Monday, 22 June 2015

Remembering June 25 @ The War Memorial of Korea

On June 25, 1950, the Korean War broke out, exactly 65 years ago. Although there were numerous armed conflicts in the peninsula caused by invaders and neighbors over the centuries, THE Korean War is the most vivid in memory.

And as a tribute to the heroes and the efforts during these conflicts, the War Memorial of Korea was built in the Yongsan District of Seoul. Aside from the engraved names of the fallen during the Korean War, the Memorial also has indoor exhibition rooms that display the artifacts, records, replicas and weaponry used in war over the centuries.

In the Memorial, the engraved names of the fallen included the 112 soldiers from the Philippines. The Philippine Expeditionary Force to the Korean War sent a total of 7,420 soldiers over the course of the war, and the first batch of 1,367 soldiers left Manila in September 1950 to help South Korea win the war against the invaders from the North.

Outside the building, there are sea and air crafts on display, and the huge monuments to commemorate peace and the casualties of war.

But aside from these displays, there is a regular performance of the Korean Military Band and the Honor Guard Ceremony. This event is usually held on Fridays and Saturdays during spring and early summer. It's 2PM on Fridays and 3PM on Saturdays. (Click this link, or call the number therein to check schedule of performances).

On one occasion, I was able to watch the performance under the afternoon spring sun, along with the hundreds of local and foreign visitors. I think this is the only place in Seoul where Korean soldiers on active duty regularly perform for a crowd. Yes, the participants are actually made up of professional soldiers and Korean men fulfilling their mandatory military service.

The performance lasts for about 30 minutes, and I suggest you get to the Memorial early so you can pick a spot under the shade right in front of the open grounds. Also do watch out for the band's rendition of 'Amazing Grace' with matching choreography with the soldiers swaying with the wind. 

But my favorite part of the performance is their precision marching and drills where the honor guards turn, drop on a knee, and throw their rifles up in the air and catch them with one hand in rapid succession without inadvertently shooting any spectator. Kidding! They execute these moves with perfect alignment and cadence. I guess they must have practiced this for weeks.

And the fun part? You can pose for photos with the performers in their colorful traditional costumes, and in their neat, spotless military uniforms. I posted below some photos of crowds having fun posing with them.

So, if you're visiting Seoul and would like to learn more about Korea's war history, its war heroes, and other past military conflicts in Korea, make the War Memorial of Korea a part of your itinerary.

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The War Memorial of Korea is a few meters from Exit 12 of Samgakji Station (Lines 4 and 6). Just follow the sidewalk towards Namsan. With its huge structure and open space, you won't miss it. They also hold open-air concerts in the Memorial every now and then.

(Bravo to these performers from the Korean military! 
It's always fun to watch them perform!)

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