DMZ Visit

Since the Armistice Agreement was signed on 27 July 1953, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) running for 160 miles roughly along the 38th parallel from the East Sea to the Yellow Sea, has been one of the most unusual places on earth. Less than 35 miles from Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), the 2  1/2 mile wide DMZ is centered on the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), the political border, the violation of which could get you shot.

DMZ Guard Tower
There are guard towers all along sections of the DMZ.

Despite the name which seems to indicate a lesser degree of militarization, the DMZ is extremely militarized with the North and South facing off eyeball to eyeball as though the war which preceded the armistice is just paused. The agreement, however, prevents either side from introducing large weapons or large numbers of troops within the DMZ, which acts as a buffer zone between the two belligerent nations, who, ironically, do not recognize each other as legitimate governments.

My visit to the DMZ was to the area known as the Joint Security Area which originally was jointly governed by North and South Korea, but after soldiers from North Korea killed 2 American officers and 4 South Korean Soldiers with axes the U.N. Soldiers were using to remove limbs from a tree which was blocking visibility between guard posts in August 1976, the MDL was established, separating the two and leaving the only area of responsibility that overlap being Panmunjeom. Panmunjeom is an 800 meter area which is most famously home to the building where the armistice was signed.

Panmunjeom
Panmunjeom. The blue building on the left is where the Armistice Agreement was signed in July 1953. The large building in the back is Panmungak, in North Korea, used as a waiting are for North Korean visitors and guards. If you look closely, you can see a North Korean Soldier just left of center of Panmungak.
Panmunjeom Conference Building
Inside the Panmunjeom conference building. The center table sits on the line between North and South Korea and is where the military leaders signed the Armistice Agreement ending hostilities during the Korean War.

The battalion tasked with security of the area around the JSA, formally known as the United Nations Command Security Battalion, operates under the Armistice Agreement, reporting directly to United Nations Command. the UNCSB is one of the few purely joint-nation battalions composed of approximately 10% U.S. Soldiers and 90% ROK Soldiers. Together, they are responsible for monitoring the area around the JSA, protecting visitors to the area and those who work in the zone, and executing the education mission (which includes tours of the significant sites around the DMZ).

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North Korea has always been antaginistic toward the South and countries allied to them. For years, plans have been in the works to re-invade the South. In 1978, as a result of information received from a North Korean defector, a third infiltration tunnel was discovered. This tunnel is about a mile long and about 6 1/2 feet in diameter. Had this tunnel been used by the North for an invasion, 30,000 soldiers per hour could have traveled through it. It is said that there still could be 20 tunnels running under the DMZ which are yet to be discovered.

Tunnel #3
The entrance to Tunnel #3. There are no photographs permitted within the tunnel.

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Near the DMZ in Peju on Mt. Dora is the Dora Observatory where onlookers can view several sites in North Korea. There are tourist binaculars available, but to take a photograph toward the North, you have to stand behind a line well behind those binaculars. Without recording what you see, you get a great view of North Korea from this observatory, though I did take a few pictures before I was told we couldn’t.

Dora Observatory
Dora Observatory in Peju
Dora Observatory
A view of North Korea from the Dora Observatory
Dora Observatory
There is a small Buddhist shrine next to the Dora Observatory. On top is a traditional Buddhist bell
Dora Observatory
Inside the Buddhist shrine next to Dora Observatory.

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In 1953, following the signing of the Armistice Agreement, prisoners of war (POW) were exchanged over what became know as the “Bridge of No Return,” so named because once a POW returned to the North, they would not be permitted to come back to the South.

Bridge of No Return
Bridge of No Return within the DMZ

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In 1976, a group of United Nations Soldiers were trimming limbs from a large tree in the DMZ which was blocking the line of site between two guard posts when they were attacked by a group of North Korean soldiers. 2 U.S. officers and 4 South Korean Soldiers were killed. Today, there is a monument near where the attack took place which was near the Bridge of No Return.

