Friday, December 28, 2012

War Memorial

I can't believe it's already my third day of vacation! It feels like it just started. I guess because Christmas was a holiday, it didn't feel like that should actually count against my "vacation" (ha!) and also because I was quite busy! Yesterday, I laid in bed all day and, while that was relaxing, it certainly wasn't a good use of my time!

So, this morning I woke up feeling better and determined to make my day count! So, I texted Erin and we made plans with Casey to go to the War Memorial / Museum in the afternoon. It was actually perfect because it gave me time to get ready and FaceTime without being in a hurry. At 2:15 we met downstairs and set off for the War Memorial.

I have been thinking that I want to learn more about the recent history of Korea to better appreciate the city I am living in. I figured the Korean War was pretty essential to my developing knowledge. The War Memorial was a perfect place to go! It was a pretty, cold day and we looked around outside for a few minutes. We decided to go inside and check out the exhibits there before really exploring the grounds, since the inside closed in a few hours. We got a map at the front Information Desk but didn't really know where to start - the place was HUGE!

The museum was excellent, as far as museums go. It wasn't just artifacts and old guns (although there were lots of those, and tanks and uniforms too), but it was interactive and there were a lot of films. I really liked the touch screen interactive information areas where you can choose your language, then look through different topics, such as "Confidential Documents" or "Comparison of Military Capacities Between South and North at the Onset of the War", etc etc. I thought the whole exhibit was very good!

We went into the "War Room" area first. It was all about the Korean War, from beginning and causes to the different attacks and fronts and movements by each army, their reinforcements from around the world, to the ceasefire that is still in effect today. It was very interesting! Granted, I knew some of the information, it made it more real.

I know the above picture is hard to read, but basically it outlines the statistics of the North Korean army and the South Korean army, from their troops, airplanes, ships, etc. Looking at the numbers, South Korea hardly stood a chance! North Korea had them beat in every category. They had help from the Soviet Union and Communist China; a much better developed military; strategy and experience with wartime tactics. I know I am summing this up very crudely and in the most basic of ways, but I was just so amazed at that. South Korea was completely unprepared for the surprise attack by the North Koreans.

That photo is also hard to read, so I will replicate the text: "On 3 May 1949, North Korean troops attacked and occupied a South Korean defense position on Mt. Song Ak near Kaesong. The South Korean troops staged a counter attack to regain the position, but they were repelled by North Korean machine gun fire. Armed with 81 mm mortar shells and grenades, ten South Korean soldiers formed a task force led by Master Sergeant Seo, Boo-duck. They launched a suicide attack on the enemy and regained their position. In honor of their ultimate sacrifice, the government awarded them the Order of Military Merit." The statue on the right is above the plaque, and it was really amazing. The facial expressions were so real.

Continuing to look and read about the war, I was simply amazed at the spirit and determination of the South Koreans. They were completely outnumbered and beat down repeatedly by North Korean attacks, until they only had the territory around Busan in the southeast corner of the peninsula. In the photo on the right, the red was North Korean territory and the white was South Korean territory, right before UN forces arrived to reinforce the South Korean army.

Eventually, the combined forces pushed the North Korean army back above the 38th parallel, right above Seoul. We were able to see a film about Operation Chromite, which was Gen. Douglas McArthur's amphibious assault on Inchon. In the film, it said that statistically, UN Force had a one in five-thousand chance of winning this battle. Of course, I don't think that takes into account a lot of things, but still!

On a different note, the film about Operation Chromite was in 4D! It was really really cool! Although, I don't think I could handle a full-length film in 4D (like in a movie theater), since I had a slight headache after the 15 minute film we saw. But, it was pretty cool!! Here's us girls before the film started:

All in all, we spent around 2 hours walking through the exhibit. I learned a lot about the Korean war, and it was especially interesting that it was coming from the Korean perspective, rather than the American. I'm sure that it would be slightly different in presentation if it came from an American vet, just because the perspective was different. I have a lot of respect for the soldiers in South Korea, many of whom did not even agree with the government put in place by the US after being freed from Japanese rule. They had to put their differences of political opinion aside, to protect their motherland from the communists flooding in from the north. Even if they didn't think what they had was perfect, they knew that they did not want to fall to the communist rule. Even students took up arms; there was a story of a 19-year-old school teacher who did her part. 

Around 5pm, we left that area of the museum and decided we better start heading out. The museum closed at 6, but we were getting hungry and still wanted to look around outside. I consulted my map and realized that we had only looked at maybe 1/5th of the museum. There was so much more we didn't see! But, I was glad we saw what we did, since that is what I was most interest in. The ancient beginnings of Korea are interesting, I'm sure. But, I like the modern stuff. 

Outside, we looked at the planes and naval ships that were in the war. I like looking at planes, but I'm no expert. I had to get a picture with the USAF plane that was there - love you Dad!

 At this point we decided to get some food in Itaewon. We wanted Thai and I found a place on my phone and we headed there. It ended up being too expensive, but the place next door was Thai also, and much more reasonable priced! We enjoyed some spicy and delicious food, then got some dessert. I must say, the more I explore the hidden side streets of Itaewon, the more I love it. I don't think any pictures could do it justice, but it was so quaint and charming and unique. Every different kind of food you can think of from Bulgarian to Brazilian, Pizza to Peruvian. Each restaurant or shop had a style and look of it's own, and the whole neighborhood is set into the natural hills and it reminds of Europe. That's probably why I like it so much.

Erin suggested we check out the English bookstore in Itaewon (called What the Book?), so we headed there. I love bookstores, but since I've been here I've done all my reading on my iPad since it is much cheaper and easier to transport. But, of course I got drawn into the pages of all the books in the shop. We spent at least an hour there, speaking only to ask if someone had read this book, or has anyone heard of that author. It was fantastic. I ended up buying two books (to my defense: I checked if they were on iBooks first, and one wasn't, the other was more expensive on the iPad). I got "Eats, Shoots, & Leaves" by Lynne Truss (recommended by Heather since I am such a grammar nazi), and "The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, and Where Their Future Lies" by Michael Breen. I want to learn more about the development of modern Korea, so I thought this looked like a good book that wasn't too intense (such as a textbook), but covered topics I was interested in (history, economics, politics, culture, etc). I am excited to read both of these!

It was an excellent day. We got to do a lot of fun things, but it was also relaxing. I am the queen of stressing out while trying to "have fun" and today was a great example of what vacation should be like: doing what you want to do, having fun doing it, and doing it with great people!

(L to R) Casey, me, and Erin

No comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner