6 Places To Learn About War in Korea
Most people that spend any amount of time in Korea, visiting or living, will at some point hear references made to war, commonly the Korean War and WWII or any number of wars with Japan.
Signs at historical sites will remind people that the site was burnt down during some Japanese invasion before being rebuilt and political turmoil between North and South Korea is a constant reminder of the Korean War. Before jumping headfirst into conversation with a Korean about said wars, it’s best to take the time to learn and get some perspective.
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Here is a list of 6 places in Korea to visit to learn more:
1. The War Memorial of Korea
Not only is this museum expansive and full of information, it is also FREE. Placards are posted in English and Korean and guides, many of whom are retired military personnel, are available as are audio guides for tours. This museum should be at the top of the list for anyone wishing to learn more about the wars, and more specifically the Korean war, that ravaged the country. Documents, photos, dioramas, videos, relics, remakes and time lines offer up an overwhelming amount of information and hours can be spent in this museum that is open to the public.
Directions: Samgakji Station, exit 12
Amenities: Foreign language guides available in English, Chinese and Japanese
Days: Open every day except Mondays. If Monday is a holiday, the museum will be closed Tuesday.
Hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM (last admission 1 hour before closing)
Website: The War Memorial of Korea
2. The War & Women’s Human Rights Museum
A smaller, yet no less important, museum is The War & Women’s Human Rights Museum which focuses on the “comfort women” used by the Japanese military during WWII. The Women’s Global Solidarity Action Network provides English guides monthly to take foreign guests on a two hour tour that begins by thrusting attendees into the darkness that these women have pulled themselves out of. Three floors full of documents, photos and more to allow visitors to understand why these women are continuing to protest outside of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul every Wednesday and why they will not give up until the next generation is taught about what was done to them is available.
Directions: From Hongik University Station Exit 2, take local Mapo bus 15 and get off at Gyeongseong High School intersection, ordo a u-turn from the exit and catch green bus 7711, 7016 or 7737 from the stop and get off at the same stop.
Hours: Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday: 1:00 PM-6:00 PM; Wednesday: 3:00 PM-6:00 PM
Admission: General W3,000, guided tours W5,000
Amenities: Audio guides in English and Japanese, bathrooms
3. The POW Camp on Geoje Island
The camp that once held 173,000 prisoners during the Korean War has been developed into an outdoor museum with dioramas depicting life in the camp, the barracks and shows the harrowing tale of the kidnapping of Brigadier General Dodd. Visitors follow a path past relics and remakes with information provided in English, Korean, Japanese and Chinese. As serious as the location, the Konglish on placards and numerous “photo zones” make this feel more like an amusement park than an educational facility, but more serious parts do provide visitors a look at POW life in the camp.
Directions: From Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal OR Express Bus Terminal catch a bus to Tongyeong. From Tongyeong, catch a frequent bus to Gohyeon (Geoje-do). From Gohyeon Bus Terminal, hang a right and take local bus 114, 110, or 130 to the 소바서 (so-bang-seo, or fire station) stop or the 포로수용소 (Po-ro-su-yong-so) stop.
Hours: April ~ October: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM; November ~ March: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Admission: Adults: W3,000
Tour Time: 1 hour
Will you be coming to Korea to travel? Make sure you know where to stay to see the sights! Check out the Hongdae Designers Hotel to stay in a young art district or the Myeongdong TMark Hotel if you’d like to stay in the shopping district of Seoul. Or if you’d like a more authentic option, stay in a traditional Korean home downtown near the historical neighborhoods that’s been renovated and updated for travelers.
4. Cheorwan DMZ
There are a few places that offer tours along the DMZ and Cheorwan is one of them. It is not the easiest place to access, but once there it provides a look at remnants left behind from the Korean War. One stop on the tour is the 2nd Underground Tunnel. The 3.5 kilometer long tunnel was discovered on March 19th, 1975 after a soldier heard an explosion from beneath the ground. Another stop on the tour is the North Korean Labor Party Building built in 1946 and used until the armistice in 1953 by the party. North Korea controlled this area for five years as it falls above the 38th parallel but during the Korean War this area came under the control of South Korea and UN forces and when the armistice was signed was still under the control of the South. Reservations for tours are not necessary however, you must arrive 15 minutes prior to departure to give everyone time to get their cars in line and the tours start right on time at 9:30, 10:30, 1:00 or 2:00.
Directions from Seoul: Bus from Dong Seoul Terminal to Cheorwan Dongsong, running time said to be 2 hours and 20 minutes, closer to three hours. Catch a taxi to Goseokjung to get a guide and buy tickets.
Tour Running Time: 3 hours
Tour Stops: North Korean Labor Party Building, Woljeong-ri Station, Cheorwan Peace Observatory, 2nd Underground Tunnel
5. The House of Sharing
The House of Sharing was set up to house elderly women who were once drafted into sexual slavery and are referred to as “comfort women” in history. The women that reside here have become activists, giving testimonies of the atrocities they endured, protesting and traveling abroad to spread awareness of a system that is still happening today around the world. There are currently seven women living on the premises that is set up to house them as well as educate the public. English tours are provided once a month.
Visit The House Of Sharing Facebook Page for more information on visiting these brave women.
Also check out their website for information on the work they hope to accomplish and information on their cause and how to support them.
6. Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison sits in Independence Park in Seoul and was once used by Japanese soldiers to torture, interrogate and kill Korean patriots of the Independence Movement. It is now a museum open to the public that provides information on the Japanese occupation of Korea and shows jail cells, torture recreations, an execution room and other equally horrific scenes.
Directions: Dongnimmun Station, exit 5. Out of the exit, look for a small sign with the name of the prison that points left. Go left through on a small path and the prison will appear.
Days: Closed Mondays, if Monday is a holiday, then it’s closed on Tuesday.
Hours: March – October: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM; November – February: 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Amenities: Parking, Wheelchair rental & Tour Guides available in English & Japanese, but reservations must be made one week in advance.
Website: The Seodaemun Prison