Over 100 Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers were embedded within each Australian battalion from 1953 as part of the KATCOM (Korean Augmentation to Commonwealth Division) scheme. They served side by side with Australian soldiers, wore Australian Army uniforms, ate the same rations and carried the same weapons. Over 1,000 were attached to the Australian, New Zealand, British and Canadian armies. They received 16 weeks of basic training with the ROK Army and continued to be paid by them while serving as KATCOMs.

On 28 March 1953, the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) received 120 KATCOMs. The same month, 3RAR received 100 KATCOMs. Over the four months they were attached to Australian units (before the Korean armistice agreement was signed on 27 July 1953) the KATCOMs suffered over 20 casualties, including three killed in action and one captured. They continued to serve with the Australians in 1RAR and other units in the post-Armistice period until 1956.

The KATCOM scheme was based on KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army), which began in August 1950 shortly after the outbreak of war as a verbal agreement between General Douglas MacArthur and South Korean President Syngman Rhee. The KATUSA program still runs today out of Camp Casey near Uijeongbu.

The aim of the program was to create an exchange of information and training between the different countries. Koreans learned Western military tactics and weaponry and improved their English, while the Australians learned some Korean and gained the ability to distinguish their allies from enemy troops. The KATCOMs bolstered battalion numbers and provided knowledge of Korean geography and culture. They served and died alongside their Australian comrades.

 

Lieutenant Song Sang Seob. Ivor Hele (3 May 1952, red conte crayon, carbon pencil on paper. 55.3 x 38 cm) AWM ART40407

Captain Song Sang Seob with Lieutenant Brian Heenan in December 1955, five years after they fought alongside each other at the battle of Kapyong. Heenan was then a corporal in 3RAR and Captain Song was a lieutenant serving as a Korean liaison officer and interpreter with the Australian forces. A portrait of Republic of Korea President Syngman Rhee is in the background HOLJ0109

KATCOMs who served with 3RAR were inspected at a special parade on 20 October 1954 before leaving the battalion to join other Commonwealth units in Korea. Brigadier Murdoch, 28 British Commonwealth Brigade Commander inspected the parade before 3RAR returned to Australia. HOBJ5449

Grenade training with Privates Jeffrey Ey (left) and Kim Hyo Hyung in February 1955 with 1RAR. MELJ0675

Private Kim Jin Tai and (possibly) Corporal Kevin Power, Assault Pioneers of Support Company, 2RAR sit behind a Vickers .303 medium machine-gun. P03035.002

Sergeant Bill Eacott helped Kim Si Hwan carry rolls of barbed wire to an outlying defence position on the Kansas Line. Both men are serving with C Company, 1RAR. MELJ0797

Corporal Larry Nelson, a platoon sergeant in 3RAR and Sergeant Jung Yung Hak during a full scale battalion exercise in Korea. HOBJ4915

Privates Bernard Bradley and Lee Kla Biak of 1RAR share a cigarette together after a patrol into the demilitarised zone. HOLJ0105

There were still Australians in Korea in June 1956. The men of Signal Squadron, Commonwealth Contingent Korea are fulfilling Australia’s contribution to the effort by supplying communications. Signalmen Jack Boehm and Kim Soon Dong try their hand at archery at the Commonwealth camp. MELJ1424.

Signals Platoon of 2RAR check wire faults by tapping the wires (left to right): Privates Patrick Brook, Kimg Chung Koo of Suwon and Norm Morrissey. HOBJ4193

Private Lee Kyoo Bong gets a 2-inch mortar lesson from Private Ray Garwood of D Company, 2RAR who stays his hand. HOBJ4206

Privates James Clark, Lee Tok Yong of Suwon and Aub Coverley clean their section Bren gun in front of the dugout in May 1953. HOBJ4199

Following army tradition, enlisted men of 2RAR were served Christmas dinner by their non-commissioned officers. A well laid placement for each soldier was prepared, including an initial bottle of beer per man. Several KATCOMs are sitting amongst the Australians. HOBJ4816

An unidentified Australian from 2RAR laughs with two smiling KATCOMs as they share a meal on Christmas Day 1953. HOBJ4817

Informal portrait of Choi Dong Chul, sitting outside a tent holding a toy dog wearing a slouch hat and uniform. Choi is a KATCOM attached to the Support Company, 2RAR as an Assault Pioneer. P03035.001

Ten feet underground in a bunker on the Kansas Line, Second Lieutenant John Black (centre) gives instructions to Sergeant Pak Hoon Sout and Corporal Mervyn Denney from 1RAR in 1955. Sout served with the Australian unit for two years. MELJ0765

Corporal Pak In Chool receives instructions from Corporal William Strutton while guarding the barrier leading into the Demilitarised Zone. MELJ0842

B Company, 2RAR having their lunch in May 1953. Pictured (left to right): Corporal Fred Kirkland and Privates Cha Bok Hyung and Dennis Ryan. HOBJ4195

Kim Dong Sool of Pusan has been with Australian forces for four years. Here he translates news items from Korean papers to Private Dudley Kipping in March 1955. Kipping is serving with 1RAR, but previously served with 3RAR in 1951 and 1952. MELJ0707

KATCOM Casualties

Date

Service Number

Name

Unit

Fate

Details

15 May 1953

9371777

Kong Wan Young

2RAR

KIA

Strayed from patrol

24 May 1953

9371011

Youn Ok Dong

2RAR

MIA

Captured by Chinese PLA on patrol

7 June 1953

9371886

Lee San Yang

2RAR

WIA

Artillery

7 June 1953

9368358

Song Joong Hyun

2RAR

WIA

Mortar

7 June 1953

9370710

Pan Sun Dong

2RAR

WIA

Mortar

7 June 1953

9346953

Kim Yong Gook

2RAR

WIA

Mortar

19 July 1953

9371635

Lee Jong Sam

2RAR

WIA

Mortar

20 July 1953

9371757

Rashi Yong

2RAR

WIA

Mortar

25 July 1953

9371734

Pak Sang Kyoo

2RAR

WIA

Artillery

25 July 1953

9371815

Son Joong Ok

2RAR

WIA

Artillery

4 April 1953

9369263

Kim Wan Kon

3RAR

WIA

Accidentally wounded by grenade

4 April 1953

9369428

Kim Sang Choul

3RAR

WIA

Accidentally wounded by grenade

8 May 1953

9369020

Lim Seaung Hwi

3RAR

WIA

Shelling

13 May 1953

9369814

Oh Kil Hyon

3RAR

WIA

Mortar

13 May 1953

9251442

Kim Hong Dae

3RAR

KIA

 

15 May 1953

9233800

Kim Suk Ahm

3RAR

WIA

Mortar

25 May 1953

9369633

Huang in Kwan

3RAR

WIA

On patrol

11 June 1953

 

Un-named

3RAR

KIA

Minefield during Op. Polecat

18 June 1953

 

Un-named

3RAR

WIA

Mortar

30 June 1953

936963

Kim Yung Soon

3RAR

WIA

Artillery drop short

9 July 1953

9233768

Lee Jin Ho

3RAR

WIA

On patrol