War Memorial of Korea (전쟁기념관)

If you're the type who finds memorials of any kind to be static and boring, the War Memorial of Korea, in Seoul, might be the memorial that changes your mind. It is more like a museum than a memorial, and it includes the Combat Experience Room, which recreates for visitors the battlefields of the Korean War: the sights, sounds and even the smell of burning gunpowder.

Unfortunately the Combat Experience Room was out of commission during my visit, but according to the signs the experience lasts five minutes, runs every 30 to 60 minutes, and plays about a dozen times per day. There is no English for the Combat Experience Room, only Korean. The rest of the museum includes English for everything, including the free audio tour.

Although the War Memorial is understandably focused on the Korean War, which has divided the peninsula for the past six decades, its exhibits pay tribute to the entire military history of Korea, including its role in the Vietnam War, and also its naval battles with Japan. There is a large-scale (but less than full-scale) replica of a Turtle battleship, also known as Geobukseon (거북선), designed by Yi Sun-sin during the Joseon Dynasty to fend off Japanese invasions during the late sixteenth century. The hull of the battleship was covered with spikes to protect against cannon fire, and to deter enemy soldiers from boarding the ship.

What I enjoyed the most was the life-size walk-through diorama-like exhibit showing the life of refugees during the Korean War. There was also an excellent exhibit on the complexity of the Vietnam jungles, including its underground tunnels and booby traps.

Below are statues outside the Memorial, near the Korean War Monument. The second photo shows the Statue of Brothers: an older brother from the South, on the battlefield, embracing his younger brother from the North. The crack in the sculpture symbolizes the fractured peninsula.