The War Memorial of Korea takes an in-depth look at one of the world’s most war torn countries. A 5000 year history that includes an occupation by Japan, liberation by the United States and Russia and a divided nation. The War Memorial of Korea spans three floors and has a large outdoor exhibit displaying various planes, missiles and even a miniature battleship which you can still climb, sit in the captain’s chair and pretend you are leading an assault on the North Koreans.
How to get there: The easiest way to get to The War Memorial of Korea is to take the subway to Noksapyeong Station (Line 6) and depart from Exit 1. You will walk down a slight hill with the US Army base on your right. As you descend, you will see the war memorial in the distance. It is about a 250m walk.
LP’s Description: The guidebook does an excellent job of highlighting the key points of interest of the museum on Page 90 of the Seoul guidebook. The book gives a brief description of each floor to help you plan your visit.
The Entrance: The entrance to The War Memorial of Korea is a fascinating display in itself. The bronze sword symbolizes the time-honored history and the spirit of the Korean people. The statues of the soldiers represents the 38 countries who came to defend South Korea in the Korean War. The Allied Nations Memorial is a somber reminder of the sacrifices of those who died to defend South Korea from the aggressiveness of the North. Quiet, chilling and sad are the words that immediately come to mind when walking amongst the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Lay of the Land: The War Memorial of Korea consists of three floors each with their own focus. The first floor includes The Special Exhibition Room and The War History Room. The second floor consists of Korean War Rooms 1 and 2, The Memorial Hall, The Large and Defense Industries Equipment Room and also includes the entrance. The third floor consists of The Expeditionary Forces Room and the Korean War Room 3.
First Floor and Entrance: The entrance to The War Memorial of Korea is fairly standard. An information desk, a cafe and gift shop populate the immediate entrance, but as you continue through, the atmosphere turns serious. This is the Memorial Hall which remembers those who’ve died for the nation of Korea. A quiet moment of respect and reflection is required here.
The first floor is an excellent look back into the history of Korean warfare and technology. From bronze tipped arrows up to the Geobuksan (aka Turtle Boat) warship , it was an interesting look into a rich Korean past.
The Great Victory at the Salsu River: This exhibit displayed the great victory at Salsu River in which General Eulji Mundeok successfully defended the Goguryeo capital of Pyongyang against 300,000 soldiers from the Sui Emperor circa 612AD. The Goguryeo is now modern day North Korea and the Sui empire was located in modern day China.
Korean Relations with Other Countries: Korean relations remain, even to this day, frosty with some of their neighbors, specifically the Japanese. On a personal note, when I ask Korean whom they dislike more, they normally say the Japanese as opposed to the North Koreans. The long standing feud between the Japanese and Koreans dates back hundreds of years but reached it peak in the early 20th century when the Japanese occupied most of modern-day Korea.
War History Room: The War History room contains weapon exhibits from various periods of Korean history. The most notable of these weapons is a the famous Hwacha, an ancient projectile that launched dozens of arrows. Think ancient missile launchers.
Second Floor: The Korean War Room 1 and 2 and The Large and Defense Industries Equipment Room
The Korean War continues to this day. The two sides never agreed on a peace treaty, instead signing an armistice. The war began on June 25th, 1950 in a surprise attack in the middle of the night. The war raged for three years with almost a million people losing their lives.
The Reunion of the Lee brothers: The Lee brothers both joined the army after the initial invasion of North Korean in 1950; the eldest joining the army in August and the younger one following his footsteps by joining in September. Cheon Woo Lee was killed in action on September 25th, 1950 at the age of 20. His older brother, Man Woo Lee, was killed in the Bongilcheon battle in May 1951. The brothers were reunited on June 2011 after 60 years.
Korean War Exhibits: Letters, weapons and a 4D simulation are the highlights of this floor. A word of advice: The 4D simulation is awesome, and I would highly recommend it. However, it could be a tight squeeze for a bigger fellow.
The Expeditionary Forces Room and The ROK Armed Forces Room (3rd Floor): There are some nice life-sized vehicles and weaponry here. A very interesting display of military equipment and transport. There are also models of carriers, planes, etc.
Outdoor Exhibits: A wide range of missiles, planes and a miniature battleship are the highlights outside. Lots of history on a spring day with my dad.
Cafe and Gift Shops: The War Memorial of Korea has an extensive gift shop. Although we didn’t purchase anything this time around, I will go back and buy a souvenir before I leave the ROK. The cafe was very simple. The menu consisted mostly of snacks, coffee, juice and ice cream. Gyeongnidan and Haebangcheon are so close to the War Memorial museum that I would suggest heading to HBC/Gyeongnidan after exploring the museum.
Final Thoughts: My father who is a war buff really enjoyed the museum. I’m not so much of a war and history enthusiast, but I had a great time. We spent about three hours exploring the museum. For anyone who is interested in the Korean War or just history in general should put this on your list of attractions to visit in Korea.
Who Should Visit The War Memorial of Korea: Anyone who is interested in the Korean War or just Korean history in general should pay a visit. Also, it is a good way to kill some time if the weather isn’t cooperating.
Who Should Avoid The War Memorial of Korea: Although there are some interesting exhibits for kids, this is not a museum that is focused on entertaining the munchkins. Take them at your own risk.