62nd Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice

Korean War Armistice
Signing of the Armistice on 27 July 1953 in Panmunjom.

I’m surprised I didn’t hear more about it, being in Korea, or maybe I just wasn’t listening in the right places, having a busy day but today is the 62nd anniversary of the signing of the armistice which was supposed to “insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.” I guess most of the acts of armed force have ceased, though there have been incidents of North Korean aggression which have caused loss of life over the years. However, there certainly hasn’t been much progress toward “a final peaceful settlement.” South Korea still longs for reunification, but as a free and democratic country. North Korea would rather just have a larger country to rule and ruin as they have the north half of the peninsula.

Peace exists in Korea but it is a fragile peace.

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Unaccompanied Baggage

Moving to a new location is never fun, especially when it’s on the other side of the world and by air. The amount of things I could bring with me is governed by Department of Defense (DoD) and Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR), in addition to what I’m able to practically carry with me through the airports and on the planes. I decided on just two large suitcases and my carry-on, though the Army would have paid for 2 additional pieces of checked baggage. So I arrived to Korea with very little. When a Service Member, with or without their family, makes a move, what they carry with them is just a portion of what they can take. We’re also authorized a certain number of pounds of “unaccompanied baggage” (UB) which comes by air and a certain number of pounds of “household goods” (HG) which come by sea.

Since I was coming alone and planned to be in on-post quarters where overseas the furniture is provided, I opted not to move any household goods but did send some unaccompanied baggage. My UB consisted of the books from my library that I would need while I am here (more on my library later), sermon notes and outlines, my Army-issued gear (TA-50) along with uniforms, the civilian clothes that I want (both for free-time and worship services) and any other convenience and comfort items I may need to include linens, small appliances, etc.

Part of the weight we are permitted to ship includes what is called “Professional Books, Papers and Equipment” or “Pro-Gear” for short. So my TA-50, books used in the performance of my job, my chaplain kit and other professional items don’t count against my permitted weight, though the government is beginning to cut down on how much pro-gear is permitted. It use to be unlimited, which I really needed due to the size of my library. The regulations said that allowable pro-gear included what you may use in the performance of your duties in your next or future assignments. This move, I was told I could bring as pro-gear the books I would use on this assignment, but only ones that weren’t available online or digitally. Ouch! That’s going to hurt on my next move! Since this is a short and limited tour however, I was able to get by with less pro-gear, primarily fewer books.

Today was the day that my UB was delivered so I finally have more clothes (though wrinkled!), an iron, additional towels and linens and the quilt my wife made and sent to me during one of my previous deployments. So my quarters are finally starting to feel a little bit more like home, though prominently missing family…

Having just been delivered today, I haven’t been able to unpack and shelve my books yet, but I think that will be one of my leisure activities for Saturday. Working in my library also seems to put me in a better mood so it will be a good end to a busy week. Once I get unpacked I’ll post pictures of my office, to include my “deployment” library, so you can see what type of facilities I work and minister out of.

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Suwon Hwaseong Fortress

Suwon
As we got off of the bus, we were greeted by this portion of the fortress.

One of the commander’s programs that I run as the chaplain is an orientation for newcomers to the brigade which gives newly-arrived Soldiers guided experience using public transportation, visiting a cultural site and eating at a Korean restaurant. Not wanting my first time there to be when I lead my first group, today my chaplain assistant took me, along with my incoming assistant and our KATUSA, on the trip to “recon” the site and “rehearse” our movement.

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On the right is my present (but leaving) chaplain assistant; on the left is my new one and in the middle is my KATUSA.

We started by meeting on post near the dining facility then taking the post shuttle to the gate. Exiting the gate, we walked to the train/subway station and got on the #4 southbound train (toward Samgakji) at the Sookmyung Women’s University stop. After changing trains in Geumjeong onto the #1 southbound (toward Gunpo), we arrived at the Suwon station. Making our way to ground level, we caught a bus (can take either the #11 or #13) to the fortress. After visiting the fortress then walking to the restaurant for lunch, we made our way back to the bus stop (again, either #11 or #13 in the same direction) for our return trip to Yongsan via the #1 northbound back to Geumjeong then the #4 northbound. On the return trip, however, we got off at the Samgakji stop which was a bit shorter of a walk onto post (and out of the now falling rain).

The Suwan Hwaseong Fortress was an interesting site to see, and we just saw part of it. According to the visitor’s map:

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, Historic Sites No. 3, was built over two years and nine months, from January 1794 to September 1796, by King Jeongjo, the 22nd king of the Joseon Dynasty, to move the tomb of his father Crown Prince Jangheon, also known as Crown Prince Sado, because of his filial duty to his father.

