Monday, November 13, 2017

Concerns Regarding Upcoming Olympics at Pyeongchang

The following article "Pyeongchang Legacy May Be Huge Piles of Debt" was taken from Korean JoongAng Daily, Novermber 9, 2017. Already the government is worrying about the unexpectedly low number of tickets to the Olympic games being sold to help pay for the venue and construction are still unreserved. 

According to another article I read about a month ago, the government is said to have expected 1 million people to pay for tickets to the Olympics, with 750,000 of those being Koreans who live in country. However, those projected numbers are far from being achieved! 

France is boycotting the Olympics, North Korea at the time still didn't hadn't had their qualification games so their attendance was uncertain, and then the international community had issues with attending. South and North Korea are heavily featured in the news and the political situation between the two countries is unstable, making visitors to South Korea very nervous. International communities also held campaigns against coming to S Korea also because South Koreans eat dog; petitions circulated with international people signing to boycott the Olympics because of, not really the practice of eating dog, but because of how dogs were killed in order to achieve maximum flavor in the vigor-embewing dog meat. Other petitions also circulated boycotting the South Korean winter Olympics because South Korea destroyed a 500+ year old sacred forest where the king's meat was once procured in order to build a ski-jump for the Olympic competitors. There were other sites in S Korea where the ski jump could have been built, slightly below optimum elevation but still acceptable to meet Olympic regulations, but S Korea opted to destroy a sacred forest that the government had designated as sacred less than 10 years previous. International communities were outraged, particularly on the grounds that the host countries of the Olympics must comply with environmental standards in order to (1) be hosts of the Olympics, and (2) get compensatory funds by an Olympic foundation. Obviously South Korea broke the rules and this was loudly aired online via outraged international communities.

This information is just background for readers to understand a bit more some of the dynamics affecting the low number of tickets sold thus far to people to watch the games first-hand. From this article, it's apparent that there are post-Olympic financial consequences of hosting the Olympics also.

As the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics rapidly approach, experts are increasingly voicing concerns that the legacy of the games may not be the passion and unity that the organizing committees are promising, but instead the costly, unused facilities that are likely to dot the northeast of the country.  
Four Olympic venues are yet to come up with post-Olympic plans, raising concerns that the Winter Olympics will join a growing list of international events that have ultimately gone on to cost Korea huge amounts of money.  
When the Asian Games was hosted in Incheon in 2014, about 1.72 trillion won ($1.54 billion) was spent on building 16 new venues. The majority of that is still left as debt, and Incheon has to pay between 10 billion and 150 billion won every year from 2015 to 2029.  
Not only that, the Korean Grand Prix, hosted for the first time in 2010, had to stop in 2013 as the accumulated deficit stacked up to 190 billion won.  
Excluding the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremony will be held, there are a total of 12 venues for the Olympics. Of those, six of them are newly constructed and the remaining six were repaired, with the total bill racking up to about a trillion won. Including the newly-built Jeongseon Alpine Centre, which cost 203.4 billion won, Gangneung Ice Arena, costing 134 billion won, and Gangneung Oval, costing 126.4 billion won, five of the venues cost more than 100 billion won each.  
But three venues - Jeongseon Alpine Centre, Gangneung Hockey Centre and Gangneung Oval - are yet to announce a post-Olympics plan. Originally, the Gangneung Oval was expected to be broken down after the Olympics, but last year, Gangwon and the organizing committee agreed to maintain the facility.  
Daemyung Group, owner of the Daemyung Killer Whales Ice Hockey team, was originally going to take charge of the Gangneung Hockey Centre, but the company dropped out once it was revealed that the facility had a five-year operating cost of 10 billion won.  
At the Jeongseon Alpine Centre, 55 percent of the facility is expected to be restored back to its natural state. Since it’ll no longer be able to be used as a ski resort, it’s more difficult to come up with a post-Olympics plan.  
According to the Korea Industrial Strategy Institute Foundation, the annual maintenance cost of the main venues is expected to be 31.3 billion won. The foundation projects the facilities will be able to earn about 17.1 billion won a year, leaving a 14.2 billion won deficit.  
The PyeongChang Olympic Stadium is going to be the biggest problem. It cost a total of 63.5 billion won to build the stadium but it will be broken down after only four days of use throughout the Olympics and the Paralympics next year. This means that the stadium cost 15.8 billion won per day.  
Upon completion of the event, only 5,000 seats of 35,000 seats and three of seven floors will be kept. Though there hasn’t been a set plan for post-Olympic usage, the stadium is expected to be transformed into a concert hall or memorial park.  
Since Gangwon hasn’t come up with post-Olympics plans, they are asking the central government to manage the venues. To do so, they are pushing for a revision in the National Sports Promotion Act.  
“There’s a high possibility that the government will once again have to deal with the negative effects from the local government hosting such a big event,” said Lee Dae-taek, professor of physical education at Kookmin University. “Gangwon needs to be more responsible.”  
Chung Hee-joon, a sports sociology professor at Dong-A University, also pointed out that, “Hoenggye, where the Olympic Plaza is located, is a small town with only a population of 4,000. It’s difficult to make a post-Olympics plan.”  
To fix this, the organizing committee may have to study the success of low cost and high-efficiency events like the Gwangju Universiade and 6th CISM World Games Military Games, Korea.  
The 2015 Summer Universiade in Gwangju was by far the most successful event in Korea financially, as they only constructed three of the 69 facilities and used existing venues for the remaining events.  
The podiums were provided by the Incheon Asian Games organizing committee at no cost and the seats at the stadiums were folding chairs. Rather than flower bouquets, winners were awarded the event’s mascot dolls and tents were used as waiting rooms for players.  
This allowed savings of 199.9 billion won in operating and equipment expenses.  
The 6th CISM World Games Military Games in Mungyeong installed 350 caravans as athletes’ accommodation. Throughout the tournament, the total budget was 165.3 billion won with equipment expenses of 18.7 billion won. 

