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6.25.2016

Seoul Searching | The War Memorial of Korea.

I was actually saving this blog post for later, as I had planned on finishing my product review backlog before doing another Seoul Searching/travel post. But since today (June 25) marks a very important day in Korean history, I thought it would be timely to talk about the War Memorial of Korea.
The War Memorial of Korea.
Yue and I visited here last month, and out of all the landmarks/tourist spots that I had been to in Korea, this place tugged at my heartstrings the most. Perhaps its my weird fascination for war documentaries (I've watched 'Third Reich: The Rise and Fall' countless times on the History Channel). Or my penchant for romance films set against a war backdrop (think Casablanca). Or the fact that the War Memorial was built as a reminder that wars are tragic; it's sad, scary, and scarring, and should never be repeated ever again.

Whatever the reason is, I could not help but feel melancholy as I took photos of The Statue of Brothers, the most predominant edifice (in my opinion, at least) on the memorial grounds.
The Statue of Brothers.
The crack in the dome stands for the division of Korea and the hope for unification.
The two soldiers represent South and North Korea. 
So what's the big deal about June 25, you might ask?
(Answer after the jump. Picture-heavy post!)



Today marks the 66th anniversary of the Korean War, one of the most dismal wars in history. The skirmish began on this cataclysmic day in 1950, when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People's Army intruded the 38th parallel, the boundary that divides North and South Korea.
A mosaic inside the dome of the Statue of Brothers.
The North Korea forces, with assistance from China and the Soviet Union, poured across the border with aims of 'uniting the divided country'. The United Nations, however, recognized this as an act of aggression and decided the formation and dispatch of the UN Forces in Korea, with the United States as the principal force.
Defending the Fatherland - statues of soldiers in action at the Korean War Monument.
The soldiers, from another angle.
The Korean War Monument.
For the American officials, this invasion was not simply a border dispute; to them, this could be the start of a communist takeover. As such, the war on the Korean peninsula became a global struggle between good and evil, a fight for freedom, and a war against communism itself.
The Flying Wing.
The fighting ensued for 3 years, and ended with an Armistice Agreement signed on July 27, 1953. This agreement allowed the release and return of POWs (prisoners of war), and created the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which now separates North and South Korea.
The Clock Tower of Peace.
The Clock of Hope for Unification, which will be put on the Clock Tower
and will indicate the Time of Unification, if and when it happens in the future.
However, no peace treaty has been signed so technically speaking, the two Koreas are 'still at odds'. And aside from territorial changes in the Korean peninsula, the war also brought about a death toll of nearly 1.2 million, almost half of which were civilians.
So that we may never forget.
To commemorate the lives that had been lost and to honor the noble sacrifice of patriotic martyrs, the War Memorial of Korea was built. The memorial first opened its doors to the public on June 10, 1994, and is the first and the largest of its kind in the world. It is located in Yongsan, Seoul, where the headquarters of the Korean Infantry once stood.
The Reflecting Pool.
This massive complex consists of indoor and outdoor exhibition areas. The indoor exhibits are located inside the museum, and are split into seven different halls, starting from the Memorial Hall on the second floor.
The stairs leading to the Monument of KIA
This area is dedicated to the memory of patriots who lost their lives during the war. Along its corridors are walls lined with plaques bearing the names of each and every individual - soldiers, policemen, ordinary citizens - killed during the conflict. 
The Roll of Honor.
Inside the museum, you will find the War History room, the Korean War room which occupies two floors, the Expeditionary Forces room, the ROK Armed Forces room, and the Defense Industry room. These areas showcase around 13,000 war artifacts, military equipment, relics and documents, multi-media objects.
The Peace Plaza, which bears the flag of every UN country that helped South Korea during the war.
Unfortunately, we were not able to visit these rooms as we were a bit pressed for time. We arrived at the War Memorial late in the afternoon (around 4pm, I think), and Yue was still enjoying the sights at the outdoor exhibition area when they made the last call for admission at 5pm.
The outdoor exhibition area features aircraft, tanks, vehicles, and large artillery used during the war.
He wanted to check if it's the real thing, haha. :)
B-52 Stratofortress Bomber.
More planes!
Still more planes!
Tanks.
Jeeps.
An armored vehicle, and yes, you can ride on it.
Missiles!
Huge warship!
Our original plan was to visit this museum first before heading to the adjacent Children's Museum. However, since the museums will be closing at 6pm and the last admission for both is at 5pm, I had to choose one over the other. It had to be the Children's Museum, of course. 
Children's Museum.
And a playground, too!
Yue enjoying every minute of his visit here. :)
Previously used for traditional Korean wedding ceremonies, this area was rebuilt and redesigned into an 'edutainment' center for kids. The Children's Museum formally opened in December 2014, and has since become a favorite attraction among the younger visitors of the War Memorial.
Welcome sign.
The museum is divided into six sections, each filled with fun and informative educational materials, games, and videos.
Map of the Children's Museum.