The wall is approximately 5.7 kilometers long (varies between 4 to 6 meters at different points) and was designed by the silhak scholars Yu, Hyeong-won and Jeong, Yak-yong. It is known as a unique structure in the history of architecture because of its use of stones and bricks together in a modern fortress structure to deflect arrows, spears, swords, guns, and cannons; its use of standardized  materials; and its use of new scientific and practical mechanic apparatuses such as Geojunggi.

For 200 years, the walls and structures had been collapsing, particularly during the Korean War. The restoration and repair of the fortress began in 1975, based on books that recorded in detail the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress Construction called Hwaseong Seongyeokigwe.

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was registered as a World Heritage Site in the 21st Assembly of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Napoli, Italy on the 6th day of December 1997.

Here are some more pictures from our trip. In some of them, it may appear as though we are having a good time, but in reality we were working…hard!

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Starting our trip on the post shuttle…
On the train on the way to Suwan, my assistant struck up a conversation with an old Korean.
On the train on the way to Suwon, my assistant struck up a conversation with an old Korean.

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The
The “mall” in the Suwon train station.
The view of Suwon from the exit of the train station.
The view of Suwon from the exit of the train station.
The buses had TV and free WiFI!
The buses had TV and free WiFI!
Suwon
Our first view of part of the fortress as we got off of the bus.
Down this street you can see the long path of stairs we will be climbing!
Down this street you can see the long path of steps we will be climbing!
Many steps...
Many steps…
Many, many stairs!
Many, many steps!
Once we got to the top, there was a lot of neat things to see. This is Seosam Ammun. An
Once we got to the top, there were a lot of neat things to see. This is Seosam Ammun. An “Ammun” is a secret gate “set up in a deep spot to provide war supplies to the fortress without being caught by enemies. In case of an emergency, an ammun could be closed by filling it up with stones and laying some earth next to the gate.”
There were several Chiseongs or turrets
There were several Chiseongs or turrets “to monitor and attack enemies who had reached the fortress.”
This is SeoPoru. A
This is SeoPoru. A “Porus” is a sentry post.
This is the
This is the “March 1st Independence Movement Memorial.” It is “to commemorate Korean ancestors’ valuable resistance to regain the national sovereignty and pray for the repose of their soul.”
This is the Memorial of Korean Independence. It was
This is the Memorial of Korean Independence. It was “established on August 15th, 1948 by Suwon citizens to commemorate Korea’s restoration of independence.”
Now we come to the bell of Filial Piety. The bell is
Now we come to the bell of Filial Piety. The bell is “tolled” (?) every hour 1000-1800 daily, three times. The first toll is to show gratitude and respect to your parents. The second is to wish for your family’s health and harmony. The third is to wish for the realization of your dreams.
I had to give it a shot!
I had to give it a shot!
It was impossible to miss!
It was impossible to miss!
Of course my assistant had to give it a go!
Of course my assistant had to give it a go!
Up from the Filial Bell was another ammun which we went out and saw the outside of the wall up close.
Up from the Filial Bell was another ammun which we went out and saw the outside of the wall up close.
...and the other side.
…and the other side.
Then looking down the hill from the wall to an interesting formation of trees.
Then looking down the hill from the wall to an interesting formation of trees.
Moving on, we came to the highest point of the fortress, the SeoJandae. A jangdae is a command post and this one was
Moving on, we came to the highest point of the fortress, the SeoJandae. A jangdae is a command post and this one was “where military command was established around the fortress at the summit of Paldal Mountain.”
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From SeoJangdae there were great views of Suwon city below.
From SeoJangdae there were great views of Suwon city below.
From SeoJangdae there were great views of Suwon city below.
From SeoJangdae there were great views of Suwon city below.
From SeoJangdae there were great views of Suwon city below.
Starting down Paldal Mountain, there was a bronze statue of King Jeongjo the Great, the King who had this fortress built.
Starting down Paldal Mountain, there was a bronze statue of King Jeongjo the Great, the King who had this fortress built.  Notice the woman in red bowing down to the statue. Not sure if she was praying, or what but she had laid out a variety of food in front of the statue.
It was an impressive statue. Notice the woman in red bowing down to the statue. Not sure if she was praying, or what but she had laid out a variety of food in front of the statue. Before she kneeled down, I thought she was getting out her lunch to eat it...
It was an impressive statue. Notice again the woman in red spreading out a variety of food. Until I saw her kneel, I thought she was spreading out her lunch to eat it.
On the way down from Paldal Mountain, we saw the trolley which runs around a large portion of the fortress (though not to the top!).
On the way down from Paldal Mountain, we saw the trolley which runs around a large portion of the fortress (though not to the top!).
Getting back to
Getting back to “city-level,” we started up a small street (I think it was Rodeo Street) to the restaurant we take the group to.
...and here it is, *Something in Korean* Part I!
…and here it is, *Something in Korean* Part I!
Fortunately, we had our KATUSA to translate for us!
Fortunately, we had our KATUSA to translate for us! I’m not sure why we were so bunched up for this picture…my assistants must really like me!
They bring out a grill with hot coals to cook at the table.
They bring out a grill with hot coals to cook at the table. The pipe above it (and at each table) is a vent that sucks out the smoke.
Our KATUSA (as the youngest) also did the cooking!
Our KATUSA (as the youngest) also did the cooking!
I ordered the Bulgogi, which comes with a lot of extra stuff. It was great (much better than my Bulgogi Burger at McDonald's)!
I ordered the Bulgogi, which comes with a lot of extra stuff. It was great (much better than my Bulgogi Burger at McDonald’s)!
On the way back to the bus, we came across a Buddhist monastery. Like all traditional Korean architecture, the buildings were very colorful.
On the way back to the bus, we came across a Buddhist monastery. Like all traditional Korean architecture, the buildings were very colorful.
The other side of the entry arch showing more of the colorful and intricate architecture.
The other side of the entry arch showing more of the colorful and intricate architecture.
There were places for the Buddhist monks and others to pray. This building seemed to have separate booths.
There were places for the Buddhist monks and others to pray. This building seemed to have separate booths.
This appeared to be more like a temple.
This appeared to be more like a temple.
Here's the inside of the temple.
Here’s the inside of the temple.
The banner hanging higher, to the right, says something about praying for your children, that they will get into a good university.
The banner hanging higher, to the right, says something about praying for your children, that they will get into a good university.
Finally on the train on the way home, our KATUSA was wore out!
Finally on the train on the way home, our KATUSA was wore out!