BY SONG JI-HOON, PARK RIN [kang.yoorim@joongang.]

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Royal Tombs of Joseon Dynasty

Jinny Hwang Inhee presented on the Royal Tombs of Joseon. She is an expert and has made an in-depth study of the Joseon Dynasty royal tombs, and in her expressive slide show she explained many of the characteristic features of the tombs. Jinny Hwang Inhee, a graduate from the Civics Education Department, Ewha Womans University, spoke in Korean and Kim Jaebum, a RAS Council member, provided English translation. Jinhee is a writer and an educator. Since 2013 she has been serving as President of the Durumari History Education Institute.

A write-up of her presentation is as follows: 

The Joseon Dynasty, the last period in Korean history before the Japanese annexation, was founded by General Yi Seonggye in 1392 and forcibly annexed to the Japanese Empire in 1910. While the dynasty lasted for 519 years, 27 kings and 45 queens reigned, including the last two with the title of “Emperor” with their empresses in the Daehan / Korean Empire. In all, 42 Joseon royal tombs including two in Gaeseong, presently North Korea, are preserved, virtually all that were built. The 40 of them located in South Korea are registered by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage not only for the aesthetic value of their sculpture but also for the entirety of their preservation. 
It is also amazing to note that the royal ancestral rituals jerye have been observed continuously for 623 years. The main Jeonju Yi family Jongyagwon had to overcome difficulties following the demise of the dynasty to continue the ritual at the graves, while that held at the main shrine of Jongmyo, which is now held once on the first Sunday of May each year, is also a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.
  • last of the Korean traditional dynasties
  • founded by General Yi Seonggye in 1392
  • 27 kings & 45 queens
  • from 1392 - 1910, a span of 519 years
  • royal tombs - a graveyard exclusive for kings and queens
Joseon Royal Tombs
  • 42 tombs in total = 40 in South Korea + 2 in Gaeseong, present-day North Korea
  • the 40 tombs in South Korea are UNESCO World Culture Heritage, and they are protected for their aesthetic value and must be preserved in their entirety
  • all within 44 kilometers of Seoul, the capital
  • 2 in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do
  • ? in Yeongweol, Gangwon-do 
  • Jongyagwon, for the main Jeonju Yi family
  • rites at royal tombs continued even during Japanese occupation
  • Jongmyo Jerye 
  • 1st Sunday of May each year
  • UNESCO World Cultural Heritage
  • continued for over 600 years
King or Queen Dies
  • establish gukjangdogam
  • place corpse in jaegung and keep it at binjeon
  • observe rites and mourn for 5 months
  • no preservatives or cooling facilities
  • cultivate juniper for incense

Constructing Tombs
  • select site
  • form mound and excavate 3 meters deep
  • make room for stones or lime walls
  • stone sculptures to decorate
  • build jeongjagak at entrance
  • erect hongsalmun gate 

(read more about tombs and their terms)

