It was very cold on Saturday night, and when I got up the next morning everything was covered in several inches of thick white snow.
As planned, I went to the Korean War Memorial on Sunday, which is actually a huge museum. I was impressed to see on the corridors as you walk in the name of every South Korean serviceman killed in action, and likewise the name of every member of the UN force – the bulk of whom were either from the USA (33,642) or Great Britain (1,086). There was a facility by which you could search for a name on a nearby computer and it would direct you to the exact spot on the walls. This was necessary, there were a lot of names.
The museum was excellent and the most impressive thing of all was the wording above the thousands of names of the fallen:
Our Nation Honours Her Sons And Daughters Who Answered The Call To Defend A Country They Never Knew And A People They Never Met
And this sets the tone for the entire museum. The incredibly refreshing central message of the museum is that the South Koreans are extremely grateful – even to this day, 52 years later – to the United States, Great Britain, and other UN countries who saved them from communism and the death and misery that comes with it. In stark contrast to the leaders of France and Germany to name but two, whose politicians see fit to regularly and publicly denounce the USA who lost thousands and risked thousands more defending “A Country They Never Knew And A People They Never Met” from the evil of totalitarianism, the South Koreans make it quite clear – if their museum is representative, anyway – that the USA and its allies did the right and noble thing in throwing the forces of communism out of their country. Whether this will still be the case once the threat from the North is gone remains to be seen; but for now it is, as I said, rather refreshing.
The museum itself is full of interesting exhibits, recreations, and film footage covering not just the Korean War but the Vietnam War (in which Koreans fought with considerable success), the Gulf War, and various UN humanitarian missions in the years since. One cannot help but feel a flush of pride when you see the British flag and the listing of the units which contributed to the effort to keep South Korea free. After all, this was a war to defend a people who having been finally freed from the Japanese were struggling to find their feet from a muderous puppet of Joseph Stalin and an equally murderous Mao Zedong who were interested only in pushing a ruthless communist agenda at whatever the cost, human or otherwise. It was a war which ought to make the backers of the Soviet Union, cheerleaders of the policies of Mao, apologists of communism, and those who vilify the USA at every opportunity hang their heads in shame.
Which is probably why, amongst such people (and unfortunately many others), it is generally known as The Forgotten War. Not so in South Korea.