Conflict has been occurring since time immemorial. It can be a enlightening way to delve deep into the tapestry, and the influences that shape a nation. Whether we now look at war as an unnecessary evil, a fight to occupy more of the world than any one else, or somewhere in between - we must remember that we are lucky enough to view it this way. For many generations war, and fighting, was a way of life, something people expected, at some time, to participate in.
Dean and I had intended on visiting Korea's War Memorial from the moment we learnt of it's existence, some 12 months ago. But, as many things do, it got lost upon the pile of things to do when we had the time.
With winter rearing it's frosty head we decided it was finally time to trudge over to the Memorial and find out what it was all about. To begin with, visiting the War Memorial is free. It was built in 1994 as an homage to the men and women who contributed to the conflict with North Korea, but it also has exhibitions spanning the nations history since the Bronze age.
The exterior of the Memorial makes an enormous impact. The entrance is surrounded by flags of the contributing UN forces, including; Australia, South Africa, and the United States of America. Etched onto each gold dedication was two numbers of varying size; one, the number of troops contributed by each foreign nation, and the second, the number of troops lost to the conflict. It was at this moment that I realised how much of terror the Korean war must have been to the world, with the ever present, and at the time, very real, threat of the spread of communism.
Inside is a number of exhibitions, including; armament, weaponry, and further coverage of the Korean war. There is a particularly impressive wax reenactment of the important moments of the war, with key political figures. Probably the most impressive exhibition, for us, was the 1:25 scale of a Korean Turtle War ship. The answer to the ever plaguing problem of enemies mounting vessels during naval warfare. The Korean Navy invented a cover for their ship replete with sharp metal spikes.
In the exterior displays of the Memorial you can walk through a parking lot of tanks, mobile artillery, rocket launchers and jet planes. Enough to quash even the most hardcore enthusiasts thirst for wartime engineering.
Australia is thoroughly represented throughout, and I was taken aback by a particular display. It depicted two men burying the remains of one Australian woman Nancy Humerstone. Her husband had been a Captain during the Korean war and had died on duty in 1950 at the age of 34. Nancy never remarried and the pair never had children. At the age of 91, in 2010, Nancy died and was buried alongside her husband in the UN Memorial cemetery in Korea.
I went into this visit expecting a history lesson but came out feeling much more than I ever expected to. I came to understand the impacts of a forgotten war on the people who were effected by it. It became evident that it was not just Koreans, or even the addition of only the American's, that were touched by this conflict, but the world. If you want to experience a touching and actually informative look into Korean conflicts take the time to visit.
Getting there couldn't be easier, get yourself to Samgakji Station (line 6), take exit 12 for the main gate and walk straight. Allow for at least 2-3 hours, more if you want to see everything. It's free for everyone. Closed of Mondays, and the last Wednesday of every month.
Check out our video, at the top of this post, for more information.