The members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps who missed the 2015 Nakdong River World Peace Culture Festival in Chilgok near Daegu on Oct. 2015, really missed something, especially the military attaches. They forwent the rare opportunity to inspect the Chilgok Patriots & Peace Memorial which was dedicated on that day.
The visiting diplomats that day had the special privilege to see various interesting exhibits and facilities of the memorial museum in advance of its official opening. The Memorial was very large in size and unique begging comparison anywhere else in Korea.
The facilities included a ‘firing range’ game room where the guests could ‘fire a rifle’ at targets (individuals enemy soldiers, tanks and even aircraft) with a game rifle.
The second surprise was an ‘experience theater,’ a simulator hall, where the guests ‘rode a tank’ and ‘took part’ in a fierce combat destroying the enemy tanks and artillery batteries as well as neutralizing the enemy soldiers. The seats moved up and down and made the guests feel as if they were in actual combat and personally engaged in fighting.
Then there was an observatory on the fourth floor of the Memorial building from which the guests overlooked the Nakdong River, including the famous Waegwang Railroad Bridge on the Nakdong River in the Chilgok County which was demolished during the Battle of Dabudong on Aug. 3, 1950 to stop the advance of the North Korean troops and tanks. Many military experts assert that if the Waegwan Bridge was not destroyed, the North Korean tanks could have crossed the Nakdong River and that could have changed the war situation to the disadvantage of the Republic of (south) Korea (ROK) and the United Nations (UN) Forces. They even conjecture that the ROK could have lost the war and gone out of existence.
There also was a room where the ROK and the United States (US) generals made a decision to defend the Nakdong River. They were Maj. Gen. Chung Il-kwon (the then chief of staff of the ROK Army), Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker of the US Army and Lt. Gen. William F. Dean, who each wrote down ‘Nakdong River’ on a piece of paper, meaning that they unanimously agreed on the importance of defense of the Nakdong River.
The spacious entrance hall of the Memorial had on display a symbolic Helmet with Bullet Holes which had 20 keywords related with the Battle of Dabudong.
The Memorial building consisted four different parts, namely the National Defense Hall, the Combat Experience Hall, the Children’s Peace Experience Hall and the 4D Experience Hall.
The 3rd annual Nakdong River World Peace Culture Festival, where the visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps visited, was in memory of the decisive Battle of Dabudong in Chilgok County where the late Lt. Gen. Walker of the Eighth US Army and the then Brig. Gen. Paik Sun-yup of the First Division of the ROK Army fought against the outnumbering North Korean invasion forces for 55 days in the fiercest battle of the Korean War in August 1950.
If ROK and the UN Forces had lost the Battle of Dabudong, it would have meant the end of the existence of the Republic of Korea.
The victory of the Battle of Dabudong changed the tide of the war in favor of the allied forces marked the beginning of the defeat of the North Korean forces and that of the general counter offensive of the ROK and UN Forces.
As Ambassador and Mrs. Khamsouay Keodalavong of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and 20-plus other members of the Diplomatic Corps Republic arrived at the Chilgok County Hall, they were greeted by Mayor Baek Seun-ki of the Chilgok County and they alighted from the bus, and were led into the welcome ceremony venue.
At the welcome ceremony, Mayor Baek expressed his gratitude to all the countries of the world who supported the ROK in defending her freedom and democracy. He said: “The Republic of Korea exists today thanks to the support and assistance given by many countries of the world during the Korean War. For this, I would like to express my profound gratitude once more. The Republic of Korea then was a poorest country in the world. However, Korea has now become the 10th largest economy of the world, and is now exerting every effort to for the sake of the world peace. (See excerpts at the end of this Article.)
There was a presentation ceremony of a Plaque of Appreciation by Ambassador Keodalavong of Laos to Mayor Baek in appreciation of the latter’s invitation for the senior members of the Diplomatic Corps to the Festival.
Mayor Baek on his part had a commemoration gift for each visiting member of the Diplomatic Corps. It was a set of Bom Bom (Spring Spring) White Porcelain Tea Cup Set personally made by Reverend Buddhist Priest Seolbong using the clay and stone of the Chilgok County. It was a pottery art work created in the process of long hours of baking inside the wood-burning kiln.
Characteristics of the Tea Set were the decoration with apricot blossoms. Each cup and saucer bore the signature of Buddhist Pottery Artist Seolbong.
Ambassador Keodalavong of Laos made a return speech thanking Mayor Baek and the county people for the invitation to the Festival.
This was followed by an offer of toast by Brig. Gen. Myint Hein of Myanmar who said ‘Wihayo’ and expressed his gratitude for the invitation in fluent Korean.
