Hey everyone! Sorry for the lack of posts for these past couple days.
I’ve been sightseeing Seoul for the past week so far. I went to go see all these museums and exhibits. I tried to compressing everything together of my visits in this post. I went with my grandma to go visit these places and even though I’m old enough to travel around myself, grandma was an invaluable resource of Korean history. The effects of a booming economy, I think a lot of us forget how Korea was not always like this. The massive urbanization, access to technology, and Westernized living standard was, in a sense, quite recent compared to other countries.
When I visited the Korean War Memorial in downtown Seoul and the Korean Folk Village near Suwon, the sights brought up a lot of memories for grandma. She would tell me as we were looking at the old houses (old = hanbok old) that had straw roofs that many of the objects and depictions of daily Korean life was accurate. She would remember living in those houses when she and her family was forced to move to the countryside once the Korean War started. My great-grandmother became a widow when her 5 kids were still very young. Somehow, she managed to get them out of Seoul as North Korean forces were moving in. The kids including my grandma left with what they could only carry and soon they were starving. 2 of the 5 kids actually died from malnutrition and disease. The old methods of plowing fields, milling grain, and traditional clothing were still being used. In fact, grandma actually wore hanbok until the start of the 1960s. How did people like my grandma survive from that ordeal? It makes our current generations look weak. Could we be able to handle such a predicament? Would we be able to just grit our teeth despite painful hunger pangs and keep walking on a dirt road to God knows where?
As we visited the Korean War memorial, grandma’s description of the Korean living standard was the complete opposite to what we see today. South Korea was still an agricultural society and the war destroyed practically everything. She said that as American troops passed by in the street, Korean children like herself would run along and use the little English they knew to get food. Sounds of “GI, GI! Gum! Chocolate” “Hungry pleeease!” rang out in the streets. Grandma actually has a fondness for “Bush’s baked beans” because she remembers how American troops would hand them out to kids. As I heard this story, I can’t help but feel that the situation the average Korean civilian was in no better situation than Afghani children as they run along American troops in 2012. Korean children were just as malnourished, sick, and poor. I guess the only differences were that when Japan colonized Korea, it set up some infrastructure and development before American aid came. Maybe that’s why we are having such a hard time in Afghanistan because we are starting from scratch. Lot of Koreans believe that America is losing the war in Afghanistan. They are shocked that we have lost more than 5,000 of our men and there is still no end in sight. They also wonder why America seems to be always war driven and are mystified by our gun culture. I tried to explain to them of U.S. opinion but found myself asking those same thoughts in my mind. Anyways, I thought the war memorial beats any of the stuff we have in the states. So many exhibits and tanks, planes and stuff. I found it contained a little too much propaganda for my taste. Funny how I see the memorial now rather than when I was 13. Back then, I didn’t critique or question any of the information. Thank you college for making my cynical and question everything lol