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First Prayer

HHC-501st-MI-CoC
The “official party” of the Change of Command ceremony included the brigade commander (center), the outgoing HHC commander (left) and the incoming HHC commander (right).

O.K, it wasn’t really my first prayer, but my first public prayer in my first ceremony in this assignment since I arrived in Korea.

Praying at ceremonies is the chaplain’s “bread and butter.” It is one of the things that we’re always expected to do, and it always happens without anyone giving it much thought. In fact, seldom is there a picture found, among the dozens often taken of the various ceremonies, that includes the chaplain! But that’s OK, we don’t do it for the glory or to be in the limelight, but to represent the presence of God and ask for his blessing upon the ceremony and the participants. (But if you look close in the picture, you can see my right arm and leg!).

I had the opportunity to pray today at the brigade’s Headquarters & Headquarter’s Company (HHC) change of command ceremony. Change of Command Ceremonies take place whenever one commander leaves and another arrives and assumes command. It is an Army tradition that reflects the heritage of the military and is full of traditional elements, including a prayer (sometimes two). I seldom get nervous before ceremonies or events that I am a part of but I wanted (and always want) to do a good job, representing God, the Chaplain Corps and my denomination. The first one after arriving at a unit is often the most important since it’s the first time my commander, and others in the unit, will see and hear me do what I do, so the pressure is on to do a good job. I do realize, however, that I’m not praying to any of them and the effectiveness of my prayer is not dependent on their approval or satisfaction, but at the same time, they recognize the chaplain’s prayer as representative of one of the things the chaplain brings to the unit.

My prayer went something like this:

Most Gracious Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this day and for this occasion that brings us together which reminds us not only of the strength of our military but also the peace and freedoms it preserves, not only in our country but in our host country of South Korea and in fact, around the world.

Thank you for Captain [outgoing commander], for his commitment to the unit’s mission and Soldiers over this past year. Continue to be with him as he moves on to his next assignment.

I also ask that you will add to what Captain [incoming commander] brings to the unit everything that she needs to lead with wisdom, courage and integrity as she assumes command.

Finally Lord, I pray that you will bless this time with your presence and that what we do here today will be a blessing to you.

In your name I pray, Amen.

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Late night…same morning.

While there may be perks to doing a tour in Korea, there are definitely some down sides. One of those down sides is that with some of the more unique units, the higher headquarters is in the States. That is the case with my unit, above our brigade the hierarchy lands next near Washington D.C. While there is sometimes a benefit to being distant from your higher command (or from the “flag pole”), when it comes to meetings, it’s a bummer. Since the higher headquarters has the higher rank, they have the meetings when it is convenient for them which means, if you’re on the other side of the world (like 15 hours ahead), the time for the meeting falls in the middle of the night.

