Korea 2008 Day Seven: War Memorial of Korea

by Kara on October 14, 2008

Today started off in kind of a frustrating way. We went to the Post Office, which I had been wanting to do for days, but it isn’t open on the weekends, and Monday we were out of town. So yesterday we finally went. I wanted to mail my Mom’s birthday card, and I wanted to buy some stamps so I could get some postcards to send to the US. I had written down everything I needed to say at the post office, but of course I was not allowed to speak to the clerk OR pay for anything. So Stephen’s Dad handed me 20 postage paid postcards, which weren’t what I wanted at all. I am sure that if I had been able to talk to the clerk, I would have gotten what I wanted, because I had it all written down. Of course I couldn’t say anything, so I just put the postcards in my backpack. I told Stephen it didn’t matter because I wouldn’t be able to buy any postcards anyway. But it just brought all my frustrations of the past week to the surface. I have hardly been able to practice my Korean because I am not allowed to buy anything or order my own food. I can’t buy anything or he will want to pay for it, so I just refrain. I told Stephen he needed to tell his Dad that we will need a couple days during our visit to wander around on our own or I will go crazy (leaving out the crazy part of course). Stephen did last night, and that was fine with his Dad. I would think he would need a break from us as well.

The War Memorial of Korea is located in Yongsan, Seoul, South Korea.

The War Memorial of Korea is located in Yongsan, Seoul, South Korea.

Anyway, after the annoying trip to the post office, we went to the War Memorial of Korea, which is also a museum. It was a great museum, which covered all aspects of war and combat in Korea going back to pre-historic times. Obviously, a large percentage of their displays dealt with the Korean War, but the museum covered much more than that. Most Americans have probably never heard of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, but I believe they still teach about his tactics in the American Naval Academy (and all over the world as well). I just happened to finish reading a book about him before we left for the museum this morning, so I had a lot of background information about him (which is good, because the English signage is never as good as the Korean signage). He was the Commander of the Korean Navy during the Seven Years War with Japan, starting in 1592. He was never defeated in battle, including one where he had 13 Korean ships against 130 Japanese ships. In fact, the only time during that war that the Koreans were defeated at sea is when Yi was thrown in jail (and tortured and nearly executed) after a rival made false accusations against him. The rival became the Commander of the Korean Navy, and was defeated during his first battle and beheaded by the enemy. By that time, the King had demoted Yi to the level of foot soldier, but they reinstated him as Commander when they realized they needed him. He was killed during the final naval battle of the Seven Years War, but his men hid his death until after they had defeated the enemy, in order to keep morale high. They had a model (less than scale) of one of his Kobukson ships (or turtle ships), which really gave the Korean Navy a tremendous advantage over the Japanese. About 50 Korean school kids walked by when we were standing in front of Yi Sun-sin’s bust, and almost every one of them got excited and called out, “Yi Sun-sin!” They virtually ignored every other bust in the room. It was really funny.

Kobukson (Turtle Ship).

Kobukson (Turtle Ship).

Their displays dealing with the Korean War were extensive. They had a number of films that you could watch in English, and I learned a lot that I didn’t know about the war. Outside, they had lots of aircraft, howitzers and the like. They even had a B-52.

When we left the Museum, we walked past the US 8th Army headquarters. Stephen’s Dad said it had been in that location since the end of World War II, so it is almost certainly where my Dad worked when he was in the Army in Korea from late 1956 to early 1958. It was kind of neat to think that my Dad was in the same spot 50 years ago. We walked on into Incheon for dinner. Incheon has been popular with American soldiers for years, but Stephen’s Dad said there are more tourists than soldiers now. He wanted to go to some particular market for dinner, but when we got there, there was a sign saying it was closed every second Tuesday. Guess what day it was. He decided we had enough “foot exercise” for the day, and we took the train home and stopped for dinner near his apartment. Apparently, this restaurant’s specialty was potato starch. They were out of regular mandu (dumplings), so we got kamja mandu. Instead of a wrapper made out of flour, it is made out of potato starch. It looked kind of nasty, but it was quite good. Then we had kamja yong shi mi (or ong shi mi – I forgot to write it down). This was basically potato starch soup. There were big dark chunks in the soup, and when Stephen asked his Dad what was in it, he said, “potato starch with other stuff mixed in”. I still don’t know what that other stuff was, which is probably just as well.

Check out more of Stephen’s pictures of South Korea.

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