DMZ Ax Murder Monument
The monument honoring the deaths of U.N. Soldiers killed with their axes by North Korean soldiers. The round base of the monument is the size of the tree the U.N. Soldiers were trimming.
DMZ Ax Murder Stump
The stump of the tree involved in the 1976 ax murders located in the museum at the JSA Visitor’s Center

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Gijeong-dong Village
A view of North Korea from an observation post near Panmunjeom. In the center of the picture is Gijeong-dong Village, built by the North for propaganda, but there are many things that indicated it is not lived in but rather a “fake” city housing only some soldiers. The tower holding the North Korean flag is said to be the world’s tallest flag tower.

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For several miles along Highway 77, between Seoul and Peju, there are double fences with barbed wire and guard posts every few hundred feet. A vivid reminder how close Korea is to war.
For several miles along Highway 77, between Seoul and Peju, there are double fences with barbed wire and guard towers every few hundred feet. A vivid reminder how close the people of Korea are to war.

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Additional References:

National Geographic website, Korea’s DMZ: Dangerous Divide.

Life in Korea website, Joint Security Area (Panmunjeom).

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Suwon Mayor Addresses Our Group

The chaplains and assistants in the brigade run a command-emphasized program for Soldiers just arriving to the brigade to learn how to use the public transportation system, order and eat at a Korean restaurant and visit a Korean cultural site. You can read more about these trips here.

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress
One of the battalion chaplains talking about the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress we were visiting.

We usually run these trips twice a month with little fanfare or excitement, but this day, because Suwon was preparing for a big festival on the weekend, the mayor was in the area and asked to talk to us. This is pretty significant, realizing that Suwon is a city with a population of over 1 million.

Mayor Yeom Tae-Young talked about his appreciation for our presence and told us some of the history of Suwon and the fortress we were there to visit. He also asked to have a picture taken with us (which we also wanted with him), then encouraged us to have a great visit and to come back for the festival.

Suwon Mayor
The mayor of Suwon (in the blue jacket) speaks to our group.

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Suwon Mayor
One of the BN chaplains greeting the Suwon mayor.

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Suwon Mayor
Me with the Suwon mayor after he talked to our group.

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Buddhism in South Korea

In my post about religion in South Korea, I talk more about Christianity and other non-Buddhist traditions but since Buddhism is so ingrained in Korean life and culture I wanted to spend a bit more time on it … and … I have several pictures of Buddhist temples and statues that I’ve taken that I want to share!

Laughing Buddha Suwon
A traditional “laughing” Buddha statue at a shop in Suwon.

Buddhism came to Korea from China in 372, about 800 years after the death of the original Buddha. It has grown to nearly 11 million adherents. These 11 million worship at tens of thousands of Buddhist temples located in cities and countrysides all over South Korea. For example, the small area of Suwon that I visit with Soldiers and spend about an hour walking on each trip, have 3 Buddhist temples within about a 20-minute walk of each other.

Korean thinkers developed their version of Buddhism into a more distinct version, correcting what they saw as inconsistencies in Chinese-Buddhist traditions, though is derived primarily from Seon Buddhism with other variations followed to a lesser extent.

At least early in Buddhism in Korea, many temples were located in the mountains, as a result of a practical mixture of Buddhism with Shamanism that was present in Korea before 372. Shamanism taught that the mountains were home to the spirits, so it was natural to combine Buddhist and Shaman thought in the placement of Buddhist temples. In fact, the 3 primary spirits of Shamanism remained in most Korean-Buddhist teaching and hold a place of honor and many Buddhist shrines have a place for them.

During the 500+ years of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), Buddhism was forced to give way to a neo-Confucianism which grew in dominance until Buddhist monks were significant players in repelling  a Japanese invasion during the 7-year war in the late 16th century which caused Buddhist persecution to come to an end. Adherents to Buddhism increased until following World War Two when Christianity’s influence increased starting a rapid decline of Buddhism in South Korea to its present place of only about 20% of the population.

