Korea Medal (South Africa)

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Korea Medal
Korea Medal (South Africa).jpg
Awarded by the Monarch of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms
Country  South Africa
Type Military campaign medal
Eligibility All Ranks
Awarded for Voluntary service in the Korean War
Campaign 1950-1953 Korean War
Status Discontinued in 1953
Established 1953
SADF pre-1994 & SANDF post-2002 orders of wear
Next (higher)
SADF precedence:
Next (lower)
SADF succession:
SANDF succession:
Related Korea Medal
Korean War Service Medal
Ribbon - Korea Medal (South Africa).gif
Ribbon bar

The Korea Medal is a military campaign medal that was instituted by the Union of South Africa in 1953. It was awarded to volunteers of the Union Defence Forces for service in Korea during the 1950-1953 Korean War.[1]

The South African military[edit]

The Union Defence Forces (UDF) were established in 1912 and renamed the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1958. On 27 April 1994 it was integrated with six other independent forces into the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).[1]

Orders, decorations and medals[edit]

In April 1952 a series of military decorations and medals was instituted, consisting of substitutes for many of the British and Commonwealth awards which had earlier been used. More decorations and medals, as well as an emblem for being mentioned in dispatches, were added between 1953 and 1970. In July 1975 the military decorations and medals of the Republic were revised. Some decorations and medals were carried over from the earlier series of 1952-1975 and new awards were instituted, followed by more between 1987 and 1991. Finally, all but one of these earlier awards were discontinued in respect of services performed on or after 27 April 2003, when a new set of nine decorations and medals was instituted to replace them.[1][2][3][4][5]

Fount of Honour[edit]

Until 1958 the top three awards were reserved for conferment by the Queen while the rest were awarded by the Governor-General, but in 1958 the Governor-General was authorised to also award the top three. In 1961 the State President became the Fount of Honour, and in 1994 the President.[1][6]

Korean War[edit]

SAAF members who were killed or went missing in action in Korea

The Flying Cheetahs, 2 Squadron of the South African Air Force, was South Africa's primary contribution to the United Nations Command during the Korean War, where it operated under American command. More than 200 officers and some 545 other ranks saw action in Korea between 1950 and 1953, along with some members from other branches of the Union Defence Forces. During the Korean War South African pilots flew altogether 2,890 operational missions, during which 34 pilots and two ground crew were killed in action or listed as missing in action. Eight pilots were either shot down by Communist forces or forced to land behind enemy lines and taken prisoner.[7][8]

Award criteria[edit]

The Korea Medal was awarded to volunteers of all ranks of the Union Defence Forces who served for one day or more in the Korean theatre of operations between 19 September 1950 and 27 July 1953.[1][9][10]

Order of precedence[edit]

The position of the Korea Medal in the official order of precedence was revised three times after 1975 to accommodate the inclusion or institution of new decorations and medals, first with the integration into the South African National Defence Force on 27 April 1994, again when decorations and medals were belatedly instituted in April 1996 for the two former non-statutory forces, the Azanian People's Liberation Army and Umkhonto we Sizwe, and again when a new series of military orders, decorations and medals was instituted in South Africa on 27 April 2003. Its position remained unchanged, as it was on 27 April 1994, upon the latter two occasions.[11]

South African Defence Force until 26 April 1994

Military Merit Medal (MMM) Korea Medal Pro Patria Medal

  • Official national order of precedence:
    • Preceded by the National Intelligence Service Decoration, Bronze.
    • Succeeded by the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism.[12]
South African National Defence Force from 27 April 1994

Chief C.D.F. Commendation Medal Korea Medal Pro Patria Medal

With effect from 6 April 1952, when a new South African set of decorations and medals was instituted to replace the British awards used to date, the older awards continued to be worn in the same order of precedence but, with the exception of the Victoria Cross, took precedence after all South African orders, decorations and medals awarded to South Africans on or after that date.[11][13][14]

The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal, the Queen's Medal for Champion Shots and the Arctic Star were all instituted by the United Kingdom after 6 April 1952 and could or can be awarded to South Africans. The most recent of these was the Arctic Star that was belatedly instituted on 19 December 2012 for award to Second World War veterans, more than sixty-seven years after the end of the war.[13][14][15]

South African National Defence Force from 19 December 2012

Arctic Star Korea Medal Pro Patria Medal



The Korea Medal was struck in nickel-silver to fit in a circle 38 millimetres in diameter and 3 millimetres thick. Around the edge is a laurel wreath, the left branch spreading from the bottom of the medal to the top, while the right branch is shorter to allow space for the inscription "KOREA". The center has the words "VRYWILLIGERS" and "VOLUNTEERS", with outlines of the maps of the Korean Peninsula and South Africa, including South-West Africa. The maps are connected by a line with an arrowhead at each end and five wavy lines. Superimposed on the map of South Africa are the inscriptions "U. van S-A." and "U. of S.A.".[1]


The reverse has the pre-1994 South African Coat of Arms and Queen Elizabeth's royal cipher (E II R) above the Coat of Arms. The medal number is impressed at the bottom of the medal on the rim.


The ribbon is 32 millimetres wide with a 6 millimetres wide orange band and a 5 millimetres wide dark blue band, repeated in reverse order and separated by a 10 millimetres wide light blue band in the centre.[1]

Mentioned in dispatches[edit]

A recipient of the Korea Medal that was mentioned in dispatches during the Korean War was entitled to wear a bronze oak leaf on the medal ribbon and ribbon bar.


The conferment of the medal was discontinued in 1953.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g South African Medal Website - SA Defence Force : 1952-1975 (Accessed 30 April 2015)
  2. ^ Suid-Afrikaanse militêre dekorasies: 1952-1975
  3. ^ South African Medal Website - SA Defence Force : 1975-2003 (Accessed 30 April 2015)
  4. ^ Suid-Afrikaanse militêre dekorasies: 1975-2003
  5. ^ Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 457, no. 25213, Pretoria, 25 July 2003
  6. ^ "The Korean War ends | South African History Online". Sahistory.org.za. 1953-07-27. Retrieved 2014-05-13. 
  7. ^ Section "Check for Pre-1999 Messages" - Unit members - From: "J. Bolitho" Date: Tue, 18 Jun 1996 (Accessed 3 May 2015)
  8. ^ Alexander, E.G.M., Barron, G.K.B. and Bateman, A.J. (1986). South African Orders, Decorations and Medals. Human and Rousseau.
  9. ^ Monick, S, (1988). South African Military Awards 1912-1987. South African National Museum of Military History.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Republic of South Africa Government Gazette Vol. 477, no. 27376, Pretoria, 11 March 2005. OCLC 72827981 In the document, the printed identification number is 9771682584003.
  11. ^ a b Republic of South Africa Government Gazette no. 15093, Pretoria, 3 September 1993
  12. ^ a b c d The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56878. p. 3352. 17 March 2003.
  13. ^ a b Government Notice no. 1982 of 1 October 1954 – Order of Precedence of Orders, Decorations and Medals, published in the Government Gazette of 1 October 1954.
  14. ^ New Zealand Defence Force - The Arctic Star (Access date 12 April 2015)