went you saw Korea, which was very frightened and in trouble; now, there is Korea you saw, how do you compare it? Pease give us detailed information?)

Asfaw Desta:              አሁን በጣም፣ በጣም፣ በጣም ተሻሽሏል በጣም ውብ ነች። በጣም የሚያስደስተው ነው።በእውነቱ በእንዲህ ያለህ ጊዜ ውስጥ እንደዚ አርገህ ሀገሪቷን እንዳለማት መቼም ያስደስታል።


እኛ ዞረን ለማየት አልቻልንም እንግዲ የተባበሩት መንግስታት ጥሪ ተደርጎልን ነው የሄድነው እኛ ብቻ አይደለንምኢትዮጲያ ብቻ አይደለም ሁሉም መተዋል። ቁስለኛውም በሽተኛውም ሁሉም መቶ አይቷል በጣም የሚያስደስት ነው።እና እኛ አሁን ያየነው ቹንቾንን ነው ሌላውን ለማየት አልቻልንም። (She’s very, very, very, very, very beautiful now. It’s very exciting. In fact, it is a pleasure to be able to see the country in such a state. We can’t turn around. The United Nations has invited us. We are not the only ones who have left. Not only Ethiopia. It is very exciting to see all the wounded and the sick the have seen all. And we just saw Chun Chon, we couldn’t see the other one.)

Translator:                  There are so many changes that Korea made to herself and then we was called by the UN


…to see that country from all over the world from America, from the wounded, from the, from everywhere. So it’s difficult to compare from that to this.

Interviewer:                But I want you to compare what did you see? What’s been changed? How different was it from 1952 when you went back to Korea?

Translator:                  እንዲያወዳደሩት ነው የምፈልገው። እና እስኪ ያኔ ከሌለው እና አሁን ከነበረው ያዩት ነገርለውጡ ምንድን ነበር? እስኪ ያወዳድሩልን?

Asfaw Desta:              አሁን በጣም


…ባየነው ከተማው በጣም ውብ ነው ሁለመናው። ሀገሪቱ በጣም ለምታለች፣ ህዝቡም በጣም የሚያስደስት ነው።(The city is so beautiful, so beautiful. The country is very prosperous and the people are very happy.)

Translator:                  The country comes like beautiful from that time they have so many buildings now, they have good farming, they have good road, so many things changed this time.

Interviewer:                So when you left Korea in 1952 did you ever think that Korea would become like that?


Translator:                  ያኔ ወደ ኢትዮጲያ ኮሪያን ጥለው ሲመጡ ኮሪያ የዚህን ያህል አድጋ ትጠብቀኛለች ብለውአስበዋል? ኮሪያ እንደዚ ትለወጣለች ብለው አስበው ያውቃሉ? (When you left Korea for Ethiopia, did you think that Korea would be developed this much? Have you ever thought that Korea will change like that?)

Asfaw Desta:              በጭራሽ በጭራሽ ያኔ ተዳክሞ፣ ተሰባብሮ፣ ተቀጣጥሎ ያየወደመ እንደገና በምን በ60 አመትውስጥ ምን እንዳደረሰው ለብቻ ነው። የሚያስደስት ነው በእውነት በጣም የሚያስደስት ነው። (Never, never, that time has been exhausted, broken, burned, and destroyed but again after 60 years I don’t know how in the world they become like that it is really amazing. It is so amazing, amazing.)

Translator:                  No I never thought that Korea would become like this?

Interviewer:                Why not?

Translator:                  ለምን እንደዛ አላሰቡም? ለምን እንደዛ አላሰቡም? (Why don’t you thought so? Why don’t you thought so?)


Asfaw Desta:              እንዴት? (How?)

Translator:                  እንደዚ ትቀየራለች ብለው ለምን አላሰቡም? (Why don’t you think that they will change like that?)

Asfaw Desta:              ጊዜ ነው ሁሉንም የለወጠው። ጊዜ ካለ ሁሉ ይለወጣል። (Time has changed everything. It changes over time.)

Translator:                  Because the reason why I said was Korea at that time was broke, they have nothing to do, they were almost destroyed. But time changed so they become changed.

Interviewer:                What did you think that make Korea now like this


…very 11th largest economy in the world and very strong democracy what, why do you think that Korea were able to make that?

Translator:                  ለምን ይመስሎታል አሁን ኮሪያ በአለም 11ኛዋ ሀብታም ሀገር ነች እና ጠንካራዋ ሀገር ናች። እናለምን ይመስሎታል እንደዚ ይህ የሆነው በምን ምክኒያት ይመስሎታል? (Why do you think Korea is now the 11th richest country in the world and the strongest? And why do you think this is so?)

Asfaw Desta:              ሕዝቡ ተግቶ በመስራቱ። ለሀገሩ ጠንክሮ በመስራቱ ነው የለወጡት። ሕዝብ ነውየሚለውጠው ሀገሩን።

Translator:                  Because the people work hard


…that’s the big reason why it changed this much.

Interviewer:                So looking back all those years you never knew where Korea was even, now you are the Korean War veterans what did you think about the whole thing that happening to your life?

Translator:                  አሁን ስለማያውቋት ሀገር ሄደው ተፋልሙውላት መተዋል። እና ያቺን የማያውቋት ሀገርአትርፈዋት መተዋል እና ስለዚ ሁላ ነገር ምን ያስባሉ? አሁንም ስላሉበት እርሶ እስኪ


…በአጠቃላይ ምን ያስባሉ? (You left and went to fight in a country you did not know. And you save that country, so about all this what did you think the whole thing that is happening to your life?)

