War Memorial of Korea
8 Yongsan-dong 1-ga, Yongsan-gu
HOURS: Tues.-Sun. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
SUBWAY: Samgakchi (Lines 4, 6)
The name of this somber-looking edifice can be misleading—it’s more museum than memorial, and covers not only the fratricidal 1950-1953 Korean war but virtually all the major battles Korea has suffered in its lengthy and frequently violent history.
Built on the former headquarters of the country’s infantry, the memorial consists of a large main building and sprawling outdoor plaza where several monuments and pieces of vintage military equipment, including a World War II-era anti-submarine aircraft, tanks, and artillery, are on display.
The indoor exhibition space includes a memorial hall and war history rooms that attempt to bring the various conflicts the country has been involved in (from 7th-century clashes with China through to ongoing deployments to Iraq) to life through artwork and relics. There’s even a “combat experience room” that combines light, sound, motion, and even the smell of gunpowder to give visitors a suitably unsettling taste of the battlefield experience.
The exhibits frequently pull no punches, and younger or more sensitive visitors may find the entire experience a bit grim, while others may be put off by the venue’s frequently nationalistic tone. But there’s no denying the potency and relevancy of this one-of-a-kind facility, especially given the continued division of the Korean peninsula and these conflict-prone times.
© Jonathan Hopfner from Moon Seoul, 1st Edition