The Public Square, which is located right past the entrance, has a small library where kids can sit comfortably and read to their hearts' content.
Reading corner.
Since the books are written in Hangul, we skipped this part and moved on to the 'War History of Korea' which features a pretend fortress wall with small alcoves.
The fortress.
Kids can watch animated history clips inside these alcoves, Yue seemed to understand what the video clip was all about, despite the language barrier. 
Admiral Yi Sun Shin, the greatest naval commander in Korean history.
I wish these video clips were dubbed in English, too, so that foreigners can understand the scenes better.
Press the hand to play the video clip.
The next section, 'Sorrow over the Lost Country', depicts scenes reflecting the struggle for independence. 
Yue taking a stab at the games in this area.
The boxes lights up once you place your hand inside the hole.
Yue tapping flag as the kind museum ahjumma looks on.
Here you can watch the animated clip of the 'Mungunghwa Grannies', which tells the plight of Korean women during the Japanese occupation. I'm surprised that they included the story of comfort women in a museum for children. Even more surprising, the video clip has English subtitles! Explaining the story to my son was a struggle, haha!
Just by looking at this illustration, I knew right away what it was all about.
English translation, please.
Yue watching the video.
And me looking on.
The section that follows depicts the Korean war and the unresolved conflict between the two Koreas. Hence, the name 'Unfinished War'. Kids can play with the puzzles in this area, and enjoy photo ops with the colorful illustrations and the trick-eye bridge.
Don't fall!
In every way, it is the children who suffer the most.
Learning about the countries that helped South Korea during the war.
Shouting for freedom!
Next is the 'Wish for Peace' section, which features a play area. Kids taller than 110 cm can enjoy the netted playground and mini climbing wall; for those who fall short of this height requirement, they can enjoy the padded play area or watch animated clips instead.
Yue must have been so tired from all the walking that he chose to sit down and watch videos instead.
Finally, in 'My Dear Country Korea', kids are introduced to the Korean national anthem and the Korean flag.
Animated video featuring the Korean national anthem.
A puzzle featuring the Korean flag and the mungunghwa, the national flower of Korea.
Overall, we enjoyed our visit to the War Memorial of Korea despite being unable to see the exhibits inside the 'adult' museum. I will make up for this missed opportunity the next time we visit Korea, which will most likely be in December.
Yue aboard the warship.
Yue, who had a blast by simply looking at the tanks and missiles, and riding the warships and armored vehicles, has been telling me constantly that we must visit this place again. We definitely will!
Let this be a reminder to all.
Oh, and I'll make sure we arrive at least three hours before the last admission call. I need more than enough time to cover every nook and cranny of the museum, and read every bit of information I can find in the exhibit. Because I'm a geek like that, haha. :)

To get to the War Memorial, take the Samgakji Station Exit 1, 11, or 12, or the Namyeong Station Exit 1.

29, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
+82-2-2125-0848


6 replies:

Julie Syl Kalungi said...

Hey This war memorial looks and sounds like somewhere we would love to visit and definitely to See. Your son looks like he had a blast. IG worthy piccies right here too :) Thanks for sharing!

Mai C. said...

What I like about war memorials is the reminder of how you got your freedom and how you should cherish it. So many lives are lost in every war and it's heartbreaking. I'm glad you had a great time. It's sad to see the one nation divided into two though, isn't it?

Nicole Escat said...

This is a nice place. We have a similar place here in our country and it so sad that there are only a few people go there for honoring them.

Lalaine Manalo said...

I just read your about me page :) I love a UFC buff, too. My hubby trains on Brazilian Jujitsu and he got me hooked on MMA.

Gideon Nikos Liquid said...

You've touched and landed on a very interesting topic and part of Korea's history and I am so engrossed with this post. Not only did you make me more interested in reading about what happened but you've covered a lot of ground with your pictures and your own insights. I would love to share this to a few friends who are history buffs, I'm sure they will appreciate this.

Rebecca Swenor said...

It looks like you had a interesting but fun time. History has always been something that has been a big interest to me and my boys. The statues of the soldiers is something that means so much to so many. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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