A Curious Piece of Local History

There’s a saying that goes around on big projects: ‘The days drag but the weeks fly by.’ That is so true about this one. I have been here for 6 weeks now, yet each day seems to drag. Well, most of them…

A Local “Attraction”

My last Sunday here – for this trip – so I decided to take the day off. A well-earned day off if I do say so myself. I wanted to visit the Prisoner of War (POW) camp not far from where I am staying. The Geojedo POW camp.

As no doubt everyone knows, the Korean peninsula has been divided since the civil war in the early 1950s. This camp is a large part of the history of the country as it is today.

This part of Korea was the only corner not to be overrun with North Korean and Chinese forces, so it was not only the logical choice of location, it was almost the only one for such a huge camp. The ‘Historic Park of Geojedo POW Camp’ as it is called was built in 1951 and accommodated over 170,000 prisoners. Some 20,000 were communist Chinese.

History meets Entertainment

To describe it as surreal doesn’t quite explain it.

The whole area has been turned into part museum and part theme park complete with rides and similar attractions. Most of the models and pictures had English translation so it was at least educational.

For example; I had always believed that it was an American led mission to help the South; albeit with help form other allies. In fact it was a United Nations operation – the USA naturally contributing the most.

                 

The original camp site would have extended down to the sea but most of that area is now covered in high rise buildings. There wasn’t much to photograph as little attempt has been made to recreate the real living conditions. Most of the so-called barracks would have been tents and the prisoners were left more or less to “self-regulate”. That led to political divisions and gang mentality. Ultimately that led to widespread disturbances and even a US general being captured and held hostage inside one of the compounds

There is no doubt it would have been very brutal. Maybe that is why I had never heard of it?

4D Cinema…

Just before the exit there was a cinema showing a film about two North Koreans who were captured then sent to this site. It included the US general hostage situation. It is a 4D cinema! The usual 3D glasses plus seats that rocked and jolted when there were explosions or heavy machine gun fire. As missiles and objects explode past your face jets of air are fired from below the seat or along the handrail. Not very convincing but different.

There is no doubt that this place paints a one-sided view of that period. I fully understand that. But it has certainly sparked my interest in the history of the country’s civil war. There’s a book or two to be read on the subject when I get back home.

Now I have only a few days before the end of this working visit. The closer it gets the more I miss my little boy.

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