I just completed my first VTC (Video Tele-Conference) with our higher headquarters which began at 0930 for them but was 2230 for us. By the time it wrapped up and I walked back to my room, it was after 0100. And what else? There’s still work in the morning! I can skip the 0630 PT formation, but by 0900 I’ll be back at it.

At least it’s only a year…

World Time Zone Map

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The War Memorial of Korea (Outside)

I thought that a good site to visit toward the beginning of my tour in Korea would be The War Memorial of Korea right off post in Yongsan-gu. It is more than just a memorial but a very well-done museum with most signs and descriptions in Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese. What really struck me about the memorial and museum is how they honored not just their own Service Members who served and died but also -to the extreme- those from other countries who came to Korea to help preserve their freedom from Communist rule.

The museum features exhibits and artifacts from the earliest Korean history all the way through their involvement in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Here are a few pictures from my visit, but there was way too much to see to preserve on film (or digits)! To keep the post from being too long, I’ll divide it up into outside and inside pictures.

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The Korean War Memorial/Museum

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The Statue of Brothers
“The Statue of Brothers…is a symbol of the Korean War…The upper part of the statute depicts a dramatic moment when a South Korean officer and his younger brother, a North Korean Soldier, encounter and embrace each other at the battlefield. The statue expresses reconciliation, love, and forgiveness…The crack in the dome stands for the division of Korea and the hope for reunification.”
The Statue of Brothers
Another view of The Statue of Brothers
The Statue of Brothers
“Objects inside the dome [of The Statue of Brothers] include a mosaic wall painting that expresses the spirit of the Korean people to overcome the national tragedy and a map plate of the 16 UN Allied Nations that dispatched troops to the war. Links of iron chain on the ceiling signify the unbreakable bonds of a united Korea.”
The Statue of Brothers
Inside the dome, the plaque on the floor showing the U.S. forces that participated in the Korean War.

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Tower of Korean War
The Tower of Korean War. “Symbolizing the image of a bronze sword and a tree of life. The bronze sword represents the time-honored history and the warrior spirit. The tree of life symbolizes the prosperity and peace of the Korean people.”
Tower of Korean War
A closer view of the Tower of Korean War

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Statues Defending the Fatherland
Statues Defending the Fatherland: “The statues represent 38 people from all walks of life who overcame the Korean War and depict the suffering and pain caused by the war while embodying the sublime spirit of sacrifice and dedication to the defense of the fatherland of past patriots.”
Statues Defending the Fatherland
Statues Defending the Fatherland
Statues Defending the Fatherland
Statues Defending the Fatherland

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The Monument of King Gwanggaeto the Great
“The Monument of King Gwanggaeto the Great (391~413) was built by his son King Jangsu (413~491) in 414 B.C. in commemoration of his father. ” (This is a life-size replica of the original monument currently located in China.)

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Erecting the Clock Tower
“Erecting the Clock Tower: Symbolizing War and Peace, a Twin Clock Tower Points to a new time of New Millennium on a pile of rusty arms. Stopped clock wrecked by the Korean War. Here a Clock Tower is erected for the day of reunification, again beating like the hearts of two girls.”
The Clock of Hope for Peaceful Reunification
“The Clock of Hope for Peaceful Reunification: Someday when Unification is realized this Clock will be put on the Clock Tower and will indicate the time of Unification.”

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Korean War Museum Aircraft
This picture shows a sampling of the many military aircraft used in Korea’s history on display outside of the museum…
Korean War Museum Equipment
…and the tanks and artillery…
Korean War Museum Equipment
…and lots of other military equipment!

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Patrol Killer, Medium (PKM) 357
Referring to the boat on the left, “The PKM-357 National Security Exhibition Pavilion pays tribute to the six heroes of PKM-357 who have died with honor. The 2nd Sea battle of Yeonpyeong (29, June 2002) while fighting the enemy in order to safeguard the country’s waters and contribute to promoting the national security awareness of the people with the importance of defending the NLL.”
Patrol Killer, Medium (PKM) 357
This is a 1:1 scale reproduction of the PKM-357. The original “is exhibited at the park of the Second Fleet Command, ROK Navy.”

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Food Critic Korea: McDonald’s Bulgogi Burger

Alright, I finally found that elusive McDonald’s in Itaewon! I got a Double Bulgogi Burger meal for just ₩5500 (about $5) and it was delicious! Not only that, my Coke came in a hard plastic (not-disposable) glass!

Itaewon McDonald's

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Double Bulgogi Burger

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Double Bulgogi Burger

I know that this isn’t “real” Korean food, but it is unique to Korean McDonald’s and “bulgogi” is a Korean-seasoned beef (and…I like McDonald’s).