by

Seoul

War Memorial

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I had originally planned on visiting the DMZ and poking North Koreans with sticks, but thankfully for the cause of world peace there weren’t any Panmunjom tours scheduled that weekend, so instead I went to the Korean War Memorial. This is a combination monument and museum and is HUGE. It took me the better part of a whole day to poke through it all.

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These plinths were much like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Except there were more names. A lot more. A whole lot more. There were multiple rows of these plinths (I think 4?) and a computer system at the entrance guided people to the plinth of a specific name. A seperate set listed in English the US war dead.

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I wasn’t alone in the museum. Apparently several elementary schools were running tours that day as well. The kids often found me (who, more often than not, was the tallest, fattest, and hairiest human being in a five-square-mile radius) more exciting than the exhibits, and would happily wave and shout “Hi!” I at first responded with a cheerful “Annyong haseyo!”, Korean for hello, but from the crestfallen looks when I responded in Korean I realized that they actually wanted to “talk” in English, so instead I responded with “Hi”. Well, actually I would respond with “Hi Hi Hello Hi How are you Pleased to meet you Hi Hi” because I would pass waves of kids all happily waving and shouting “Hi”. One boisterous older boy jumped up and screamed “PEACE!” at the top of his lungs (that’s him in the picture); I don’t know if he was making a political statement or if that was simply the English word he knew. The younger kids were all fascinated with me, but once the kids got to about 12 or so they couldn’t care less. At any rate the kids were everywhere throughout the museum, so you’ll see them in many of the following pictures. Seeing grim testimonials of war surrounded by happy Korean kids shouting “Hi! Hi!” was more than a little creepy, by the way.

The museum opened with these busts of Korean war heroes.

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Following that was a medieval history display, including this dramatic life-size diorama of a medieval battle.

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This book, if I read the inscription correctly, had inscribed the names of the Korean War dead.

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This medieval turtle-ship should be familiar to Age of Kings players.

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Next was the Korean War historical display, which was as you would expect huge (in fact taking up multiple floors). A disturbing number of statues commemorated soldiers who bravely commited suicide taking as many enemy with them as possible.

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Many of the displays were wax representation of scenes; these displayed North and South Korean war uniforms.

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Another large diorama commemorated the annihilation of a school whose students fought back against the North Koreans. One wonders what the kids thought of it.

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This diorama represented the liberation of Seoul.

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Crossing the 38th parallel – you actually cross it along with the diorama soldiers.

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An artist’s rendering of Pyongyang’s liberation. A bit fanciful, as by this point Pyongyang was a parking lot from constant bombardment.

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A canteen of water from the Yalu, as presented to the South Korean President.

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It’s Seargent Mao’s Lonely Hearts Club Band! Chinese soldiers, for some reason with musical instruments.

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In this diorama (again, life-size) representing a “human wave” attack the Chinese are a bit less friendly.

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I found the propaganda preserved by the museum pretty interesting.

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These pictures with the armistice displays show people protesting the end of the war.

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The prior displays were (understandably) fairly Korean-centric; the next section detailed the UN assistance Korea recieved.

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I bet you didn’t know the Ethiopian Army fought in the Korean War, did you.

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The following sequence, which closed out the Korean War section, had displays of civilian refugees.

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The rest of the museum displays dealt with more modern history, such as Korea’s Vietnam involvement…

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…and present-day peacekeeping operations.

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On the first floor there was a display for kids about Microbes. No, really. It had lots of apparently corporate-sponsored booths and required a seperate ticket. I wasn’t really motivated to learn about microbes, but there was this display which I can only begin to imagine the purpose of.

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Outside there was a period-costume procession, I believe a recreation of a medieval wedding ceremony. Oddly the guys in yellow costumes waved at me and smiled as I was taking pictures (sadly I didn’t get a shot of that, it looked pretty bizarre)

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And beyond that was an outdoor display of military hardware. And by that I mean a LOT of military hardware. In case of a conflict I’m pretty sure people could just roll on up to the museum and outfit a fairly nasty force.

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And beyond THAT was… an ancient monument. I swear, this was the Catch-All Museum Of Stuff. I think this monument was here originally and they just built the museum next to it, so it just got absorbed.

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That ends the tour of the War Memorial. Thank you and drive safely. (By the way, almost no one drives safely in Seoul. I think cab drivers take combat driving courses.)

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