Seoul in October,1999…Part 10

The War Memorial Museum….

This is my ticket from the museum. It is so absolutely huge that it’s astounding. I remember thinking it was like the Pentagon at the time. Seoul Tower is to the right of here and the Northern mountains are ahead.

I thought it was important to see the War Memorial Museum in Yongsan, Seoul, where the American forces were based. It did not disappoint. When we had come outside after being in the museum for 3 hours, I remember saying to myself that we would have spent 2 whole weeks there if we had wanted to see all of it. There were huge displays inside and out of real planes and equipment. A huge section inside had rooms and rooms of just Chinese strategies and inventions from hundreds of years ago like how they might roll stones as weapons down a hill at first and how they gradually developed gunpowder. The rooms presented actual examples of the ancient weapons used over time in many countries whose warfare involved Korea. There were many interactive display rooms. You could pretend you were in actual combat. We were in one room where it went dark, and the lights and gunfire would start, and the recorded voices of Korean soldiers in trenches, wondering what to do, would play. I remember learning how many Chinese soldiers in a surprise move joined the Korean War on the side of North Korea partway through it, making things worse. It was a museum showcasing how all warfare for hundreds of years had affected Korea. This only cost a few dollars to get in as well!

Outside on the grounds…
Absolutely monumental….

Korean Furniture….

I wanted to say that we were lucky to even get beds anywhere over there. They don’t like beds much, as they are a western piece of furniture and not considered to be good for the body. Tables and chairs are western too. Korean parents sleep with their babies and small children until the child turns five. And they sleep on the floor on a special piece of silky blanket with padding, like the red satiny ‘mattress’ in the photo below. Many people had beds when we were in Korea, but many people also had their ‘mattresses’ for the floor as well. When I visited Sang Hyun, we sat together on his floor. The pillows and blankets weren’t the same either. They had expensive comforters and pillows that were like sofa cushions with no pillow cases and there were no sheets to ever be found at all. A lot of Koreans ate while sitting on the floor at a short sort of coffee table in their apartments, even though they had dining rooms like we have. The floors were made out of different material too, like a thin, smooth laminate.

So SoJoung gave us a bed to sleep in when we stayed with her, at least. I want to mention that SoJoung was Im SoJoung. ‘Im’ was her family name. All Korean women keep their own family names and don’t take their husbands’ names at all when they get married!

This shows the inside of a traditional house. There are no beds or “kitchen tables” or chairs! The tables in front of the blue screen are low so people can sit while eating at them.

Barley Water….

While in Seoul, I saw many bottles of what looked like water on sheves in their apartments everywhere. The water was ‘barley water’ they made all the time and that’s what they would drink. They put a bit of barley grains in a pot with water and they’d boil it for a while, then they’d save the water it made and keep that water in bottles and drink it. I always heard over there that something was “good for health”, and barley water was a certain staple at the time. Sail and SoJoung had many bottles of it on window shelves, I remember. We were always told not to use the tap water for drinking or cooking. Everyone had to buy bottled water to cook with or drink.

The Zoo….

The trees had started turning colour and I loved these mountains…. You can see groups of school children in their uniforms everywhere in the pictures. When you came out of the subway station you walked here. Robert is in a striped shirt sort of on the right.

It was exciting to go to the Seoul Zoo on our trip, as I had always wanted to go. We had to go by subway to the South of the city, in the middle of it. It was out of city limits. The huge park complex was called Seoul Grand Park and it had 5 large sections in it. Only one part was the massive zoo. The mountains around it and statues and flowers were nice to look at. The enclosures were very spacious and the animals seemed to be treated well. A few spots were better than anything, like the baby albino tiger with blue eyes – he seemed to be the star of the zoo! How would I ever see one anywhere else? Seeing a real gorilla, Asian sun bears and a real Japanese crane up close was exciting to me as well. We spent 4 hours there and only saw a portion of it. The area was nice too and we had some different kinds of excitement there, as I will explain…

On the way to the zoo outside of the subway station.
Many times there were lovely statues in places. Perhaps I couldn’t take time to read about it or perhaps there was no English explanation here, as I don’t know about this statue.

To my surprise and dismay, there was a sky-lift to hop on with scary difficulty to get transported to the zoo, the park complex was so huge. We were able to safely jump on and had to do this while it was moving. It was okay for the teenaged students but not everyone would be able to go on the lift. It was like a ski-lift and was a high jump to get on too.

The lift on the way to the zoo. See how the young students could do it…

This park was near what they called the Seoul Racetrack. I never went, but it was horse races for tourists who wanted to bet. Can you believe Koreans are not allowed to gamble at all? They spoke of lotteries as well but were not allowed to get involved in it. Korea is and was extremely strict about any crimes or drug use of any kind. More strict than in western countries. There was a no-tipping policy throughout Korea when I lived there. Everyone lived the same and did the same things. They all had a lot of pride in their society and culture. One day I was looking out a high window in the city at the people on the street and it occurred to me what it was that I found different there. It was the army consciption that made the difference. All males had to join the army and train for 2 years. Every single one. Some had medical excuses not to go and some leave Korea to not have to go. I found this interesting when I lived there. As I looked down at the people on the street that day in late 1997, and realised conscription affected the men there, it made sense that all the Korean men were extremely disciplined and orderly. All the time. Not only was everybody freshly showered and neat, but they all walked in an orderly fashion and there was hardly ever anyone who stood out from this orderly, neat crowd.

This is the rhinoceros enclosure. There were elephants and giraffes and zebras and hippopotamuses too.
A Korean student who was excited to see us foreigners at this zoo.

The photo above was taken because as we went through the zoo, this particular student was exclaiming more than the rest of them every time he saw us. We kept running into him and his group as we walked along. When it was time for me to see the bird enclosure, he planted himself in front of me and wanted to be in my picture. I wish I could have spoken to him, but he really could not speak English and had to go with his group. I like my picture of him and the memories it invokes.

I loved the bird enclosure because of the cranes in it. There were 2 kinds. On the right of this picture is the crane I looked at who was up close. He or she looked me in the eye and it was eery and sad because it looked intelligent. I remember thinking they are such special birds.

This is the gorilla. He only wanted to eat the cheesies thrown to him if they didn’t touch the ground. He had to catch them in the air.
We were nearing the end of our trip to the zoo here. A magpie is in the tree.
We came out of the zoo here.
Someone had called these flowers ‘Korean tulips’ once….

By jcorvec123gmailcom

I have a deep passion for Korea and love reminiscing about my time spent there in the late 1990s.

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