As mentioned above, you don’t need to drive long before you see a Buddhist temple or statue. Much of my walking and site-seeing has been in the Suwon area, however, so the pictures I have are of 3 Buddhist temples in that area.

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Suwon Buddhism
This picture was taken from the parking lot of the palace in Suwon and shows the prominence of some of the Buddhist statues.
Suwon Buddhist temple
This is the entrance to the temple that is home to the statue in the above picture. It’s above a number of small side-streets.
Suwon Buddhist temple
One of the buildings in the temple complex.
Suwon Buddhist temple
The statue in the center of the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
Below the statue is a shrine for worshipers.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Like many Korean sites, there are slippers for you to change into before entering.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A view inside the shrine below the statue. Notice the banners hanging on the ceiling on the right and left which contain what looks like Nazi swastikas. “In Buddhism, the swastika signifies auspiciousness and good fortune as well as the Buddha’s footprints and the Buddha’s heart.”(1) This symbol was used in art and religion long before the Nazis used it.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Notice to the right of the statue are notes left by worshipers.
Suwon Buddhist temple pagoda
A pagoda on the temple grounds
Suwon Buddhist temple
A number of small monuments on the hill above the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
Some type of oven on the temple grounds with small statues on it.
Suwon Buddhist temple
The entrance/exit to the temple complex. Notice the bell on the tower. “Beomjong, as Buddhist bells are called in Korean, are one of the four Buddhist instruments…” (2)
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress bell
Here’s is a better picture of a Korean Buddhist bell though this one isn’t at a Buddhist temple but on top of the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (you can ring it 3 times for ₩1000).

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Suwon Buddhist temple
The entrance to another Buddhist temple complex in Suwon
Suwon Buddhist Temple
This temple complex has more of an appearance of a vihara, or Buddhist monastery, with living and working areas.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Some of the temple complex was undergoing renovations so we couldn’t see it all. The sign on the structure above the steps is about praying for children’s testing for university attendance (a big deal in Korea).
Suwon Buddhist temple
The building housing a shrine in the temple complex.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Notice shoes sitting outside of the shrine. Shoes are always removed before entering.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A view of the inside of the shrine in the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
The inside of the entrance/exit gate of the temple complex.

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Suwon Buddhist Temple
Another Buddhist temple on the other side of the Suwon River from the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.
Suwon Buddhist temple
This temple is larger and uses modern architectural design in contrast to the ones above which use more traditional Korean architecture. However, there is an elaborate pagoda on top of the building.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A sign on the temple building
Suwon Buddhist temple
A look inside the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
A sign describing the temple complex

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(1) http://www.religionfacts.com/swastika/buddhism

(2) http://eng.templestay.com/upload/board/2013121810273680997.pdf

Some of the information for this post came from the online New World Encyclopedia.

All photos were taken by the author.

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Religion in South Korea

South Korea has a long history of religious observance. Buddhism was introduced in 372 and currently has nearly 11 million adherents worshiping in tens of thousands of temples. Confucianism became the state ideology during the Joseon Dynasty which lasted from 1392 to 1910 but while listed as a religion, is more of an ethical way of thinking and living (but has had profound influence on Korean society).

Roman Catholicism came to Korea in the late 18th century following the baptism of one of the “elite” on a visit to China. Catholics faced significant persecution during the Joseon Dynasty (making Korea the 4th largest contributor of saints) but grew rapidly following the end of the Korean War and now claims over 5 million members.

Protestant Christianity came to Korea with Christian missionaries from North America in the late 19th century. Much of the appeal of the Protestant Church in Korea came from significant investment in schools and hospitals. Today, Protestants comprise about 18% of the population of South Korea, nearly 9 million members.

Combining members of Protestantism and Catholicism nets a total of nearly 15 million members or over half of the population claiming religious adherence, making Christianity the largest faith group in South Korea.

South Korea religious preference
This graphs shows percentages of South Koreans who identify with a particular faith group. It does not include the nearly half of the population who say they are “non-religious.” Thus, percentages are of those who identify with some religion, not of the population as a whole.

