[I dedicate this post to three friends and a cousin: Fellow EPIK teacher, neighbor, and Iraq War veteran Dave; and Dick and Mike in Wisconsin: I love talking history with you guys. And last but certainly not least, my cousin Aaron of the US Air Force.]
After delaying it more times than we can count, Rochelle and I finally hit The War Memorial Of Korea. It's a massive and impressive building located next to the Samgakji (삼각지) subway station in Seoul. The outside of the building has planes, tanks, helicopters, mortars, and howitzers you can walk up to and touch. Dig that: I can't think of any places where that's possible in the States. Some of the airplanes have little stairways next to them so you can walk up and see inside the cockpit, so you can see everything the pilots saw.
We stood under a big B-52 bomber and checked out the F4A Phantom before heading inside. That B-52's a massive plane; I thought of all the missions they'd flown and all the bombs they'd dropped over the years. The B-52 was the big US bomber for a long time and I finally got to see one up close. Woohoo.
We wandered the tall and airy exhibit halls for hours. We started on the Expeditionary Forces hall and made our way around the place from there. What a great time! The place has all number of war paraphernalia and memoranda from recreations of old warships to cross-sections of jet engines. Wandering around and seeing the dioramas and photos of battles brought back all the time I spent reading the military books that I got from my aunt and uncle all those years ago because we saw stuff I'd only seen in books and movies before. The exhibits on the Korean (6.25 War for Koreans) and Vietnam Wars sparked my interest the most, for they're integral to understanding American history. They also represent two key points where American and Korean history intersect: The USA came to South Korea's aid in the Korean War and South Korea sent troops to Vietnam to fight alongside the Americans. The wars made indelible marks on both countries as well. (Full disclosure: I admit that I didn't know that Koreans fought in the Vietnam War, so that's more lesson learned. Good deal).
The War Memorial's free, which makes it one excellent place to spend an afternoon and get away from the elements. I've mentioned before that most museums and cultural attractions in Korea --and the country has plenty of them--are free or cheap, which I can't help but love. If you're interested in Korea's storied military history--or want an interesting and inexpensive place for a date, get down there as soon as possible. The museum abounds with learning opportunities. Highly recommended.
Explanations come in Korean and English, so the place is friendly for English speakers. It also has a coffee shop and there are vending machines everywhere. You're never hurting for amenities at these kinds of places in Korea.
And get this: The Memorial has a huge play area for the kiddies that costs about 9000won if I remember correctly as well.
Here's today's Korean lesson:
전쟁 War (jeon-jaeng)
비행기 Airplane (bi-haeng-gi)
무기고 armory (mu-gi-go)
숙소 Quarters (suk-so)
사막색 Khaki (sa-mak-saek)
창고 Warehouse (chang-go)
로켓트 Rocket (ro-ke-teu--as noted before, many Korean words are simply English words written in Korean)
기관총 Machine gun (gi-gwan-chong)
기관단총 Submachine gun (gi-gwan-dan-chong)
소총 Automatic rifle (AK47, M-16, etc) (so-chong)
화염방사기 Flame thrower (hwa-yeom-bang-sa-gi)
다지기 typewriter (da-ji-gi)
육군 Army (yuk-gun)
공군 Air Force (gong-gun)
해군 Navy (hae-gun)
전차 Tank (jeon-cha)
전투함 Battleship (jeon-tu-ham)
함교 Bridge (ham-gyo)
Note: I put the hyphens in to aid in pronunciation because Romanized Korean can look strange and hard to pronounce. Every syllable gets equal emphasis in Korean, too.