Burial and Rites
  • 5 months after demise
  • take soul in shinju back to the palace
  • rites in honjeon every morning and evening for 3 years
  • move shinju to Jongmyo
  • royal name, the myoho, is given
  • queen's soul to Jongmyo 3 years after king's death
Location and Feature
  • best location: big mountain to the north, low hills to the south, views to the east and west
  • features differ between each era based on:
  • state law
  • extent of royal power
  • political circumstances
  • economic conditions
  • topography of the site
Basic Structure
  • jaeshil at entrance
  • geumcheongyo bridge
  • baewi

Chamdo: Path for Worship
  • long stone path for hongsalmun
  • left: shindo - soul, tomb owner
  • right: eodo - lower status on up to ancestors
  • soul-tablet in yellow cloth on shindo

  • left: luxurious patterns for souls
  • right: without ornaments for kings
  • down staircase behind the palace
  • soul to neungchim to fall quietly to sleep, no stairway to come down

  • exclusive for royal tombs (if at other tombs, people arrested and killed as traitors)
  • entrance and exit:
  • direction decided and must connect to chamdo
  • enter from the east: sunrise, beginning, birth, spring, etc.
  • leave toward the west: death, extinction

Smaller Annexes
  • subokbang - on right before jeongjagak; for tomb keeper and night duty
  • suragan - royal kitchen on left; prepare food and offerings
  • bigak - a little further inside and on the right; tombstone etching on whose tomb

Sachoji or Gang
  • hill behind jeongjagak
  • unique style of Joseon royal tombs
  • 2 meanings of gang:
  • tank for storing vigor streaming into the soil
  • demonstrate dignity as power
  • hiking precluded - somewhat open to the neungchim at the front

Museogin and Munseogin
  • stages divided by stones on top of sachoji
  • lower stage: museogin and maseok - have warrior-shaped generals with swords
  • middle stage: munseogin and maseok - have officials, most of whom are scholars
  • interpretation: "The pen is mightier than the sword" meaning literary preference over military 
  • reign continues posthumously
  • variations in garments by king:
  • museogin placed only in royal tombs
  • civilian graves considered treacherous


  • top stage - burial mound neungchim
  • gokjang:
  • walls and roof tiles surrounding 3 sides
  • sun, moon, stars
  • resemble palace buildings' back walls
  • royal tombs as epitomes of the palace

Seogmul and Honyuseok

  • seogmul - in front of gokjang
  • yangseok - sheep = obedience; repel evil
  • hoseok - tiger = loyal; patron neungchim
  • honyuseok - in front of neungchim
  • for offerings in ordinary graveyards
  • "stone where the soul plays"

Goseok and Mangjuseok

  • goseok - stones supporting honyuseok look like drums
  • guimyeon - faces of ghost or goblin
  • mangjuseok - on each side of honyuseok: "observing stone poles" with several hypothesis about their use:
  • sign for soul from body to find neungchim
  • device to harmonize yin and yang
  • instrument to hold vigor from being scattered 
  • columns a division between this world and the next

Seho and Jangmyeongdeung

  • seho embossed on stone poles
  • shape of ear with holes
  • developed into animal shapes
  • some not like tigers but wizards
  • jangmyongdeung to honyuseok
  • to pray for souls of the departed
  • shape altered in each era


  • scale gradually shrank - later kings were more pragmatic
  • initial period of the kingdom:
  • conscripted manpower 5,000 for each tomb
  • construction work - up to 5 months
  • mobilized personnel to carry food
  • construction bothered people
  • great agony on people in Gyeonggi where a large number of royal tombs have been built
  • their endeavor and perseverance enables us to possess World Cultural Heritage today

Books Published:

Other notes:
  • gukjangdogam - nation-wide royal funeral 
  • In inclement weather when the body began to smell, the court spread juniper branches.
  • 일월성신 - sun, moon, star decorations on the wall that surrounds the tombs
  • 선장릉 - When UNESCO came to evaluate the tombs as a future UNESCO World Culture Heritage site, the Korean government didn't want to show the 선장릉 because there was no body inside. Eventually they did and it was highly regarded, especially as it was on very valuable land.
  • The Silla and Koryeo Dynasty tombs were traditionally built on flat ground, but in the Joseon Dynasty, tombs were built on the top of artificial mounds.
  • Today, there are three places where royal ancestor worship are held - the dates:
  • 1st Sunday of May (solar calendar)
  • each ancestor's memorial day

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Kim Jong Un, NK leader's maternal ancestry traced to Jeju Island, S Korea

[I don't typically repost articles but found this article not only politically but socially interesting--something to reference back to in the future if Kim Jong-un legitimizes nationwide ritual observance at his maternal ancestral tomb in the future.]

