South Koreans end operations in Iraq
SEOUL — The title of Monday’s news release from the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said it all — "Goodbye Irbil."
On Monday, South Korea formally ended its operations in Iraq, the release said. South Korean troops have conducted peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in Irbil, in northern Iraq, since September 2004.
The country expects to withdraw all of the remaining 500 troops by Dec. 20, according to the ministry.
The Zaytun Division — named after an Arabic word for olive — once numbered 3,300 and ranked third-largest among Coalition Forces. It was the largest troop overseas deployment from South Korea since the Vietnam War, according to a ministry spokesman.
South Korean leaders extended the one-year commitment repeatedly, though they also reduced the force each time, the spokesman said. The division lost only one member, to suicide, he said Monday.
In four years, the division helped run a local hospital, which treated more than 88,000 people. Troops led classes to teach Iraqis about computer and heavy-equipment repair, driving construction vehicles, maintaining automobiles and operating bakeries.
The South Koreans also built about 280 facilities, including a library, a school, water supply facilities, a public health center, a rehabilitation center for the disabled people and parks.
The division plans to donate about 18,000 pieces of equipment from its base to the Iraqi government this week.