Today I ventured over to one of my favorite areas of the city. One of the best parts about it is that I can get off at any of three different subway stops (all on three different lines) and explore an entirely new part of the city that I have yet to see. This usually happens because I can’t remember how I got to the place the first time, but either way I’ve been fortunate enough to feel a comforting familiarity fall over myself, mixed with enough newness to satisfy my perilous spirit. Then today, amongst the mundane came a new sense of self in Seoul, something unexpected and entirely new feeling for me. Let me explain.
Admits my walk today I had to take a moment and reflect on where The Republic of Korea is today from where it was 60 years ago. On the street in front of me I found a mini war memorial, educational piece on the street. I won’t pretend like I am well educated in the area of war, particularly this one. Actually, that is where all of these emotions were stirred up. Therefore, I will avoid speaking of statistics and fact and focus on my own observations and reflection.
When North Korea fought and attacked South Korea, in a fight to make all of the Koran Peninsula a communist country, there were 67 different nations that stood as an ally with The Republic of Korea. This is a record, meaning the most countries that decided to stand up and help fight in any war before and since. I was not at a war museum today, instead I was strolling along a beautiful display of flags flying, one for each country, over boards of pictures and facts, portraying the devistating affects the war had. Broken families, orphaned children, a starving and deprived nation that was under attack, entire generations of soldiers gone from their homes off to fight. Not the Korea I know today, only 60 years later.
Today, walking along the street, reading and learning about the war that took place, scouring the map of where the attacks and battles were fought, following the map of migration that so many Koreans endured when their homes were no longer their homes, the turmoil, the intensity of war somehow second-handedly resonated with me. War is a hard image to conjure up in your mind- so many natural instincts want to keep it out, as a mean of protection. To allow yourself to see and feel the experiences can be so powerful and overtaking that people attempt to numb themselves to it in order to maintain sanity and …well, safety. I’m not saying this was my experience today, instead I am commending those and recognizing the strength- both physical and mental that war creates. I’ve never stood on ground that could once be pointed to and called ‘battle field.’
While my empathetic nature was taking over, a calm realization came over me as I was reading the captions elegantly written on the posters. Amongst every story and statistic, came an air of optimism. Walking and reading I pondered with awe at the phenomenon of how humble and optimistic Koreans can be. As an example, one photo of scavenging children was captioned with; “These children were taken off the streets in Seoul to be given a home by the United Nations Orphanage. These war orphans were lucky compared to other orphans in the world because they now are staying at orphanage which was built newly by United Nations Forces.”
Among the many nations that stood was the United States. Among those was my grandfather. Today I felt a calm realization settle over me, from the pictures and words written came a new understanding. I know I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: I am truly thankful, honored and proud of your service, Grandpa. Not only in this war, but also my other grandpa who was active duty, and my father who was stationed in Germany. There are countless accounts in history that allowed me to grow up in the home and country that I was allowed, and without the service, dedication and will from those before, life as we all know it could have been severely altered. My deepest, most vehement regards to those men in my life, and the millions of others who have seen the face or results of war.
The rest of my walk (down the block to City Hall) was guided with a new perspective, one might even say new, more appreciative eyes of the beautiful, strong and vibrant country that has evolved from the war.