I know more about the American Civil War than my own country’s War for Independence. Sad but true. Having breathed and lived a full life in the military service, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for war epics and martial history. And I have a small library at home that consists mostly of military novelties, from books to films to portraits to souvenirs and other stuff. Ironically, I have more quality material on foreign military exploits in my humble collection. I guess it is because we have been somewhat remiss in chronicling our military history, even though there is certainly so much to offer.
In my latest trip to Seoul, I made it a point to once again visit the Korean War Memorial. Though I’ve been there twice before, I cannot help but marvel at how the Korean people have painstakingly portrayed the noble efforts of the heroes of the Korean War. It has thus become some sort of a pilgrimage for me – a gesture of respect – as I pay homage to those gallant men who died so that others may live.
The Memorial doesn’t just immortalize the Korean Forces, but includes all Allied contingents that fought under the UN flag at that time. And it makes me feel good to see that the Philippines was there to lend South Korea a hand during their time of dire need.
The Korean War Memorial is a proud bastion that feeds on – and continues to develop – the fierce determination and the strong nationalistic fervor that any self-respecting country must have. Thus, the Memorial chronicles the tears, the pain, and the gargantuan efforts of the men and women who have sacrificed life and limb, so that their younger generations may enjoy the benefits today.
As you walk around, you come across hundreds of dramatic anecdotes. Simple tugs at the heart – of families being torn apart, of mass evacuations and the horrors experienced by those who chose to stay behind, of soldiers dying for their comrades, of young students sacrificing themselves so that soldiers could escape and fight another day, of the womenfolk’s contributions in the total war effort, of commanders and units taking on tasks that they knew were suicide missions, and so on. These stories, aided by poignant pictures of devastation and death, and of the triumphs we celebrate, nourish that sense of pride and unity among the South Korean people.
But the Korean War Memorial not only serves to develop nationalism among South Koreans. It also offers opportunities for its commercial and cultural communities. It is actually a big boon to the tourism industry as thousands of foreign visitors come to visit and pay tribute to the heroes in the Memorial everyday.
If, by any chance, you have a trip to Seoul lined up, don’t fail to visit the Korean War Memorial. It is a trip worth making, a feast not just for the eyes, the head and the heart, but more so for the soul.