Asfaw Desta:              እግዚያብሔር ሀገራቸውን ሰላም ያድርገው። እኛን ይረዱናል ይኸው። የደም ዋጋችንን የከፈሉንእነሱ ናችው። አስታውሰው ያቺን ችግር እኛ ዛሬ ይረዱናል። ያስታወሰን የለም። የኛን አልጣሉትም እነሱ ግንአልረሱትም። ያቺን መከራ ጊዜ አስታውሰው እኛን በጣም ይረዱናል። (May God bless their country. Here they help us. They are the ones who paid the price for our blood. Remember, they understand that problem today. No one remembers us. They did not reject us, but they did not forget it. They help us to remember that difficult time.)

Translator:                  May God protect them from everything because they remember what we have done, what we have sacrifice so I wish them


…everything for them.

Interviewer:                This is my first time to ask this question. Back then Korea was very poor, now is 11th largest economy. Ethiopia was really okay at that time. Now it’s not strongest economy why is that? Why do you think it happened like this?

Translator:                  ያኔ ኮሪያ ምንም ነገር አልነበራትም ነበር በዛ ጊዜ


…ሁሉ ነገር ተፈራርሶ ነበር ተሰባብሮ ነበር። አሁን ደሞ በዓለም ላይ 11ኛዋ ሀብታም ሀገር ሆናለች።

Asfaw Desta:              በመስራታቸው ነው ጠንክረው በመስራታቸው ነው። (It is because they work hard.)

Translator:                  አዎ እና ኢትዮጲያ ደሞ የዛኔ ጥሩ ነገር ነበራት ብጥብጥ አልነበረም ሂዎት ጥሩ ነበር ኢትዮጲያያኔ ድሮ። አሁን ግን አሁን እንደምታዩዋት ጠንካራም አይደለችም፣ በአለም ላይም አትታወቅም ሀብታምምአይደለችም ለምን ይመስሎታል? (Yes, and Ethiopia had a good thing at that time. There was no violence. Life was good. But now, as you can see, she is not strong, she is not known in the world, she is not rich, why do you think?)

Asfaw Desta:              እንግዲ ይሄ አስቸጋሪ ነገር ነው። ይሄን ለመገመት እንደመታየው ሁሉ እንግዲ


…ሁሉ ይሾማል ሁሉ ይሻራል። እርስ በራሱ ስምምነት የለም። (So this is a difficult thing. As you can imagine, everyone is appointed and everything is canceled. There is no mutual agreement.)

Translator:                  So it’s difficult to describe this question but I think the people each other don’t agree they have a fight each other every time even the government there are so many things. That is the reason why Ethiopia.

Interviewer:                In Ethiopia? In Ethiopia the history class doesn’t talk about the Korean War why is that?

Translator:                  በኢትዮጲያ ትምህርት ቤት ውስጥ አባባ


…በኢትዮጲያ መፅሃፎች ላይ ስለ ለኮሪያ ትምህርት አያስተምሩም ለምን ይመስሎታል? (In Ethiopian school in the Ethiopian books they don’t teach about Korean War why did you think that?)

Asfaw Desta:              እንግዲ ይሄንን አላቅም። (Well I don’t know about this.)

Translator:                  I don’t know why.

Interviewer:                So next year will be 70th anniversary of the Korean War do you have any, do you have something to say to the Korean people?

Translator:                  የሚቀጥለው አመት 70ኛው ክብረ በዓል ነው። (Next year is the 70th anniversary.)

Asfaw Desta:              የነሱ? (Theirs?)

Translator:                  አዎ። ለነሱ ማለት እና ማስተላለፍ የሚፈልጉት ነገር ካለ? (Yes. So if you have to say anything and convey?

Asfaw Desta:              እግዚያብሔር ሀገራቸውን ሰላም ያድርግ። ህዝቡንም ያበርክትልን።


…ወጣቶቹም የተወለዱትም እግዚያብሔር ይባርካቸው። ሀገራቸውን ሰላም ያርግልን። (May God bless their country. And give to the people. God bless the young and the old. Peace be upon their country.)

Translator:                  I hope to their country to be successful and then to be peacefully in their life. So I wish them the strong.

Interviewer:                Sir, thank you very much for coming and sharing your story. Because you fought for Korean people now Korea is 11th largest economy in the world so we always thank you and we will make it into a teaching material


…so that children’s in Ethiopia can learn about the war that you fought for 70 years ago thank you sir.

Translator:                  ለእርሶ ምስጋና ይግባና እርሶ መተው ሂዎቶትን ስለሰው አሁን ይቺ የምትገኘው ሀብታም ሃገርንአርጋችሁልናል። እና ይሄንን ከዚ ተነስቼ ለእናንተ ተማሪዎች ለኢትዮጲያ ተማሪዎች መማሪያ እንዲሆን ይሄንንቃለምልልስ አስቀምጠዋለው እና በጣም አመሰግናለሁ እያለ ነው። (Thank you for leaving us and for making this country a rich country. And from here on out, I have put this interview as a lesson for your Ethiopian students so that they can learn about the Korean War and I would like to say thank you very much.)

Asfaw Desta:               እግዚያብሔር ይስጥልኝ። እግዚያብሔር ያቆይልኝ። (God bless you. God bless you.)


Translator:                  Thank you so much.

Asfaw Desta:              ሀገሩን ሰላም ያርግልን። (Peace be upon the country.)

Translator:                  May the country be peaceful.

Interviewer:                Thank you sir.

Translator:                  እናመሰግናለን። (Thank you.)


[End of Recorded Material]