Kim Jong-un, North Korea leader’s maternal ancestry line is Jeju island, South Korea

기사승인 2017.10.25 16:01:05, The Jeju Weekly

Why was the grave of Kim Jong-un’s mother hidden under a shroud of secrecy in North Korea?

There is a claim that North Korea is not willing to glorify the grave site of Kim Jong-un’s mother, Ko Young-hui, that is located on the Mt. Taesong area, near to Pyongyang in North Korea. This is allegedly due to the Ko family’s Jeju, South Korea-Japan heritage.

Ko Kyung-taek, Ko Young-hui’s father was born in Jeju and migrated to Japan in search of work. He gave birth to three children including Ko Young-hui, and moved to North Korea in early 1960s.

Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to 38 North said that Kim Jong-un has “quietly” built a grave for his mother, Ko Yong-hui, on Mt. Taesong, Pyongyang but it has never attracted North Korea’s media attention.

It is presumed that the construction of the grave site was completed by October 2012.

Melvin added that “Kim Jong-un may have visited the grave unofficially, but never as a public ritual. The only foreigner I have spoken to who has visited the site saw only one guard on duty. So maybe someday years from now it is intended to be a revolutionary site, but not for now”

Free Radio Asia (FRA) quoted Melvin that Kim Jong-un’s grandfather was labelled as a ‘Japanophile’ as he moved to Osaka, Japan from Jeju island and worked in an Osaka sewing factory run by Japan's ministry of war.

The reason why North Korea built his mother’s grave, but does not try to publicize it, is since it does not complete the idolization of Ko Young-hui because of her Jeju (South Korea)-Japan ancestry heritage.

What happened to Ko Young-hui’s father and his grave on Jeju island?

The Chosun Ilbo reported on Jan. 28. 2014 that Ko Kyeong-taek was born on Jeju in 1913 and passed away in North Korea in 1999. His daughter, Ko Young-hui, was the leader’s mother, producing a child with Kim Jong-il.

Ko Kyeong-taek boarded a ship to Japan calling at one of Jeju’s ports. It was 1929 and he was about eight-years-old. The first half of the 20th century was a time of relative exodus and extreme poverty for Jeju. Throughout Japanese colonization, many Jeju locals fled to Japan for survival.

Ko arrived in the industrial city of Osaka, Japan, the city where most people from Jeju worked in Japanese factories. The estimated 22.2 percent of Japanese-Koreans in Osaka are known to have Jeju heritage. Most Jeju settlers worked in the glass or rubber factories, yet National Intelligence Service records show that Ko worked as a tailor. Kosuke Takahashi of the Asia Times claims he even "made Imperial Japanese Army soldiers’ uniforms in a sewing factory during World War II."

The Chosun Ilbo, however, claimed that Ko worked in a munitions factory and was a human trafficker, for which he was deported from Japan.

Conclusive evidence surfaced on Jan. 28, 2014 that showed Ko Kyeong-taek’s memorial plaque was located in Jeju City. The plaque was at his family’s gravesite along with other 13 other tombs. However, his body was not interned at the site, having been buried in the North.

The plaque is called ‘Gachong (가총)’ or an ‘empty or fake grave.’ The reason for building the plaque is so that ancestors are able to perform the ancestor rites. In particular, after the Korean War, many empty graves or plaques were erected in Korea because many family members were missing.

After the discovery on Jan 28, the Ko’s memorial plaque then swiftly disappeared. Jeju police announced that relatives of the deceased had relocated it for safekeeping. His family is known to be extremely sensitive to the discovery and not willing to reveal their names. It is believed that one of his relatives keeps the plaque at his own home.

Kim Jong-un’s mother to be idolized as Baekdu (North Korea) - Halla (South Korea) mixed bloodline?

Ko Young-hui, Ko Kyeong-taek’s daughter, and mother of current North Korea’s leader moved to North Korea from Japan in May 1961 or in 1962 as part of a repatriation program. In the early 1970s, she began working as a dancer for the Mansudae, Art Troupe in Pyongyang.

It is known that Ko and Kim Jong-il first met in 1972. Ko gave birth to three children including Kim Jong-un.

Many sources report that she died of breast cancer in France in 2004. Her siblings - the offspring of Jeju-born Ko Kyeong-taek - rose to prominence throughout the North’s regime. Her older brother Dong-hun was a diplomat and her younger sister, Yong-suk, managed Kim Jong-il’s secret funds in Geneva, before defecting to the US.

Ko's Jeju, South Korean-Japanese heritage would make her part of the ‘hostile’ class. As she emerged as the most influential woman in a regime beset by dynastic rivalries, her suspicious birth connection to Japan and Jeju heritage remained shrouded.

