Sunday, February 13, 2011

UN Cemetery (UNMCK) in Busan

My first stop in Busan was the UN Cemetery in Nam-gu. This cemetery was once a cemetery owned by the Korean government with tombs of soldiers from the UN forces that were killed during the Korean War. In 1974 the land was officially given to the UN and is now the only cemetery in the world to be officially owned by the UN.

More incredible than the tombs, was the Wall of Remembrance which names every soldier killed in action. As you enter, the countries are listed and you will be surprised to see the names of solders from countries you might not have expected to see here like Thailand, Turkey or Ethiopia. Then as you walk around, you'll find the American names listed. And you'll realize that they just go on and on and on forever. The number of American deaths is staggering and it can be quite moving to walk around seeing the endless list of names. It was especially moving for me since my grandfather served in the Korean war. I wish he were still around today so I could ask him more about the war and about the Korea that he saw half a century ago. My mother tells me, though, that he really loved Korea and even picked up a little Korean language while he was here.

If you wander into the memorial service hall, the friendly volunteers will play a movie about the history of the cemetery for you in pretty much any language you can desire. They will probably also give you a tour of the memorabilia hall. The man that guided me around was a soldier during the war and had lots to say. I wanted to speak Korean with him, but I realized that his English was far superior to my Korean and eventually the conversation changed entirely to English, much to my chagrin. I went on a Tuesday morning and had the place to myself. There were a few people out on their daily walk, but I was the only tourist milling around the place.

I highly recommend the UN cemetery to anyone visiting Busan. It's a great way to learn about history, not to mention the beautiful surroundings. One can't help but notice the beautiful, well kept landscaping around the park. I mentioned this point to the gentleman showing me around the memorabilia hall, and he told me that landscapers come from all over to Korea to learn from the landscapers that maintain the UN Cemetery in Busan.

The UNMCK website, being published by the UN, has excellent information in English. Please refer there for more information about how to get there and more information about events and hours.

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