The thing that drove us to the War Memorial of Korea was the high rating that it received on TripAdvisor. This museum is super huge, has lots of sections telling war stories from different eras.
The museums in Seoul that we visited earlier gave us an idea of how Korea was formed and the things that they had to go through before becoming a modern nation, however, Reza and I both agree that there was something missing – the museum lightly touched but didn’t thoroughly explained what really happened between the north and south that caused the country to divide into what is now known as the North and South Korea. Well, this memorial bridged the gap. Maybe they did it on purpose so we’d visit this memorial lol.
We spent about 2.5 hour covering most parts of the memorial. It’s a world-class museum, with a lot of exhibits — they’ve got stories, pictures, movies and relics to keep us engaged throughout our trip. 99% of the exhibits include explanations in English.
Here are the parts of the museum that we visited:
Part I: The War Timeline
Toward the Memorial Hall for fallen soldiers of the Republic of Korea was a circular hall that lists a timeline of all major wars in the world, including those that happened thousands of years ago and as Korea came into the picture, explains more details of the wars that Korea was involved in. If you go through it one by one, you’d feel a little bad for Korea, because it is as if throughout their existence, they were constantly attacked from all corners, by more powerful powers.
Part II: The War History Room
The War History Room tells the story of wars involving different nations from the prehistoric period up to the 1900s. So many stories are being told, but basically, life’s tough when you’re Korean – you’re fighting among yourselves and when you’re not, you’re surrounded by powerful forces, ready to invade you over and over. For example, the Mongols were pillaging them at least 5 times in a century ok! Then there’s the Japanese that invaded them several times over several centuries.
As Korea opened up to the world through less than voluntary trade in 1800s (less than voluntary because if they’d refused, they would’ve been attacked), they’re more exposed to other foreign powers.
In this area, too, were exhibits of weapons and ships that they used.
Part III : The Korean War Rooms I, II and III
So this part of the memorial tells the story of that we wanted to hear — how Korea was split.
After the Japanese surrendered, you’d think that it’s time for the Korea to rise and thrive. By then though, the nation was already divided. The North sphere were influenced by Russia’s communist regime and the South, America. Aspirations to become a unified nation was forgotten, no thanks to the North’s rejection of UN’s unification efforts. Korea instead split into The Republic of Korea (South) and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North).
The North had something else in mind — they wanted to build a 100% communist nation so they attacked the South unannounced. Armed with technologies and machines from BFFs Russia and China that are way too superior for the South to handle, the North managed to capture most of South, including Seoul. Here in this hall, were numerous exhibits depicting the battles. One particularly showing how the South blew up the bridge on top of Han River to stop the tanks from going further.
It took a while for the UN forces to reach the South to counter the attacks. Both sides were battling for higher grounds, fighting for 3 years until they reached an agreement towards the armistice.
There were other stories related to the Korean War, but this is what I strongly remember.
Part IV: Outdoor Exhibits
They seriously placed tanks, jets, subs and artilleries on display outside the memorial for visitors to climb, get in and touch (with the exception of some) and take pictures with — which was exactly what we did. The locals… they were picnicking under these war machines.
This is the place to be for anybody to understand Korea better. Again, another place that can give you a better understanding of where it came from and how it became what it is. It is one of the better museums to visit!
Just avoid public holidays. We went on one and there were sooo many people zzz.
The museum entrance is free! Learn more about the War Memorial of Korea here.