This afternoon Julianne and I decided to head to the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan-dong, Yongsan-gu (about 4 blocks away from Itaewon), Seoul to take pictures and walk around. I’ve been to the memorial several times, but for Julianne it was her first visit. (You can see pictures I took of the War Memorial during another visit here, about half way into the post.)
I’m always struck by the vivid bronze sculptures standing just inside the main gates of the memorial grounds.
One of the first things that struck me when I came to Korea in 2005 was how mountainous this country’s landscape is. I tried to imagine how Canadian soldiers who fought (516 died) in the Korean war would have dealt with the terrain while wearing full combat gear with a ruck sack loaded with ammo, food, sleeping bag, and whatever else they needed for the missions they completed. (Check out the Canadians in Korea website for info about the 27,000 Canadian Forces personnel who fought and served as a part of the massive UN Forces in the Korean War.)
A friend of mine sent me this picture (below) of a Canadian Forces memorial in Gapyeong (along with several others) that describes Canada’s role in the Korean War in one paragraph.
It would be really awesome if, in the future, Korea introduced a new section to the War Memorial in Korea that recognized the contributions and sacrifices of other countries during the Korean War. I think it would really show how Korea has developed and matured as a country with a truly global identity and history. In other parts of Korea there are examples of memorials dedicated to other countries’ armed forces, for example in Chuncheon, where there is a memorial dedicated to the Ethiopian soldiers who fought during the Korean War (scroll down to the end of this post to see pictures).
Every November 11th I’ve been in Korea I teach a Remembrance Day cultural lesson to Korean English language students. I talk about how international the Korean War was, and how I’m sad that Koreans focus on Pepero Day every November 11th instead of participating in the global remembrance of the dead civilians and soldiers of WWI, WWII, and the Korean War. Anyways, I won’t belabor the point here–instead I’ll point you to an old blog post I wrote on the subject.
Today when I visited the memorial again I focused on these statues because I feel they really convey the horrible trauma that Koreans went through during the war, and illustrate the heroism and sacrifice of Korean soldiers and civilians, and of foreign soldiers and civilian personnel.
I don’t have much else to say about this, and just wanted to share the pictures with people in Korea who haven’t visited the memorial before, and for other people outside of Korea who might want to see them too.
I find this particular sculpture very powerful . . .
The detailing on the sculptures is really amazing.
I didn’t see a sign in front of this memorial with children’s faces on it so I’m not sure what to say other than it’s likely victims of the war.
The area with all the military vehicles and weapons felt a lot less sad to me as there were several families with their children walking around and looking at the weapons, vehicles, airplanes, and equipment. At one point I suggested Julianne stand up on a step just behind this massive gun.
When I was a teenager and in my early twenties I did training with the Canadian Army Cadets and Canadian Armed Forces Reserves and had the chance to fire a fair number of different types of weapons. Yet I never fired anything quite this big (though there were a few weapons (the FNC1 and C6) that I remember leaving bruises on my cheek after leaving the firing range, lol). It is literally beyond any person’s imagination to KNOW what it’d be like to fire a weapon like this (in the picture below) in a combat situation–just looking at this and thinking about what it’d be like in a war situation is . . . yeah, only the guys who have actually done this can comment.
Julianne and I wandered over to the rear part of the memorial grounds and I was kind of shocked to see there’s a WEDDING HALL??? During my past visits I’ve never bothered to walk to the far back corner of the memorial grounds because I didn’t think there was anything to look at . . . I don’t know why a wedding hall is a part of the WAR museum, but . . . yeah, I don’t know. Anybody care to comment?
I’ll end this post with something that became a passion of mine while researching and designing a special Remembrance Day culture lesson for the high school girls I taught in Korea in 2006. I focused the content on WOMEN in WWI, WWII, and the Korean War. Korean women’s stories seem to be somewhat lacking representation in Korean museums in terms of what they did during the Korean War (and if anyone knows of an exhibit that focuses on Korean women in the Korean War please tell me!). I suggested to my high school girls that they ask their grandmothers to tell them stories (if they felt comfortable doing so–retelling can also be reliving the trauma) about their lives during the Korean War, and what they experienced. I urged the girls to consider writing the stories of their grandmothers because all too soon these Korean grandmothers will be gone, and their stories with them.
I wonder what this woman’s story is?