Friday, August 27, 2010

UN Memorial Cemetery in Busan

On our recent trip to Gyeongju and then Busan, we made it our mission to not only enjoy the splendour that is Korean food and custom, but to also go out, and actively experience the culture and history that is so abundant in this wonderful country. Gyeongju is practically the hub of one of Korea's three great dynasties, the Silla Dynasty, which reigned from 57B.C-935. With this being as it is, there is an huge amount to be seen and experienced in Gyeongju, most of it, obviously, relating to the Silla Dynasty.

Having left Gyeongju, we moved on to Korea's second largest city after Seoul, the wonderful harbour city of Busan. Busan was a truly amazing experience. We headed in to Busan, not too sure what to expect, having previously only been to Seoul, as far as big cities in Korea go. Busan is more than a scaled down version of Seoul. It has a life that is all its own. I'm not sure what it stems from, but my guess is that the energy in Busan stems from it being a coastal town. Back home, in South Africa, coastal towns have a very definite vibe to them that is not to be found anywhere inland.

As part of our 'cultural tour' we figured we'd go explore some of the historically significant places that are to be found in Busan. One of these was the UN Memorial Cemetery, located in the Uamdong area of Busan. Looking at it from the outside, there is not much that hints at the significance of the cemetery. The entrance is very clean and simple, with a uniformed guard standing at the main gate to great you upon entry. Walking through the main gate, you see a couple of signs, which guide you to the various parts of the cemetery. One thing that stands out in my mind, was a gold plaque attached to the main gate, simply stating that this is a cemetery and the utmost respect must be shown to the deceased resting inside.

The first part of the cemetery we had a look at was the actual grave sites.

The cemetery is broken down into various sections, which soldiers being buried with their fellow countrymen.
Walking through the cemetery, it is incredibly haunting and disturbing, when one reads the inscriptions on the graves:

These are three random graves. What bothers me is the age of the soldiers that put their lives on the line. Most of the graves had numbers ranging from 19-24 on them. There we several graves with soldiers older than 25, and also a bothersome amount with soldiers younger than 19. There is also a special memorial in place for the youngest soldier who died during the war, J. P. Daunt, a 17 year old Australian boy.

I have walked through many a cemetery, and never been moved the way that this place moved me. People die. That is a fact of life. People die at the age of 80, and unfortunately many people die much younger. The people buried in this cemetery didn't die. They gave their lives for others. These were not soldiers defending their own country (the exception being the Korean soldiers), these were soldiers fighting under the banner of the UN, in order to defend South Korea during the  Korean War.


Walking through the cemetery, and passing grave after grave after grave, and seeing that most of these soldiers were younger than I am now is haunting and moving. Claudia, who is usually quite composed, started crying after being completely overwhelmed by the insanity of it all. It's difficult to comprehend how so many people were so willing to give their lives for the sake of others.

I take my hat off, and bow deeply, to the soldiers that gave their lives in aid of others during this and any other war!

It is a properly moving experience to walk through a cemetery like this, one is simply beyond being able to put it in words. One needs to visit a place like this, and take it all in on a more personal level. Standing in front of hundreds of graves, reading the names of soldiers and the messages left by loved ones, makes it all too real - just how scary and destructive any war is.


This is the Wall of Remembrance memorial, which is basically built up of dozens of meters of walls, each wall inscribed with the name of a Soldier who died during the war.


Seeing a wall like this makes one wonder. It genuinely makes you sit down and think about how humans (or just Hollywood) have absolutely glorified war. How the soldier leaving on his tour through wherever is a brave hero who will do his country and his family proud. Men that serve their own countries, out of their own free will are brave. Men who serve other countries out of their own free will are heroes.

Brave and heroic as it might be, seeing this many names written on a wall in memory of these dead soldiers' forces you to realise just how nonsensical and absurd war really is.


"May you, who died fighting under the UN flag for freedom and peace, rest in peace!"

Post by Oliver


Kaminoge said...

A very moving description and a great post! I'm planning on visiting South Korea again one of these days, and if I do, Busan is one of the places I would like to see.

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