Sunday, June 5, 2011

Happy June!

Tomorrow, June 6th, is Hyeonchung-il (현충일) or Memorial Day, in South Korea. During my mom's visit we went to the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan which is a both a memorial and museum and one of my absolute favorite places in Korea. The outdoor exhibition area is beautiful and has some really nice monuments as well as all sorts of military equipment. Inside there are various rooms and exhibitions covering all the different wars that South Korea has fought in. I have a huge interest in the Korean War, which my students tell me is called "625" or "625 War" here (they would say "yook-ee-oh jeonjaeng") since the war began on June 25th, and I learned a ton about it from this museum. There were wars that I didn't even know Korea was involved in until I saw some of the exhibits here and I think I have a better understanding now of their history and current relations with certain countries. If you're in Korea this is one place that I highly recommend checking out, it's well worth the visit.
The Statue of Brothers
I don't remember where I heard this from but in either an article or a documentary I remember someone discussing this statue and talking about the symbolism behind it. As the plaque says it's showing the reconciliation on the battlefield between an older, South Korean brother with his younger, North Korean brother. Notice though that they chose to make the brother from the South older and therefore depicted as much physically larger and stronger looking than his little brother from the North. The younger is practically clinging to the older, who we also see is wearing a helmet and a gun. It could be brothers reuniting or even a North Korean refugee fleeing into the safety of a South Korean soldier. 

I don't think it's surprising considering the conflict between the North and the South that the South would choose to show the Southern soldier as much stronger and the Northern soldier as weaker. But what the person discussing this statue also pointed out is that the depiction of the North Korean soldier as smaller than his Southern brother may not be entirely done for show but rather an accurate portrayal considering the malnutrition suffered in the North due to widespread food shortages. Just an interesting way of looking at it, I think. 
The Korean War Monument

We saw some groups of students on field trips and then these little pumpkins who were probably on a trip from the daycare. The outdoor exhibition is basically a kid's dream playground and we enjoyed seeing these wee'uns running around. I'll never get over the P.E. uniforms kids in Korea have to wear. They basically all look like this except in varying shades of ugliness. Believe it or not some of them are worse looking than these yellow ones.
The Monuments of Killed in Action
The Cheonan was the ship that sank in March of 2010 and caused a lot of tension on the Korean peninsula because the South was convinced that the ship was hit by a North Korean torpedo and of course North Korea claimed they had nothing to do with it. I'm pretty sure that they did find solid evidence that the torpedo came from the North but fat chance ever getting the nutsos in charge up there of admitting it. 
Turtle ship!
Item number one on my Christmas list.
There is one section of the museum with displays of various countries that South Korea has had some sort of relations with. Here was the section for Spain.
 Check out that badass Spanish armor! This Christmas list is writing itself. 
One of my favorite sections of the museum looks like a recent addition and it's all about the women in the Korean forces. Since museums like this tend to overwhelmingly focus on men who traditionally are the ones involved, it's easy to forget women's contributions and that today women are much more active in armed forces than once upon a time. Since my picture came out blurry, here is the text regarding women in the Korean War:
"The first women's unit was the Women's Voluntary Army Training Corps that was founded on September 1, 1950. One thousand and seventy four female service members of the corps participated in the war. They carried out not only administrative work but also pacification activities, interrogation prisoner of war and special missions. 1, 257 nursing officers in total also participated in the war and concentrated on the evacuation and treatment of WIA (Wound in Action)."
So the War Memorial is awesome and if you're in Seoul make sure you don't miss it!

Trivia of the Day:  Joseon (July 1392 – October 1897), was a Korean sovereign state founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that lasted for approximately five centuries. It was founded in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Goryeo Kingdom at what is today the city of Kaesong. Early on, Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day Seoul and the kingdom's northernmost borders were expanded to the natural boundaries at the Amnok and Duman rivers. Joseon was the last royal and later imperial dynasty of Korean history. It was the longest ruling Confucian dynasty. During its reign, Joseon consolidated its absolute rule over Korea, encouraged the entrenchment of Korean Confucian ideals and doctrines in Korean society, imported and adapted Chinese culture, and saw the height of classical Korean culture, trade, science, literature, and technology. The Joseon's rule has left a substantial legacy on the modern face of Korea; much of modern Korean etiquette, cultural norms, societal attitudes towards current issues, and even the modern Korean language and its dialects stem from the traditional thought pattern that originated from this period.

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