Darren Southcott, a writer for the Jeju Weekly said in a 2014 article regarding this issue that with Kim Jong-un in place as “The Great Successor,” “it seems that the lid on his maternal line has finally been lifted. Far from a state secret, the regime is exploiting Kim’s Jeju heritage to paint Ko Kyeong-taek as of a revolutionary bloodline.”

Furthermore, the regime is constructing a myth around the Jeju people, glorifying it as an anti-American Communist rebellion in support of Pyongyang, Kiyohito of the Asahi Shimbun reports.

Kosuke Takahashi of the Asia Times also suggests that as of May 2012 Ko Young-hui was brought out of the shadows. She is even hailed as “the Respected Mother" and “the Great Mother" in a state video to “mythologize and legitimize its revolutionary tradition.”

Meanwhile, fear also exists among some; to glorify Kim Jong-un’s maternal line - “Halla (South Korea’s highest mountain in Jeju) and Baekdu (North Korea’s highest mountain) become one”- the North Korea will emphasize Jeju as a rebellious island and the Massacre will be viewed as a collapsed revolution.

Song Jung-hee

<저작권자 © 제주위클리 무단전재 및 재배포금지>

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Yanggu County DMZ Tour

Steve Tharp, retired from serving 40 or more years in the US Army (most of the time in Korea) where he was first a soldier, then an officer and later becoming trained as an expert on Korean affairs, is now retired and leading tours in and around the DMZ area where he has spent many years working. He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 2004 and has remained in Korea doing contract work with the US government. As a foreign negotiations officer, he speaks both Korean and Chinese, skills which make his tours more specific, and he incorporates negotiation or other experiential anecdotes to give perspective to particular areas he's leading tours in. In his retirement years, Steve is just starting out as a tour guide, and the RASKB is delighted to have him lead some tours for them. This is the second tour Steve has a led for the RAS, and it was a very insightful historical journey!

Before heading to Yanggu, we stopped off at the Livingstone Bridge, so named by a second lieutenant in the US Army who was trapped on one side of the river during flood conditions and so he and his troops were shot to bits. He lived long enough to be rescued and taken to medical facilities but with his dying breath sighed, "If there had been a bridge in this river, a great many of the soldiers could yet be alive." And so in his will to his wife, he wrote, "Dedicating all my fortune, make a bridge on this river, please."

Livingstone Bridge - it's a shock that something so serene could have been the site of such suffering and destruction
Monuments in front of and on Livingstone Bridge to commemorate the lives lost here.

Tour Summary:

The day trip to Yanggu includes visits to Dutayeon and the Punchbowl, two sites which abut the Korean DMZ. At Dutayeon, participants will be hike around the site which has both natural beauty as well as security education spots which include military equipment static displays, land mine educational exhibition and a memorial to those soldiers that died at the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge during the Korean War. The Punchbowl is an unusual geologic formation that received its name because it looks like a giant "punch bowl". The Punchbowl is home to Eulji Observatory in the DMZ, North Korean Invasion Tunnel 4 and the Yanggu County Korean War Memorial. Departing at 7AM, the group will spend the morning at the Punchbowl, and after lunch travel to Dutayeon for sightseeing in the afternoon. The group will arrive at Chuncheon at 5 to 6 PM for a dinner of the local famous dish, dalkgalbi, before returning to Seoul around 9 PM.

Punchbowl was the name given to the bowl-shaped Haean-myon valley in Yanggu County, Gangwon Province by UN Forces during the Korean War. The Punchbowl lies south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. North of the 38th Parallel, it was originally in North Korea until captured by UN forces in late September 1950 during the UN offensive that followed the Inchon landings and the breakout from the Pusan perimeter. UN Forces abandoned the region in mid-December 1950, during the withdrawal following the Chinese People's Volunteer Army intervention in the war. On 4 June 1951 the 1st Marine Division and the ROK 5th Infantry Division began to advance north of Inje towards the Punchbowl and the Hwacheon Reservoir. By June 10 the Marine/ROKA force had secured Line Kansas northeast of the Hwacheon Reservoir and the southern line of hills overlooking the Punchbowl. Following the breakdown of armistice negotiations in August 1951, the United Nations Command decided to launch a limited offensive in the late summer/early autumn to shorten and straighten sections of their lines, acquire better defensive terrain, and deny the enemy key vantage points from which they could observe and target UN positions. 

