Three Things Thursday

For your reading and viewing pleasure, here are three …

…museums that are worth a visit in Seoul.

Thing 1 ~ War Memorial of Korea

I’m not a fan of war. Aside from Hannibal and his elephants, great feats of military prowess are lost on me. Weapons, tanks and guns just make me sadder the older I get and the more I see them used around the world, so I wasn’t going to bother visiting the War Memorial of Korea. However, then I remembered that I had been similarly dubious about the Imperial War Museum North before I visited, and that in fact, museums with war featuring conspicuously in their titles are often more of an educational experience to highlight why we should All Just Stop Fighting.

War Memorial of Korea

War Memorial of Korea

This museum also came out at top of the pile on reliable, “What to do in Seoul” searches, so I duly took note and made it the second of my Museum Friday rambles. It did not disappoint.

The huge complex is located at the edge of the slowly migrating U.S army base at Yongsan, and an easy trot from Samgakji subway station. The first time I went past by bus last winter the vast, circular Peace Plaza which spans the area between the road and the main entrance was playing temporary home to a skating rink and some kind of giant snow fun park. This time I approached on a crisp, but as yet un-snowed-upon day and felt fully dwarfed by this imposing building as I made my way between the flagpoles and up to the door.

Turtle Ship

Turtle Ship

Once inside, there are two main directions that appeal: straight through the main atrium will lead you to the Memorial Hall; a tranquil testament to those who fought and died during the 1950 – 1953 Korean War. To the left are the large model ‘Turtle Ships’ of Admiral Yi, Sun Shin, subject of last year’s surprise hit historical drama, “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” (명량 in Korean after the location of the battle).

The three levels of the museum take you through the main historical dynasties which have fought over and ruled the peninsular in the last couple of millennia and showcase ancient military regalia and war dress, which is interesting, but this museum’s forte really is its focus on the Korean War and its aftermath. In particular, the 3D experience room, where you can sit through a short, personalised account of the war (including snow!!!) is a great interactive touch, as is the uplifting area dedicated to showing how South Korea has moved from being a recipient of UN aid during its troubled, post-war period, to a prominent member (non-permanent) of the UN Security Council providing aid in conflict and disaster stricken regions around the world.

Besides all the informative stuff, there is also the cool shit. The hall to the right-hand side of the entrance features stuff like helicopters, and in the grounds outside there are tanks, missiles, and planes of all shapes and sizes, many of which you can hop into.

Thing 2 ~ The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art

Spiral stair

Spiral stair

From the name, you can tell this is a private museum, and therefore a little more expensive. It’s worth the cost. Hidden away down a backstreet in the multicultural area of Itaewon, the Leeum museum stylishly combines classical and traditional Korean art (yes, there are a lot of Celadon pots) with contemporary Korean art, and some of the best of the international modern art.

When I was there, there were a couple of Damien Hirst’s gorgeous butterfly pieces, including the radiant ‘It’s Great To Be Alive.’ There was also a stellar installation in the stairwell featuring the solar system in lights. It felt like walking into a cross between Labyrinth and 2001: Space Odyssey.

Thing 3 ~ the National Folk Museum of Korea

I have to admit I have no idea about the many splendours inside this museum, but on a sunny spring day I found myself entranced just by what you can visit on the outside.

Korean street

Korean street

This fantastic (and free) museum is accessible from Gyeongbukgung palace if you’ve already bought a ticket and gone through the grounds. Otherwise, walk up along the palace wall to the right-hand side of the gate and you’ll find the entrance just opposite the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA).

The grounds of the museum feature a number of replicas of traditional Korean artefacts such as these tall wooden carvings which served as guardians for towns and villages, and also as mileposts on the roads as I witnessed in my recent cross-country bike trip.

There is also a traditional Korean street from the post-war period. I visited on a quiet Friday afternoon and everywhere was deserted, giving it a very eerie atmosphere!

Have you visited any of these museums? Would you recommend any other great Seoul sites? Drop us a line below to put us in the know!

Photo credit 2001: Labyrinth Odyssey – Emily Davies


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. in567
    Jul 04, 2015 @ 20:11:19

    Excellent photos. Very creative.



  2. Caroline
    Jul 04, 2015 @ 01:19:56

    Have you been to that place we went to in Suwon (I think)? And Lotte World. I recommend Lotte World.



    • Pieces of 8
      Jul 05, 2015 @ 17:58:38

      Do you mean the fortress in Suwon? Or was that the Korean folk village? Actually, I haven’t made it down to Suwon yet, and I really must visit before I leave. Thanks for the reminder!



  3. Jim McHugh
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 23:30:31

    re Thing 1 – and who dragged me and Kate into so many World War I cemeteries in Northern France? And around the D-Day beaches??



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