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.

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