The Battle of Bloody Ridge took place west of the Punchbowl from August–September 1951 and this was followed by the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge northwest of the Punchbowl from September–October 1951. Meanwhile, the 1st Marine Division reinforced by the Korean Marine Corps Regiment captured the line of hills north of the Punchbowl in the Battle of the Punchbowl from 31 August-20 September 1951. 

Civilian security education sites in the Punchbowl include the Yanggu War Memorial, Unification Hall, North Korean Infiltration Tunnel 4 and Eulji Observatory.

A salute to the dog that sniffed out Tunnel 4 but was killed when he stepped on a land mine.
Posthumously, the dog was promoted from staff sergeant to 2nd lieutenant.
Tunnel 4. Down the mountain and on the northwest portion of the Punchbowl is North Korea’s Invasion Tunnel 4. According to intelligence analysis, it is believed that North Korea began digging tunnels after Kim Il-sung issued the September 25 Combat Readiness Order in 1971. In this order, he stressed the need to dig tunnels through the DMZ saying that one tunnel would be more effective than 10 atomic bombs and would thus be the best means to blow through the ROK Army defenses along the front lines. The tunnels are an integral component of the North Korean military strategy of a quick victory in a blitzkrieg attack on the South. 

In September 1974, a North Korean officer defected in the area just west of Mt. Dora in Paju and told interrogators of the North Korean tunneling effort which led to the discovery of Tunnel 1 in Yeoncheon County on November 15, 1974. This was followed by the discovery of Tunnel 2 in Cheorwon County on March 19, 1975 and Tunnel 3 south of Panmunjom on October 17, 1978. After a break of 12 years, Tunnel 4 was discovered on March 3, 1990 within the Punchbowl in Yanggu County about 200 kilometers from Seoul. This tunnel is at a depth of 145 meters and is 2 meters high by 2 meters in width. Stretching more than a kilometer across the DMZ, it was designed to infiltrate massive forces in the Sowha-Wondong corridor, the major access route to the Yongdong (Seoul-Gangnung) Expressway. The group will view a video before walking into the Tunnel. At the end of the intercept tunnel (on a slight downgrade for about 200 meters-nothing compared to Tunnel 3 at Paju), guests ride a tram about 100 meters through the North Korean tunnel and return without dismounting.
Additional notes:  
A North Korean high up in the party and who defected in 1974 reported that according to NK plan, 18-22 tunnels were to be built. Two months later the first tunnel was discovered. So, the 4 tunnels were discovered in 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1990.  
Tunnel 4 was 2km long when it was discovered and needed 1km more. It is estimated that digging at 3 meters/day, it would have taken 10 more years to finish the tunnel. The tunnel was detected with specialized equipment and then an intercepting shaft was dug. This is the shaft that is now used for tourism.

Eulji Observatory is a South Korean civilian security education center located on the northern lip of the Punchbowl on the edge of the General Outpost (GOP) line which is usually also the southern boundary fence of the DMZ. It is manned by soldiers of the ROK Army 12th Infantry Division, and Eulji is the division’s name (for a famous ancient Korean general Eulji Mundok, who successfully defended the ancient Korean Goguryeo Kingdom against the Sui Chinese). Photos are not allowed to the north, but there is a photo area on the south side with the Punchbowl as a background. The observatory is located in the Korean demilitarized zone about 1 kilometer from the military demarcation line. On a clear day, the five peaks of Mt. Geumgangsan in North Korea are visible from the observatory platform. ROK Army Soldiers provide briefings to visitors on the local area and answer questions but do not allow picture taking of the DMZ and northern area.

Unification Hall and Yanggu War Memorial are co-located at the Punchbowl tour registration site and is by necessity the first stop. The Unification Hall exhibition center has two display rooms, all in Korean, dedicated to explaining different aspects of North Korean life and attempts for South-North reconciliation over the years since the Armistice was signed. On the north side (left) is a group of military equipment static displays while on the south is the Yanggu War Memorial, a “chronological walk-through” facility with the lead up to the Korean War near the entrance and the Armistice Agreement signing near the exit. 

Opened on June 20, 2000, the War Memorial Museum was built to commemorate the sacrifice and heroism of those who fought during the Korean War at the nine major battlefields located in the Yanggu area: Dosolsan, Daeusan, Bloody Ridge, Baekseoksan, Punch Bowl, Gachilbong, Heartbreak Ridge, Hill 949, and Christmas Hill. The museum also reminds the current and future generations of the real cost of war and the sacrifices that were made. The exhibition hall is divided according to themes: freedom, welcoming, meeting, understanding, experience, assurance, tribute, rooftop, and contemplation. Exhibition facilities include a high-quality imaging system and a three-way multi imaging room that combines battle scene dioramas, videos, and slides. In addition to the military static displays, there is a monument to all of the Korean and United Nations Command Soldiers that fought in the Korean War.

