Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Melissa Lee breaks down speaking about Korean War

Melissa Lee at the Korean war 60th Anniversary.
Melissa Lee at the Korean war 60th Anniversary.

Korean-born National MP Melissa Lee broke down in Parliament last night when she was speaking about the Korean War.

"My grandfather was shot dead by the North Koreans because he was educated at university," she said through tears.

She recalled her mother having talked about not having enough food for the family to eat "and yet they took in 10 other refugees so they had a roof over their head."

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"I get a little emotional about this because it does affect my family," she said in the first reading debate of the Veterans' Support Bill.

She said owed a great debt to the Korean veterans, 3974 soldiers and 1300 naval
personnel who fought in the war, with 33 deaths.

She said if it had not been for the veterans who had answered the call of the United Nations, "I may not be standing here proudly as a Member of Parliament in this great country of ours, New Zealand."

She said she refers to the K-Force as her "dads."

"They gave up their youth to fight for something that they didn't even have anything to do with in a foreign country."

Melissa Lee, a list MP since 2008, accompanied Prime Minister John Key to Korea in July to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the war. It began at dawn on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea.

Labour's Ikaroa Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri paid tribute to Melissa Lee's speech and her recognition of the veteran's who included her father.

"My dad was eight years old when World War II broke out and was 14 when World War II ended. Unlike his older brother and his uncle, who joined the Two Eight Maori Battalion, my dad had to wait for the Korean War."

In 2010 she had visited the graves in Italy of her uncle and great uncle - both had died on the same day, December 15, 1944, in different places.

The Veterans' Support Bill, introduced by Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Woodhouse, will replace the War Pensions Act of 1954 and follows a Law Commission Review in 2010. Service eligibility will remain the same under the modernised law.

But two schemes will operate: the first scheme will cover veterans from the Second World War to the Vietnam War, and the second scheme will cover service after Vietnam.

What the Veterans' Support Bill will do, as explained in this extract of Minister Michael Woodhouse's speech to Parliament:


Scheme One will cover veterans who served from the Second World War through to and including the Vietnam War. Until 1 July 2015 it will cover all veterans as a transitional measure. After that time, Scheme One will cover veterans with service prior to 1 April 1974.

The scheme is based on the entitlements available under the 1954 Act and covers approximately 10,000 veterans and 5,500 surviving spouses and partners of deceased veterans.

Veterans will continue to receive periodic Disablement Pension payments for impairments of 5 per cent or greater.

Veterans who are under the age of retirement and unable to work will have the option of receiving weekly income compensation which will be paid at a rate of 80 per cent of the average weekly wage. This is significantly higher than the current entitlement (Veterans pension) they receive, however entitlements for spouses/partners and children will remain the same.

Scheme Two will cover veterans who have served since 1 April 1974. This includes deployments such as Cambodia, East Timor and Afghanistan. The entitlements available under this scheme will be based on entitlements available through ACC with a `top-up' that is additional to ACC entitlements and recognise the special nature of military service.

Veterans who are of working age and are unable to work due to service-related impairment will be eligible for weekly compensation. This will be payable at 100 per cent of their pre-injury earnings for the first year of incapacity and 85 per cent for the period thereafter. This is higher than the 80 per cent compensation paid by ACC to other New Zealanders and retains the benevolence shown in the current Act.

Scheme Two will provide impairment compensation to veterans in the form of a lump sum payment. The lump sum rates will be set at the equivalent rate payable by ACC plus an additional 20 per cent. In addition the scale will be broader than ACC's scale and will provide for compensation of 5 to 100 per cent whole person impairment, to match the rates of impairment compensation provided for in the 1954 Act payment.

Compensation for the spouse or partner and children of eligible deceased veterans will also be based on ACC entitlements. A one-off survivor's grant will be payable in the form of a lump sum, as well as on-going weekly compensation. The spouse or partner will receive 60 per cent of the veteran's earnings prior to death, and the children will share 20 per cent. This is a slightly higher rate than that paid by ACC.

There will also be a number of common provisions available to veterans of both Schemes. Veterans covered under either scheme will have access to medical treatment and rehabilitation for accepted conditions. The Veterans pension for over-65s will be retained from the 1954 Act. This is an equivalent of New Zealand Superannuation, with some additional entitlements.

Other common provisions include access to support services such as home help and lawn mowing for service related conditions, and the provision of funeral grants for veterans with a service-related death.

The Veterans' Support Bill also includes a new provision for a Code of Veterans' and Other Claimants' Rights. It also establishes a Specialist Medical Advisory Panel, the functions of which include providing advice on specified matters relating to service, veterans' health and entitlements under this Act.

- NZ Herald

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