 

 

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A short trip through nearly any part of Korea will reveal evidence of South Korea’s religious nature. Driving through most any town you’ll often see a steeple or gold Buddha. Here are a few pictures of some of the churches and temples I have seen in my travels:

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A large modern-Gothic church beside I-1 just inside the Seoul toll gate
A large modern-Gothic church beside I-1 just inside the Seoul toll gate.
A Christian church in Seoul near Yongsan-gu
A Christian church in Seoul near Yongsan-gu.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Church of the Nazarene in Pyeongtaek
A Church of the Nazarene in Pyeongtaek.
A large Presbyterian church in Suwon
A large Presbyterian church in Suwon.

 

A Christian church in Pyeongtaek.
A Christian church in Pyeongtaek.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Buddhist Temple between businesses down a small street in Suwon.

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The religious preference chart and some of the information in this post came from  http://www.korea.net/AboutKorea/Korean-Life/Religion.

Some other information came from  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/why-catholicism-important-korea-201481717037383818.html.

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70th Anniversary of V-J Day

V-J SigningVictory over Japan day has never been a big celebration for me during my life time, but it takes on new significance being in Korea. I have only seriously talked to a very few people here about their feeling towards Japan, but most still hold an animosity toward them lingering from the Japanese occupation during most of the first half of the 20th century-even some who weren’t even living at the time. It was our victory over Japan that won South Korea’s freedom from a very brutal and oppressive occupation that lasted most recently for over 35 years.

These feelings were prolonged by the lack of U.S. sensitivity to the Korean’s attitudes toward the Japanese occupation as the U.S. military leaders enlisted the help of some of the Japanese officials who had been in control in Korea, as well as Korean’s who were viewed as Japanese “puppets” or sympathizers, during U.S. assistance in Korea following the end of the war. It took several years following the defeat of Japan to really cleanse the Korean government of the last vestiges of the occupation.

Japanese-build building on YongsaRemnants of the Japanese occupation remain here on USAG Yongsan where I am stationed. Many of the older buildings were built by the Japanese to house their military and government infrastructure. While the insides have been sufficiently remodeled and updated, the exteriors remain pretty much as they were during the first half of the 20th century though most symbols and references to Japan, if ever prominent, have long since been removed from view. (A pretty good article about the remaining structures can be found here.)

So for most Americans 14 August will come and go without much thought to our Victory over Japan 70 years ago, but for many Koreans it represents liberation and freedom from decades of oppression.

What if North Korea Attacks?

As the Brigade Chaplain, I’m involved in much of the staff work and planning for the Brigade Commander. Recently, the staff has been working on plans for the brigade in the event of war on the Peninsula. Often, when this planning is done in units in the States, it is theoretical or long-term but here in South Korea, it’s real life and comes with a sense of urgency and reality.

North Korean Artillery FireIt is not a secret that North Korea has one of the largest artillery inventories in the world, much of it pointed at South Korea. The capital of South Korea, Seoul, is just 35 miles from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) so is most vulnerable “with estimates of as many as 13,000 [North Korean] artillery pieces positioned along that border.”According to a South Korean security analyst quoted by GlobalSecurity.org, the North Koreans “could fire 10,000 rounds per minute to Seoul and its environs.” Which, based on some estimates, this “conventional artillery capability would allow North Korea to flatten Seoul in the first half-hour of any confrontation.”2

Much of the damage that would result from a first strike by North Korea would include significant loss of life and infrastructure to nearby U.S. And South Korean military bases. This doesn’t even take into consideration the North Korean use of uncoventional weapons. North Korea “… is armed with weapons of mass destruction — probably including nuclear weapons — and which, even more frighteningly, has developed a specific strategy for using them” against South Korea.3

According to Bruce W. Bennett, Senior Defense Analyst and professor at Pardee Rand Graduate School, North Korean strategy of attack looks something like this:

— Against South Korean and American battlefield forces, North Korea has emphasized artillery with chemical weapons, and built a huge arsenal of each.

