Thursday, May 08, 2008 Korea (South) South Korea

Korean War Museums of the world: part 3

War Memorial of Korea. [IMG_3606]
Bronze statue [Enlarge]

Although we've been in Seoul for the past twelve months we haven't really done much in the way of tourist attractions, so we resolved to remedy this by doing all the ones we fancy seeing in one go. So for our final month in Seoul we have refused overtime three days a week. Our sightseeing starts today.

You may recall that in April 2007 we visited the DPRK, a strange land more commonly known as North Korea. In Pyongyang we were taken to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum where they told us the story of the Korean war. Then on our way out of the DPRK we stopped off at Dandong on the Chinese border and visited the museum of the War to resist U.S. aggression and aid Korea, where China's part in the conflict was documented and exhibited. So today we thought we'd go for the hat trick and check out South Korea's version of events in the much less emotively named War Memorial of Korea.

The three versions of reality are essentially as follows:

  • According to North Korea, the US started the war with a completely unprovoked incursion across the 38th parallel. And they have evidence to prove it.
  • According to South Korea, the North started the war with a completely unprovoked incursion across the 38th parallel. And they have evidence to prove it.
  • According to China, it doesn't matter who started the war—China finished it with a heroic push across the Yalu river to repel the UN forces who were threatening Chinese territory. And yes, they too have evidence to prove it.

So in our third Korean War museum, right next to the main US Army base in the Yongsan district in the heart of Seoul, we played our own little game of spot-the-difference. There was lots of military hardware—some friendly, and some captured from the enemy. There were flags and uniforms, some with bullet holes. There was propaganda, and historical documents, photographs, video footage. All the same so far. Yet of course the story had a completely different spin on it.

In short, the South Korean museum was a lot sparklier, more hi-tech and warmer than the one in Pyongyang (advantages). But it also had noisy school tours, and lacked the stern Rosa Klebb-esque museum guide (disadvantages).

As a museum the War Memorial of Korea is very thorough, and well worth a visit. The entrance fee of 3,000 Won (GBP 1.49 / USD 2.91) is good value. Finding the place is easy, but finding the ticket office is not (even if you can read the Korean signs). It is bizarrely tucked away down a little alleyway outside the museum entrance. The museum has an English language website with all the details you need.