The primary purpose for my visit to South Korea is because of the book I have been working on for two-plus years. I have completed the first draft, edited it, and have had it proofed. Although it is “finished”, I knew I needed to visit this Land of the Morning Calm for myself. I also have a big speech coming up at Lone Star College about Korea, so I need to be ready on all accounts for that.
My book deals in considerable amount with the Korean War so, to me, it only made sense to make the trek. One of the main places I wanted to visit was the War Memorial of Korea. I visited this memorial on Saturday and trust me when I say that it did not disappoint.
When you approach the front of the war memorial, you are greeted by the most stunning sculptures you could lay your eyes on. They are representations of the costs and requirements of war. They are powerful in their detail and their symbolism.
The memorial building itself is massive. Of course this is necessary for a country that has a history going back 2,000-plus years. Some would argue about 5,000 years, but that would be giving Korean credit to the Chinese or Chinese credit to the Koreans. Either way, let’s just stick with the first number.
THE ENGLISH SPEAKING TOUR
I entered the building for the 10 a.m. English tour of the war memorial. This would cover the section of the Korean War, the section I was most concerned about.
A family of three from India, an older couple of the UK, and a guy named Matt from Canada joined me in the tour. It was led by an old man who said his name was too difficult for English speakers so he said he would go by “Lee.” It was agreeable.
Lee walked with crutches because of his bad legs. He was 70 years old. I know this because he said he was 6 years old at the start of the war. He said he was a pilot in the Air Force. From there, we began the tour.
Lee was delightful, funny, informative, and obviously passionate about the subject of the Korean War. It is very obvious that the entire country is passionate about the war. There is constant proof of its importance. I think, really, it goes without saying its importance.
The memorial is really immaculately done. There were numerous displays of battles, areas where tanks or planes or large guns were set up, and glass cases with uniforms, used machinery, and other battle-related material. There was so much to see. It was very exciting for me to view all of these things that I had studied so much about: rifles, bazookas, places of battles, specific strategies used, reasons for deployment and fighting, etc. It was nice to know that I knew just about everything Lee was talking about. Reassuring, I guess you could say.
It was a good one-hour tour. Lee was a wonderful tour guide and gave very good information. It has been the highlight of my trip. I am glad that is the case because that was one of the main items I wanted to view when I arrived.
AMERICA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH SOUTH KOREA
Without a doubt, America has a fantastic relationship with South Korea, and it is on this war that the relationship was developed. Whenever there are flags flying in representation of the war, South Korea and America are side-by-side, either that or our flag is right next to the United Nations flag. And this is how it should be due to the fact that our country gave so much for the protection and preservation of this country.
In front of the memorial, between the building and the statues, is a ring of flags. The first is the United Nations flag. This war was the first fought under the guise of the UN. The next flag is the USA. It nearly brought me to tears when I walked toward it. Below each flag, of which there are about 30, there is a large round plaque made out of granite. There are engravings that read something special toward that country. Ours is the shortest engraving, but to me it is the most powerful. It reads: “NO LONGER THE FORGOTTEN WAR.”
It really struck a nerve with me because this is the idea behind my book. To not be forgotten. This war that was so brutal and cost so much and did so much to turn the tide against Communism should never be forgotten, and yet it is considered such in America. It was so good to see the respect this war is given, even if it is in another country.
I would continue writing about the War Memorial of Korea, but I’ve written enough about it. I will discuss the other floors that deal with earlier conflicts in its early history later. For now, I’m going to bed. I have to get up early tomorrow and head to the DMZ at the 38th Parallel.