Dutayeon (Duta Pond) is located on a branch of the Suipcheon stream that originates from the Mt. Gumgang area and flows through Bangsan-myeon in the Civilian Control Zone abutting the Korean DMZ about 165 kilometers northeast of Seoul. It derives its name derived from the Duta Saran Temple, which was located in this area about a thousand years ago. The water going from the miniature falls into the pond is limited but as it drops from one level to the next, it forms the shape of the Korean Peninsula. The surrounding forest provides superb scenery while the pollution-free waters provide a perfect habitat for Korea’s largest lenok (Manchurian trout) population. 

A 20-meter screen of flat rocks surrounds the pond and the east wall features a 10-meter square cave, the floor of which is imprinted with the shape of a comb and a horse harness. A close look at the rocks from the viewing stand to the south and you can envision a man and a woman about to kiss. The left side is the man and the right side is the woman’s face. The woman is tilting her head up and looking at the man. Even though the man and woman in love are standing apart, they convey the longing for unification just as the Korean people wish for the unification of the Korean Peninsula. 

The memorial to the Korean War Battle of Heartbreak Ridge is located north of the pond. Additionally, in the area between the Heartbreak Ridge Memorial and the pond is a field with outdoor modern art exhibit and military equipment static displays. The military equipment consists of artillery and armored vehicles used since the Korean War which stands in sharp contrast to the modern art exhibits. At the viewing stand to the south of the pond is a hand molded from actor So Ji-sub so that he could shake the hand of everyone who visited Dutayeon. It is on the path to the land mine exhibit dedicated to explaining about the different types of land mines that are typically found in the Korean DMZ.
Info on this page directly lifted from the Royal Asiatic Society Korean Branch excursion page, as were all photos noted as such.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Seokbulsa Temple, a Hidden Jewel (Busan)

Seokbulsa is a hidden gem of a temple. It's a bit remote and the climb can be taxing, but the view is positively spectacular and worth every drop of sweat. From the temple a view of Gwanggali Bridge and an expanse of the city of Busan can be seen beyond richly rolling green hills. The East Sea lays in a contrasting flat reflecting expanse beyond the forested rolling Geumjeongsan mountain. Quite breathtaking to see. As for the temple itself, surprisingly in this "modern" era with cultural tourism to most temples, there is no English sign anywhere around. Neither is there a templestay program! Hurray! I really appreciated this distance from commercialism, and this remoteness was reflected in the devote behavior of the people who were there to bow, meditate and pay respects to the mountain spirits.

According to Dale's Korean Temple Adventures, this temple was formerly known as Byeongpungam Hermitage, or "Folding Screen Hermitage", based on the way the rock faces formed a screen between the folds of the mountain. The name was changed to Seokbuksa Temple, "Rock Buddha Temple", probably after the faces of the rock screens were carved with 10-meter tall Bhuddhas, Boddhisattvas, and guardians. 

Central in the folds of the screen and the figure that everyone is praying to is Gwanseeum-bosal, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. On each rock face to the left and right are two Heavenly King Guardians, with the left wall also having an image of Birojana-bul, the Buddha of Cosmic Energy, and the right wall also having another Buddha image. Numerous recessed shrines are below the Gwanseeum-bosal, and on the climb up the stone staircase are 16 smaller stone bas reliefs of the 16 Nahan. Ascending onwards is the highest and remotest building containing the Sanshin, "the Mountain Spirit", and Dokseong, "Recluse", of course in their typical most remote position ... vestigial figures of shamanism incorporated in Korean Buddhism.

Several intwined dragons holding pearls in their mouths are fashioned in the walled perimeter around the Dharma Bell.
Passing the buildings to the recessed folds of the mountain to see the great carved guardians and the multiple recessed shrines. The tranquility of this temple provokes reflection and lends an atmosphere of respectful sacredness.
Not a place for tourism, but a quiet spot for meditation and prayfulness.
The woman prays to Gwanseeum-bosal, Bodhisattva of Compassion. 
And yet in the middle of 108 bows, the cell phone rang and (lady on the left) answered and proceeded to have an intense conversation. Then the 108 bowing continued.
Two of the Heavenly Guardians watch.
To my right are a line of 16 Nahan carved into the face of the rock wall, above, hidden, but still there lending their celestial support.

This little boy was learning to do his bows as well.
Again, two Heavenly Guardians to the right and a Buddha figure to the left.

