CONTRIBUTED BY SIBO LUNGU
I think my husband and I are no different from most people in Pyeongtaek in that we often head up north to Seoul or Suwon for entertainment. So to switch things up one lazy Saturday afternoon, we got on the Subway and took the 30 minute ride southwards to Cheonan. The only things I knew of Cheonan up until this point was that Costco is there, and that the malls have good food. Then I saw this on my Korea tourism app: The Independence Hall of Korea.
Thanks to the Daum maps app, I quickly found the bus we needed to get there and we were on our way. It was still a bit cold so an indoor activity and a little bit of Korean history sounded like a good way to spend the afternoon.
The bus stopped in the parking lot and as we walked across the large plaza dominated by the incredibly large monument, I wondered why I’d never heard of this place before! Everyone knows about the war memorial in Seoul and that seems to get all the advertising, but this place looked pretty big and is historically important too.
The memorial commemorates the March 1st independence movement that took place in 1919 during the time Korea was under Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945). On March 1, 1919 many Korean citizens came together to take to the streets to demand independence. Cheonan was a major city involved in the movement and that’s why the memorial is here. There is a long and painful history between the two nations and the exhibits display the events that took place throughout those years. The memorial, established in 1987, was created to help people reflect and remember Korea’s struggle for independence.
According the brochure, the memorial is about 4 sq. miles. I felt like I could easily spend a whole afternoon there including eating and relaxing in the grounds. There are seven exhibition halls, food shops, a 4D theatre, a lake, sculptures within the grounds, and large open plaza areas (for festivals I am guessing). Being winter, the lake was half frozen and grey, and the grounds weren’t green. However, I am sure it looks very beautiful in the spring and summer.
We got there a bit late since it as a spontaneous trip and we didn’t know the winter hours beforehand, but we still managed to enjoy two of the exhibits and walking around the grounds.
There are seven separate exhibition halls/buildings, each displaying a different time period of Korean history as it relates to Korean independence:
- The Origin Of Korean People
- National Crisis of Japanese Imperialism
- Struggles for National Rights
- March 1st Independence Movement
- Patriotic Struggle for National Independence
- Establishing the Great Korea
- The Experience Hall of the Independence Movement
Since we were late, we only managed to go into the Struggles for National Rights and March 1st exhibition halls. The exhibition halls aren’t huge so they are do-able in 30 minutes, or maybe an hour if you are reading and taking photographs of every single display. Many of the displays are in both English and Korean so we didn’t have a problem reading anything. A few of the statues outside had labels in Korean and Chinese.
It is a somber place to be and some of the artifacts are very disturbing. I have met some Koreans who are still very pained by this period of their history and not so fond of the Japanese for it. This gave me a better understanding of their feelings. Some displays are a bit nationalistic, but what national memorial in any country isn’t!
We didn’t make it to the 4D theatre since everything was closing but we hope to go back, perhaps on March 1st when there should be an event going on for the day.
Like many museum-type places in Korea, entry is free. The hours are 9:30am – 17:00pm in winter, and 9:30am -18:00pm in summer. The only paid activity is the colorful dragon train that can take you around the grounds for a dollar.
The plaza at the entrance before you go into the main grounds has food for sale. I really can’t call it a food court since there was only a Lotteria (burgers and fries), a Korean restaurant and a coffee shop. There are more Korean food shops and stalls inside the grounds, but many were closed by the time we went.
Entry Fee: Free
Hours: 9:30am to 1800 (summer); 9:30am to 1700 (winter)
Address: 230-3 Namhwa-ri, Mokcheon-eup, Dongnam-gu, Cheonan, Chungcheongnam-do
GPS Coordinates: 36.784019, 127.223161
Directions: Subway Blue Line 1 stops in Cheonan. Then bus# 400 outside the train station goes right to the parking lot. It comes every 20 minutes and the bus ride is about 20 minutes