— Against the nearby South Korean capital Seoul and ground force reserves behind the battlefield, North Korea has emphasized long-range artillery with chemical weapons, and special forces with biological weapons.

— Against rear area and off-peninsula targets, North Korea has emphasized ballistic missiles with chemical weapons and special forces with biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons.3

Grant it, it would not be long after an initial attack by North Korea that a formidable response was launched from U.S., South Korean and other militaries, but depending on the extent of that response, North Korea could still survive to launch another series of attacks.

The North Korean military has long understood that fortified bunkers are the key to survival in the face of superior enemy air power. There are thousands of hardened underground bunkers close to the front line, and North Korean artillery will carry out “shoot and scoot” attacks, emerging briefly to fire and withdrawing rapidly.4

According to a Rand Corporation Study referenced by PopularMechanics.com, it only takes about 75 seconds after firing, for North Korean artillery to be back under cover and protected from destruction. Ultimately, they would be found and destroyed, but a significant amount of damage and loss of life could be done in the mean time.

Technology can [possibly] help prevent the North Koreans from getting in a second shot. But there is not yet any solution to the thousands of shells and rockets they could launch with the first salvo on Seoul, and that remains one of the biggest concerns in an escalating conflict.4

United States Forces in Korea have plans in place for rapid evacuation of family members and non-essential United States citizens from the peninsula in the event of conflict, as well as issuing protective equipment for family members to protect against chemical and biological attacks. These plans provide some comfort to those living here, but in reality, if North Korea launches an attack from their close proximity, it’s not likely that any of those protective measures would be effective.

Kim Jong-unOne would hope that Kim Jong-un would have sense enough to not begin a military conflict that would very likely end with his -and his military’s- annihilation but based on his (and his predecessor’s) statements and reckless activities, that hope isn’t very secure. Since the signing of the armistice, there have been no fewer than 50 border “incidents” involving North Korea.However, even as seemingly crazy as Kim is, maybe self-preservation will breed restraint in North Korea, allowing the power Kim exerts over his own people to satisfy his craving and prevent him from striking out against his neighbors, who, by the way, long for reunification and lasting peace.

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1 http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/a6212/north-korea-and-flattening-seoul/

2 http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,446776,00.html

3 http://www.rand.org/blog/2003/03/n_-koreas-threat-to-s_-korea.html

4 http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a6211/north-korea-conflict-weapons-available/

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_border_incidents_involving_North_Korea

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Photos

Artillery fire: A view of artillery fire and landing exercises guided by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (not seen) in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 21, 2015. (From http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/25/asia-pacific/north-korea-100-nuclear-weapons-2020-u-s-researchers/)

Kim Jong-un with Generals: This photo is from a past DG article from the last time the North Koreans threatened an attack against the U.S., here sits the mighty Kim Jong Un surrounded by his generals making ingenious plans to destroy the U.S. — this was obviously a staged photo. Then if you zoom in above the general’s head (as NKNews.org points out) you can see a map of the US with lines coming into it (implying lines of attack). The text apparently reads “US Mainland Strike Plan” (which is not subtle). (From http://www.darkgovernment.com/news/north-korea-threatens-nuclear-missile-attack-on-u-s-again/)

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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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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!

20150723_090903
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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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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Korea Deployment Blog

Flag of the Republic of KoreaYou have come to the blog about my “deployment” to Korea (thanks for stopping by, by the way!). This page, with posts being in “real time,” will be in the normal blog format, that is the most recent post will be on top (directly below this one). However, since this “deployment” is complete, it will make better sense to view the posts in actual chronological order. To see them in order, follow this link, other wise just scroll down and you’ll see the last post first and so on.  Alternatively, you can navigate to older posts through the “archive” or “recent posts” widgets on the right side of the page. You can also jump to specific categories (Food & DrinkHistoryLife & FamilyMilitaryMinistryTravel & Siteseeing) by using the links on the “categories” widget.

View Korea blog in chronological order by clicking here (preferred)…

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