Experiencing the Korean War Memorial Museum

I will let most of the pictures speak for themselves, but I want to point out the sheer power of this museum. To see the names of all of the thousands of Americans lost to this war is such a gripping and powerful reminder of our significant role in helping South Korea maintain their independence from North Korea and their democratic government.

The statue that struck me most here was the “Two brothers” statue outside the museum. This shows two Korean brothers embracing, reminding people of the struggle during this war between brothers. While one may live in North Korea and the other in South Korea, it is a reminder that one happened to be located above the 38th parallel and the other below it.  Two brothers were torn apart by the 38th parallel and permanently separated by a war among family.

Lastly, I was encouraged to see (and hear) the gratitude that the Korean people have for Americans who gave of their lives and livelihoods to help them fight communism and help maintain their democracy within the Republic of Korea. War is never pleasant. There are always repercussions to war, but it was encouraging to see that the Korean people seemed to appreciate (for the most part) the sacrifices we have made as Americans to help their country succeed. Given the struggles of war in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it was heartening to know that the efforts Americans have made in Korea over the past 50+ years are not ones in vain.

Visiting Korea University

It is always an experience to see what universities and college campuses look like in other countries. Last year, I visited the University of Johannesburg and took part in an economics lecture and freshman econ lab that I ended up using back in my classroom at Kennedy High School. This time was no different.

The campus is immensely clean, collegial and has a warm and welcoming feel for students and visitors alike. Our university tour guides showed us the campus square where numerous demonstrations were held that spawned a movement across Korea for democratic reforms in government and brought an end to the Park administration’s rule. A very powerful message, akin to our demonstrations at Kent State or other American Universities during the Vietnam War era movement.

Students here are driven! And I mean driven! They study hard to get here and even harder once they get here. Many times, the competition for entry to Korea University is so intense that parents hire tutors, students study seven days a week, many times around the clock (you’ll hear more about this in my Daeil School post soon!), and use study groups (listen up, AP students!) to help them succeed in their classes. These students are highly intelligent, driven, and are preparing to compete in the global marketplace. And they will be ready!

 

Pyeongchang named site of 2018 Winter Olympics!

Shortly after arrival in Seoul, the world found out that Pyeongchang, South Korea will be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympic Games! The city was electric with excitement over this HUGE win for the people of the Republic of Korea. We are SO happy for them.

Check out the following stories and news coverage on this monumental achievement:

Reaction to Pyeongchang’s 2018 Winter Olympic win …

“I didn’t expect a victory in the first round, frankly speaking. I thought there would be at least two rounds. But well done, I mean the best one has won convincingly.” — Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee President.

“I had some confidence but I did not expect this number, 63 (votes). I believe that all the IOC members understood our message. I believe that all the IOC members understood our message. They understood it was right time, right place, right now.” — Cho Yang-ho, Pyeongchang 2018 bid chairman.

“Now Rio (Summer Olympics host, 2016) and us have shown other developing countries that with a good bid and a good campaign they can host games, too. It’s a great chance for developing countries to take hope to organize either the Winter Games or Summer Games in the future.” — Park Yong-sung, Korean Olympic Committee President.

Read the full story at USA Today.

 

Winning bid an emotional journey for Kim Jin-sun

From the Korea Herald – For Kim Jin-sun, Pyeong-Chang’s recent victory over two European rivals to win the bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics was a poignant moment. Kim, 64, had been an executive director for Pyeong-Chang’s two earlier, failed Winter Games bids. A three-time governor of Gangwon Province, where PyeongChang is located, Kim is a principal figure that launched PyeongChang’s Winter Games project more than a decade ago.

And when the alpine town beat Germany’s Munich and France’s Annecy in an International Olympic Committee vote in Durban, South Africa, on July 6, Kim could barely contain his emotions.

Read the full story.

 

Bobsleigh head sure of Pyeongchang success …

From the Korea Herald – Last week in Durban, South Africa, a group of Korean delegates were leaping and hugging each other with joy when the International Olympic Committee finally declared PyeongChang as the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Ermanno Gardella was there too, joining the festive crowd and enjoying the success of PyeongChang’s bid.

“I supported PyeongChang,” said the secretary general of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, or FIBT.

The 69-year-old Italian, along with other officials from the sports governing body, arrived in Seoul on Thursday, and they are now in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, to attend the two-day general assembly of the federation.

Read the full story.

 

 

 

 

 

Seoul, here we come!

After traveling 13.5 hours over the North Pole and the Arctic Ocean, losing an entire day as we crossed the International Date Line, and arriving completely jetlagged from the day/time differences, we touched down at Incheon International Airport just outside Seoul, Republic of Korea at around 3:35 am on Wednesday, July 6.

The dark runway didn’t deter us from looking out the windows to see what awaited us in Korea. It was an exciting time as we walked toward the baggage claim, went through customs enforcement, and finally passed through the claims area where we needed to make claims for any vegetative resources, etc. being brought into the country.

The Korea Society staff were right outside the gates holding signs welcoming us to Seoul, Korea and guiding us to the bus where we would be taken to our hotel in downtown Seoul. We met Hannah and Vivian, who were so friendly and helpful in making our first Korean connections to the program now that we were on the ground in the Asian continent.

So off to the hotel we went, traveling through the early morning hours to arrive at the Lotte Hotel Mapo, where they checked our luggage and we headed off to a breakfast buffet. Not that many of us were hungry, probably more tired than hungry, but it was great to be off of the plane and be able to walk around the restaurant and sample so many of the different foods (something we would get VERY used to doing in the days ahead).

After checking in and a short nap to try and catch up on the time change, we were off to the subway station to buy farecards and learn how to use the system. Having used DC’s Metro subway system for many years, this system is very similar. If anything, the system here is even easier, with card machines and add-fare-value stations all over each station.

The subway system really is the best way to get around. Traffic is very congested here in Seoul, much as it is in most metropolitan cities, so the subway is a very fast and efficient way to move around quickly.