I grew up touring war graves in Europe, and as an adult I have continued to tour war cemeteries across the globe. I had been wanting to visit the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea since I had learned of its existence. According to the brochure, the UNMCK has the unique distinction of being the world’s only UN cemetery.
I am ashamed to admit that I know very little about the Korean war. It tends to get lost between WWII and the Vietnam war, doesn’t it? It’s also easy to forget that technically, North and South Korea are still at war.
South Korea is a country that seems to thrive on chaos. Despite being in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Busan (Korea’s second largest city), UNMCK was an oasis of calm.
At the front gate, we were saluted by members of the ROK army, and directed towards the Memorial Service Hall. The small chapel doubled as an information centre, and we settled into a pew to watch a 10 minute video about the Korean War, and UNMCK.
I was astonished to learn how many countries had come to Korea’s aid- USA, UK, Turkey, Canada, Australia, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Colombia, Greece, Thailand, Ethiopia, Philippines, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, India, Italy and Sweden.
The cemetery had been divided by country.
Each country had added their own memorial.
There was a large memorial for everyone, military and civilian who had died during the 3 years, 1 month and 2 days of the Korean War.
As I wandered the cemetery, what struck me the most was how very, very young the troops had been.
I also noticed something I’d never seen in any other war cemetery- wives could be buried with their husbands.
I highly recommend visiting UNMCK if you’re ever in Korea. As a proud daughter/sister/ gradnddaughter of military personel, it made me happy to see that these people’s sacrifices had not been forgotten.
If you would like more information, the UNMCK has a fabulous website http://www.unmck.or.kr