CONTRIBUTED BY SHERRI B. LANTINGA
One of our earliest field trips in Pohang (a city on the East Sea, about two hours’ drive north of Busan) was to check out the warship anchored across the river from the city’s famous Jukdo market. We had trouble finding tourist information about the ship, so we just showed up one day and it was open, free of charge. The ROKS Pohang (a Pohang-class Corvette built in 1984 for coastal patrols), was retired (and disarmed) in 2009 and sent to rest in its namesake city. There, the Pohang was turned into a hands-on museum.
We parked, proceeded up the gangplank to the main deck, and began looking around. A friendly man, whom I suspect would have been our tour guide if we understood more Korean, followed us around and answered our questions as well as he could. Because we couldn’t much speak to each other, he mostly let us explore freely.
Many of the signs on various rooms and displays were helpfully in three languages (Korean, English, and Chinese) although more detailed information was only in Korean. As we wandered, we tried on helmets, inspected the guns, lay in the bunks, and pushed buttons at various control panels. We admired the tiny space in which sailors must live and work and wondered at the discipline required to keep things running smoothly.
In 2010, the Pohang also became a memorial for the sailors lost on its sister ship, the Cheonon, when it was sunk by North Korea. A room is dedicated entirely to the Cheonon’s crew and the rescue mission with many pictures that helped us understand this significant event. Previous visitors have added sticky-note responses and prayers for the 40-some sailors who died in the attack; a bronze statue on deck commemorates the rescue diver who died while trying to bring up sailors. Being on the Cheonon’s twin made the terror and confusion of the sinking much more imaginable.
The Pohang, resting on a busy city river amid fishing boats and a large open-air marketplace, is a silent and grey reminder that Korea is still in the midst of a long civil war. It’s unfortunate this this museum and memorial is not more widely publicized to foreigners, as it’s well worth visiting.
ROKS Pohang: Museum & Memorial
Address: 391-22 Songdo-dong, Nam-gu, Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do
GPS Coordinates: 36.040303, 129.372136
Sherrie posted an earlier version of this article on her personal website on July 24, 2013; we are republishing it here with her permission.