Thursday, 7 February 2013

The War Memorial of Korea

It's fair to say that war has played a highly significant role in Korea's history, both ancient and modern. Over the last 2000 years, the peninsula has suffered eight major invasions, including those by various Chinese kingdoms, the Mongol Empire, and of course, Japan. One of the country's most recent conflicts, the Korean War, saw the country partitioned into two sovereign entities, and though a ceasefire was agreed between the North and South in 1953, the two nations are still officially at war. What ought to be a single Korean nation remains divided along the 38th parallel in a seemingly permanent stalemate.

Angela and I recently visited the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul, which pays tribute to the peninsula's tragic, war-torn history. Despite the name, the building is as much a museum as a memorial, with hundreds of dioramas, models and artefacts on display, presenting Korea's military history in a series of vivid, interactive exhibits. Admission is free, which is great considering just how expansive the place is. We spent several hours wandering around the memorial and its outer grounds. Here are some photos I took along the way.

Designed by artist-architect, Young-Jeep Choi, the Statue of Brothers is a sculptural work expressing the heartfelt wishes of the Korean people for national reconciliation and reunification.
The taller, older soldier represents South Korea, while the younger soldier represents the North.
The Korean War Monument.
The main building of the memorial.

The memorial organisation created this drum to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the R.O.K. Armed Forces. The tiger represents the courage of the Korean soldiers in the face of adversity.
The remains of a fallen soldier who died, aged 20, in the Korean War, 1951.
A 37mm Anti-Aircraft Gun, M-1939.

A reconstruction of a battlefield in the Korean War.

This painting depicts ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers receiving a warm welcome from President Syngman Rhee in the city of Pyongyang, in October, 1950. At that point in the war, Pyongyang was an ROK-controlled territory, but it would later become the capital of North Korea, as it remains today.
A wall showing the word "peace" written in numerous languages. Angela, of course, being the lifelong Francophile that she is, immediately pointed to "Paix".

A model depiction of a scene in the Vietnam War. Both North and South Korea sent troops and resources to Vietnam to support their respective ideological allies.

Apparently this is what soldiers of the future will look like.
The actual memorial within the museum.
One of the floors is dedicated to some of Korea's older, pre-20th century wars. This is a scene from the Great Victory at the Salsu River, a battle fought in 612 AD.
A replica of Hwaseong, a fortress I visited last month.

Angela trying out an old motorcycle. It's a pity it wasn't for sale, as it kind of suits her. Plus I've always wanted to ride in a sidecar.
Back out on the plaza during sunset.

Me, chilling out on the warship.

Angela piloting the ship.

Just before my head got popped like a grape.
The War Memorial is definitely an essential place to check out if you're in Seoul. Not only does it provide a memorable, educational tour of the country's recent military history, but it does so completely free of charge. To get there, simply head to Samgakji Metro Station on Lines 4 and 6, Exit 12, and follow the signs. It's only a five-minute walk from the station.

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