The War Memorial in Seoul, South Korea

By Valery Collins | May 3, 2020

The only reminder in Seoul that South Korea and North Korea are still technically at war is The War Memorial.  This huge building is not a memorial but a large museum dedicated to past conflicts involving Korea.

The War Memorial in Seoul, South Korea

After the tragic Korean War during the 1950s Seoul, the capital of South Korea has emerged as one of the most exciting cities in the world.  But it has never forgotten its fallen and in 1994 the War Memorial of Korea opened its doors.  It stands on the former site of the army headquarters hence its formal exterior.

The War Memorial in Seoul, South Korea Credit: Valery Collins

The museum features six indoor halls with different themes and an outdoor collection of large scale weapons.  It is very well laid out with many interesting exhibits.  These include a small plane suspended from the ceiling with an airman standing at the open door ready to drop a bomb.  I visited Seoul during the last round of hostilities between North and South Korea in 2016.  The Koreans themselves showed little concern as tensions between the two countries mounted and life on the streets continued unabated.

Life on the Streets of Seoul in South Korea

Bedding for Sale in Gwangjang market in Seoul, South Korea Credit: Valery Collins

The streets of Seoul are colourful, chaotic and fun.  Ladies still wear the colourful traditional dress, the hanbok.  The skyscraper department stores stay open all night and as they close the markets start opening.  These include the famous Gwangjang market.  All South Korean couples will visit this market when planning their wedding.  They will find everything they need here including presents for their families.  Koreans still sleep on the floor and a new set of bedding is a popular present.  A huge contrast to this liberated culture is the Korea Demilitarized Zone or DMZ not far from the city.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone Near Seoul in South Korea

The Korean Demilitarized Zone or DMZ was created in 1953 in order to separate North and South Korea.  Today it remains fully manned and operational.  Tourists can visit the South Korean side under strict supervision.  The tour includes takes in tunnels built under the border by the North Koreans, a small museum and a deserted high-speed train station that would have linked the two countries.  Across the border visitors can see the deserted North Korena village of Kijong.  This is one of only two villages remaining in the DMZ.  The other, Taesung, in South Korea is still occupied but its inhabitants are kept under strict supervision.

The Korean Demilitarised Zone near Seoul in South Korea Credit: Valery Collins

In 2018 the leaders of North and South Korea made an agreement to work towards a resolution of the on-going conflict.  On 3 May 2020 there were reports of North Korean fire aimed at South Korea.  This was the day when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un emerged after a mysterious absence of 20 days.  Meanwhile, South Korea continues to flourish achieving the accolade of four Oscars for the film Parasite.

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