Friday, October 6, 2017

UN Memorial Cemetery in Busan

The United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea (Busan) was established by the United Nations Command in 1951, and is a sacred site and home to 2,300 heroic dead who fell during the Korean War. In 1959 via an agreement between the UN and the Republic of Korea, the UNMCK was officially designated as a holy ground to pay tribute to those who died fighting for peace and freedom.

Interred in the UNMCK are members from 11 nations. Although soldiers of the United States represented the highest number of casualties, the US government takes action to return their fallen to the US and so only a tiny few American soldiers (36) who explicitly requested to be buried in Korea are interred in this UN cemetery.

Turkey has a special connection with the Koreas. Back before Turkey, the Koreas and China existed as countries, the tribes of the Hun (present-day Turks) and the Han (present-day Koreans) cooperated (and probably fought too) together on the steppes above what is now the broad expanse of China. When the empire of China started to form, they drove a wedge between the Huns and the Han and these cousin-tribes, though now separated from each other, both kept record of and remembered their shared histories.

When the Korean War started, the Turks remembering their "cousins", volunteered! The Koreans remembered too and they felt a deep connection and affinity to the people they could not communicate with verbally but felt tied to spiritually. 

This connection is still apparent particularly when the Turks are playing televised soccer or any other national sport. Koreans watch and yell and scream at their TVs to cheer them on! The Turks did likewise when South Korea played, and then won, the 2002 World Cup! For the upcoming Winter 2018 Olympics, the Turks and the Koreans will again make time to watch and cheer each other on!

So Koreans felt and still feel a keen sense of respect and brotherly-ness toward the Turks who volunteered and for the Turkish nation itself. 

One of the large areas to remember the Turks who fought and died during the Korean War.
A Turkish statue - one of the most respected pieces of commemorative art in the cemetery.
The memorial stone for the Philippinos killed in action (114).
The commemorative stone representing New Zealand, one of the first countries of the UN to respond to the call for help. More than 6,000 New Zealanders fought in the Korean War, 45 of them giving up their lives. 
The design of the memorial is based on a Maori woman’s chin tattoo, known as “moko”, the traditional sign of adulthood, and which indicated the wearer was able to bear pain and take on responsibilities. Here the design represents New Zealand as a mother of all who served their country in wartime. The strands running down side by side, army and navy, are shown merging with a third party, the United Nations. Along the sides of the memorial are 45 cuts, each marking the loss to New Zealand of a serviceman who died during the Korean War. The memorial is carved in granite sourced from Coromandel, NZ.

Central in the cemetery lie the Canadians, still under a wide blue sky, and commemorated by a soldier in uniform but with a daughter in arms and a young son standing beside, symbolizing a stance for family safety and for the peaceful future of the younger generations who are pure and innocent.

The Wall of Remembrance

The Wall of Remembrance is quite central to the cemetery and is the location where all who fought and died are commemorated. The countries are listed alphabetically on the large engraved memorial stones and each person who fought under a country's flag and gave up life is listed in alphabetical order. Ironically, the US soldiers are not listed under the country heading "United  States" but rather, because of the huge number of US soldiers who participated and died (more than 36,000), these soldiers are listed under the state they represented and the states are alphabetized among the other 15 countries with soldiers fighting in the war.

The pond in front of the Wall of Remembrance. In the middle of the pond raised on a pedestal burns an eternal flame, the symbol that states the memory of those who died will never be forgotten.
The name of every soldier who died during the Korean War is inscribed on the Wall of Remembrance. If the name is followed by an inscribed diamond, then that person not only died in the Korean War but is also interred in this UN cemetery.

 The Unknown Soldier's Pathway

The Unknown Soldier's Pathway
The Unknown Soldier's Pathway leads to the UN Forces Monument, which has copper plates prominently positioned on the sides. A copper plate with the number who fell is dedicated to each country with representative troops who fought in the war. The front of the monument has doves representing peace and the Korean name "유엔군위령탑" written by former president Park Chung-hee. This UN cemetery also has a large commemorative tablet dedicated to Park Chung-hee for expanding this park. Ah, the irony as the May 18th National Cemetery (a good historical overview on the circumstances of the cemetery here) has some kind of memorial stone for Park Chung-hee which gets some pretty ugly treatment, as explained to me when I went there a couple years back. The memorial stones for Park Chung-hee seem very respected here.

The Unknown Soldier's Pathway consists of 11 cascades of water, with 11 fountains, and having 11 pine trees paralleling each side of the cascades. The repetition of 11 signifies the 11 countries with representative heroes buried in the UNMCK.