Korepck Mahallesi: A Symbol of Friendship and Solidarity Between Turkey and South Korea
Malatya, a city in eastern Turkey, was hit by a series of devastating earthquakes on February 6, 2023, that left thousands of people homeless and damaged many buildings and infrastructure. In the aftermath of the disaster, the Turkish government and various national and international organizations launched relief and recovery efforts to help the affected people and restore normalcy.
One of the most remarkable initiatives in this regard was the establishment of Korepck Mahallesi, a temporary housing complex consisting of 210 containers donated by South Korea, in Kaynarca Mahallesi, one of the worst-hit areas in Malatya. The project was a joint effort of the Turkish Ministry of Interior, the South Korean Embassy in Turkey, the Malatya Governorate, the Malatya Metropolitan Municipality, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), the South Korean Association of Municipalities, and the Turkish-Korean Cultural Communication Association.
The opening ceremony of Korepck Mahallesi was held on November 28, 2023, with the participation of various dignitaries and representatives from both countries, as well as the local residents. The speakers at the event expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the cooperation and solidarity between Turkey and South Korea, and highlighted the historical and cultural ties that bind the two nations.
AFAD Provincial Director Mustafa Türker said, “After the earthquakes we experienced on February 6, we continue our improvement works without interruption, in order to revitalize the commercial life in Malatya and meet the housing needs of our citizens. In this context, we are here to add a new link to our historical friendship, cooperation, and brotherhood with Korea, thanks to the contribution of Korea and other stakeholders. I express my gratitude on behalf of myself and my institution for this valuable work that emerged. I thank everyone who contributed to this work.”
Park Pck NGO Representative Gui Whan said, “I am the director of Pck in Korea. First of all, I thank you for inviting me. It has been exactly 9 months since the great earthquakes that hit the southern region of Turkey. The improvement works are still ongoing. I thank the Malatya Governorate, the Malatya Metropolitan Municipality, the AFAD Presidency, the South Korean Embassy in Turkey, and the Turkish-Korean Cultural Communication Association.”
The President of the Turkey Koreans Association Young Hoon Kim said, “I welcome all the guests who came here. As you know, the relationship between Korea and Turkey has been continuing since the Korean War. As the President of the Korea Association, we tried to create a container neighborhood not only in Malatya but also in Kahramanmaraş, İskenderun, and Hatay after this disaster. Some people may wonder why Koreans are showing this activity in Turkey. Actually, we are not here to support you, but to try to pay off some of the debt you have given us in the past. The Turkish soldiers who came to Korea during the Korean War did not just participate in the war. Turkish soldiers fought and also took care of the Korean children who were left on the street. You built houses for the homeless children, gave them clothes, gave them food. As a Korean, it is impossible for me to forget this event. Do not mention these as support, we Koreans will try to pay off our debt. These are temporary houses, I hope you will return to your new houses as soon as possible. I thank all my friends who made an effort. We know how well the Malatya Metropolitan Municipality works. I wish the temporary houses to be good.”
The Deputy Mayor of the Metropolitan Municipality Vahap Erdem said, “Turkey recognized South Korea on August 11, 1949. The friendship between the Turkish and Korean peoples was cemented by the Korean War in the near past, and permanent humanitarian ties were established between the two nations who shared their fate on the front, eliminating the geographical distance. This relationship, which is called “blood brotherhood” between Turkey and South Korea, was raised to the level of “strategic partnership” in the field of foreign relations as of 2012 and a new vision was added to our bilateral relations. We also have strong ties with Korea in the field of economy. For example, in 2016, Turkey exported 519 million US dollars to South Korea, while importing 6.4 billion US dollars from this country.”
Erdem also thanked the South Korean government and people for their generous donation and said that the containers were equipped with all the necessary facilities and services for the comfort and safety of the residents. He added that the Metropolitan Municipality would continue to provide support and assistance to the earthquake victims until they moved to their permanent houses.
Korepck Mahallesi, which means “Korea Village” in Turkish, is not only a temporary shelter for the people who lost their homes in the earthquake, but also a symbol of the friendship and solidarity between Turkey and South Korea, two countries that have shared a long and deep history of mutual respect and cooperation. The project is a testament to the humanitarian values and spirit of both nations, and a reminder of the importance of international solidarity in times of crisis.