The peace, freedom and prosperity we enjoy today come from those who died protecting our country

백종원 기자l승인2018.05.10






▲ Ahn Su-hyun, Director of Seoul National Cemetery

The Seoul National Cemetery is the symbol of patriotic martyrs for the country. It is the sanctuary for the fallen heroes who died protecting the Korean land and the people. On the occasion of the coming memorial month of June, <Power Korea> paid a visit to the Seoul National Cemetery where 180,000 heroes are resting in peace; and had a talk with director Ahn Su-hyun. 

The history of the Seoul National Cemetery goes back as far as to Emperor Gojong of Korea who built Janchung Temple in 1900 in order to place the ancestral tablets of the soldiers who died during the Japanese’ murder of Empress Myeongseong in 1895. To jump the time for simple facts, the Korean War broke out in 1950 and many soldiers died. The remains were brought to Geumjeong Temple and Beomeo Temple in Busan temporarily. In July 1955, a military cemetery was created on the foot of Seodal Mountain, Seoul and it was the beginning of the Seoul National Cemetery. Director Ahn started to work for the Seoul National Cemetery in 1984 and became the 20th director last February. “The remains of patriots and soldiers were placed in the cemetery at the initial stage but the remains of the heroes overseas also were gradually brought in. The cemetery officially became a national cemetery in March 1965 and the entitlement has been given not only to soldiers and patriots but also to former presidents and public servants who worked for the nation and the people ever since. It was 2006 that the name of the cemetery changed to the current Seoul National Cemetery” explained Ahn. 

Monuments and environment
The Memorial Tower is erected to honor the heroes. 104,000 tablets of those missing bodies of the soldiers who died during the Korean War as well as unidentified soldiers and patriots without descendants are placed in the room of the tower. The Unknown Student Soldier’s Tower honors the students died fighting against the energy in school uniforms and a number of exhibitions halls encourage the visitors with patriotism. The gentle slope of the cemetery provides wide open front and surrounding views and 73 kinds of trees and 43 shrubs enliven the refreshing and resting environment. “The Royal Fountain also is worth strolling around. It was built 40 years ago and in fact many facilities in the cemetery are more than 60 years old. So, we are paying a particular attention to maintenance.” 

EventsJune 6th is the Memorial Day. Official ceremony is held on the day at the cemetery and many family members and people pay a visit during the one week before and after the day. “So, we are making sure to minimize any inconveniences that might cause during the period. We also hold a photo exhibition themed on the Korean War and a music concert to encourage patriotism late June.” Previously, an eco-bag making, writing thank-you letters, patriotic talk concert and military music concert were held last April and an essay writing is soon to be held this month as a preliminary event. 

Experience programs
The Seoul National Cemetery holds ‘Lover Your Country Experience Program’ for students. The participants can have a guided tour of the cemetery and can learn a brief history of the modern history of Korea. ‘National Symbol Experience Program’, on the other hand, delivers the background of national symbols while ‘Lover Your Country Patriotic Lecture’ encourages patriotism. “It is hard for many of us living today especially students to pay a visit to the cemetery since they have no experience of a war and its terrible consequences. That’s why our programs are particularly targeting the students. Actually, I can see an agreeable number of companies also inquire about a group visit which is really good. You must note, however, that the Seoul National Cemetery is not a place of entertainment but of respect.” Ahn tipped to pay a respect to the Korean War heroes as their graves are rarely visited nowadays since many of their families also have passed this world.

Attracting foreign visitors
You might have seen that high government officials pay a visit to the Seoul National Cemetery alongside high foreign officials. It often is the starting point or ending point of the visit. Recent trend, however, is very encouraging. For example, a foreign YouTuber introduced the Seoul National Cemetery in his channel which attracted a great number of viewers. The event held last April also attracted tourists from Turkey and Spain who had a piece of knowledge on Korean heroes. “To attract more foreign visitors, we are planning to partner with the Seoul city tour bus and other businesses that can create a synergy effect.”

The peace, freedom and prosperity we enjoy today would not have been possible without the sacrifices of those who died protecting our country. What makes us busy today can be a mere excuse for not paying a day’s visit even once in a blue moon when compared to the heroes who willingly threw their valuable lives away for a great cause. 

<Power Korea> ‘rewrites’ Korean article in ‘plain English’ with ‘key points’ 
Jon Kim

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