May 20, 2014

Cheonan & the Barbarian

A prominent transportation hub in Korea, Cheonan also boasts a few points of interest such as a foreigner-only prison and the gargantuan Independence Hall of Korea. I only ended up at one of these two sites, and not the one some would presume. From the Cheonan train station I caught a bus to the Independence Hall. The heavy downpour on a rainy Saturday meant there were only a handful of visitors to the museum chronicling Korea’s past struggles and subsequent emergence as a modern day success story despite many trials, tribulations, and Japanese in its path.

The introductory message from the president of the Independence Hall had spurred my interest in visiting the facility:
The Independence Hall embodies the spirit of the Korean nation and informs people of the Korean people's dignity. For thousands of years throughout history, the Korean nation deeply suffered. But we tenaciously protected our ethnicity and country with a national spirit and an intense patriotism. In the modern age, no other people suffered as much as the Korean nation. 
It has been a hundred years since the Japanese imperialist stole our sovereignty and it has been sixty years since we regained our independence. Korea began as an extremely poor country but, even though Korea is a comparatively small country, we became a global economic power. This is a miracle in world history. To this date, no other people or country has accomplished anything like what has happened in Korea. 

The grandiose rhetoric is matched by the monumental scale of all the facilities within the Independence Hall of Korea. Following a long walk across the broad Plaza of the Nation and right before the entrance to the 7 exhibition halls of the museum is the 15 story high Grand Hall of the Nation. It is the largest tile-roofed building in Asia. The Statue of Indomitable Koreans, presumably also the largest such sculpture in Asia, can also be found here.

The patriotic destination was opened to the public on the anniversary of Korea’s Independence Day in 1987. I ended up having a few personal tour guides as I wandered through the exhibits, as many of the friendly staff members had time on their hands. One of the security guards even gave me a sheepish grin while we discussed our favourite K-pop artists. From the prehistoric era onwards, a lot of ground is covered within the many exhibits. I particularly enjoyed the recreated interior of the ancient tombs of the Goguryeo kingdom, which now fall within Chinese territory.


“He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination." ― José Rizal