Free People and Lost Souls in Seoul

Thursday, December 14, 2017
Capital city of the Republic of Korea (more commonly referred to as South Korea) is the fifth largest city in the world with a metropolitan population of more than 25 million people. Seoul is situated on the banks of Han River which runs all the way to the border.

The Statues of Brothers at War Memorial of Korea in Seoul, South Korea
During the Korean War, Seoul was lost to the north and then recaptured by UN and South Korean forces combined. And obviously the Korean War (1950-1953) is historically the most recent war. 27th of July 1953 marked the day of the Armistice signing by both sides.
In the War Memorial of Korea there's a statue of two brothers. The statue stands as a symbol of the Korean War. A South Korean officer and his younger brother (a North Korean soldier) encounter and embrace each other on the battlefield. There's no doubt the free people's hearts of South Korea are still bleeding in grief for their lost brothers and sisters in the north.

N Tower seen from War Memorial of Korea in Seoul, South Korea
Besides the emotional statue the War Memorial of Korea has quite a lot to offer. An outside area displays old war machinery like airplane fighters, helicopters, ships, tanks, anti-air units and much more. On a clear day you can spot the N Tower from the War Memorial.
Inside there's a museum as well, displaying a lot of Korean war history. The museum is HUGE and houses not just artifacts from the recent Korean War, but also artifacts from centuries ago. A place not to be missed in Seoul. Admission is even free, which I find very fitting for a place with important historical exhibitions like these on display.

Pond outside the National Museum of Korea in Seoul, South Korea
Just two metro stops from the War Memorial you'll reach the National Museum of Korea. The outside has a beautiful pond and shrine and there's a great view towards N Tower on the other side of the museum. The museum mostly hosts paintings, pottery and other Asian originated arts. I have to admit, you'll have to be extraordinarily fascinated by oriental art to find the National Museum super compelling. We skipped through the exhibition halls quite fast and actually enjoyed the outside views a lot more. The admission is free, so stick your head inside and check it out for yourself.

Old Seoul Station building in Seoul, South Korea
Right next to the main station in the city; Seoul Station, you can see the Old Seoul Station building. A easily recognizable red brick building. There's a statue  next to the building of a soldier with a grenade in his hand. You can cross a walking bridge for a better view.

Myeongdong Underground Shopping Area in Seoul, South Korea
In several places throughout Seoul you'll stumble upon underground shopping areas. These underground shopping streets mostly has shops selling clothes, jewelry, souvenirs and sometimes plants. There's always a lot of local shoppers and just walking through can be quite entertaining.

Heungnyemun Gate to Gyeongbokgung in Seoul, South Korea
One of the most prominent palaces in Seoul is the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Unfortunately for us, the palace were closed on the day of our visit. We only got to walk through the main gate, but weren't allowed inside the actual temple. The grounds surrounding it are huge and it was worth the visit, even though we only got to peak over the walls.

Floating Island in Seoul, South Korea
Near Banpo Bridge there's three artificial islands called the Floating Islands. These islands each represent a stage in the blooming of a flower - and thereby representing life itself. The buildings are used for art exhibitions, concerts, conventions and much more.

Gangnam Area in Seoul, South Korea
The Gangnam Area were made worldwide-famous in 2013 by Korean pop-singer Psy. He released the mega hit Gangnam Style, which turned out to be one of the biggest hits in recent music history. The Gangnam Area itself is not full of Psy-lookalikes. Instead business-men and women are roaming the streets and you'll find the youth generations visiting fancy shopping stores here. Basically it's a place travelers visit for the name.

Pictures of happy friends and family at Mapo Bridge (Suicde Bridge) in Seoul, South Korea
South Korea is not all about Gangnam Style. The country has a widespread social pressure laying weight on the younger generations to do perfect and to be perfect in life. A pressure most people wouldn't be able to live up to. South Korea is has the second highest suicide rate in the world. Some of those are young people feeling like odd shapes who doesn't fit into a perfectly shaped frame. But not only the younger generations are pushed to suicide. Nearly half of the elderly throughout South Korea lives below the poverty line. Some of them choose suicide as their way out of poverty. Shame and the fact of being a financial burden on their families are some of the reasons for choosing such an awful last solution.

A statue which clearly states; "Cheer Up!" at Mapo Bridge (aka. Suicide Bridge) in Seoul, South Korea
Even though South Korea is the democratic side of the Korean peninsula. And it's considered to be the free Korea. Freedom comes at a cost. Money and lives are the obvious costs of war. But besides that, there's something else tearing the Korean generations apart. The strive to be "perfect" is such a heavy pressure from a society upon the younger generations. While the poor social security net isn't solving the growing poverty challenges amongst the elderly. These issues are taking place in a divided nation, which is already in deep tragedy from the ongoing tension between north and south.
Personally I think it's too much to ask people to be perfect in an imperfect world. Rather than going with "the best you can be". Freedom is not always equal to being free. Every society has concerns. And sometimes it takes more than a statue and some photos to change the social patterns within such societies. A person can be free, but does it really matter if his or her soul is lost?

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