Following the luncheon, the visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps were invited to visit the Maewon Folk Village which was in the process of restoration. The director of the Folk Village explained that the Village used to be widely known for the well-preserved traditional Korean houses of tiled roofs and also straw roofs. However many of the houses were bombed and reduced to ashes during the Korean War as they were used as headquarters of the North Korean Army infantry division and their army field hospital.
The guide explained that the North Korean Army deliberately used the Maewon Folk Village believing that the ROK and UN Forces would not bomb the Village because of the cultural value of the houses and other facilities of the Village.
Among the important buildings in the Village were MukheonJongtaek (Gyeongsangbuk-do Provincial Cultural Property Number 245), which was built in 1670 during the Joseon Dynasty by Mukheon Yi Un-man, a well-known Confucian scholar who wrote JeungboDonggukMunheonBigo (Expanded Version of References on Korea which covers a total of 13 different areas, including geography, etiquette, music, military, criminal law enforcement, farmland, finance, population, education, administration and different tiles of office during the Joseon Dynasty.
Another important house in the Village was the Old House of Hae-eun, the residence of Joseon Dynasty’s Attorney General Yi Won-rok (King Suk-jong). It was designated as Gyeongangbuk-do Cultural Property Number 178. The director of the Village explained that the house consisting of four different buildings, including Anchae (Inner [Main] Building) used by women and Sarangchae (Building for Men).
The director explained that the houses commanded a striking view of a beautiful lake in the past but that there was a very bad flood and that a landslide filled up the lake. Now it was used as a farm land.
The visiting members of the Diplomatic Corps then moved to the opening ceremony site where they were treated to a traditional Korean tea made with lotus flowers and traditional Korean tidbits (including small rice cakes, dried persimmon, pine nuts and walnuts) in a VIP tent lounge where they accidentally met with Korea’s top star Ms. Chung Young-sook.
Then they met with Governor Kim Kwan-yong of Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, one of the closest statesmen of President Park Geun-hye (whose seat of power is located in the Province). Governor Kim and Mayor Baek invited the visiting diplomats to a ‘Coin-throwing Ceremony’ where the government and civic leaders of the county and province threw coins into a pool (without water) which amounted to hundreds of millions of Won to be used in building a school in Ethiopia who sent many combat troops to fight on the side of the ROK and UN Forces during the Korean War for the protection of freedom and democracy of the ROK. It was a program to contribute to ‘repaying’ the countries who saved the ROK from falling into the hands of the North Korean regime.
Then the diplomats were invited to attend the opening ceremony of the 2015 Nakdong River Peace Culture Festival. In attendance at the ceremony were many important persons of Korea who included the 95-year-old General Paik Sun-yup (ret.). Many Koreans attribute to cause of the successful defense of the Nakdong River Defense Line to General Paik and General Walton H. Walker of the 8th US Army, which saved the ROK from being occupied by the North Korean invasion forces during the Korean War.
The opening ceremony began with the marching-in of the flag bearers of the 16 Korean War Allies carried by the Korean and US soldiers in combat outfit, including field combat uniforms and helmets. There were performances portraying what happened in the Chilgok County during the Battle of Dabudong, which included high-middle school students volunteering to join the combat to safe the Chilgok County and the ROK from the enemy.
Memorial speeches were made by Governor Kim and Mayor Baek in memory of the Battle of Dabudong and on how to sublimate the conflict to harmony and peace on the Korean peninsula and the world.
In particular, General Paik was invited on to the stage for a speech in memory of the Battle of Dabudong. Though very weak, General Paik made to the stage assisted by aides and called on the Korean people not to forget the critical moment of the Korean War but to be conscious of the importance of national defense and peace on the Korean peninsula.
Excerpts from the speech of Mayor Baek:
I whole-heartedly welcome, on behalf of the 130 thousand citizens of the Chilgok County as well as for myself, the distinguished members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps who are here today in Chilgok, the ‘County of National Defense and Peace,’ to attend the 2015 Nakdong River World Peace Culture Festival.
This year marks the third anniversary of the Nakdong River World Culture Festival which is a global festive meeting attended by all the nations of the world to sublimate the pains of the war into peace and seek peace on the Korean peninsula and the world
Thanks to the attendance of the distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps, I am expecting that the Festival will become a more meaningful one with added significance.
Chilgok County was the last bastion during the Korean War and has many traces of national defense and history.
I regret that we do not have ample time but I wish that the distinguished guests will have a meaningful time visiting the Chilgok National Defense Peace Memorial Museum and various other interesting sites of the Festival.
The Republic of Korea exists today thanks to the support and assistance given by many countries of the world during the Korean War. For this, I would like to express my profound gratitude once more. The Republic of Korea then was a poorest country in the world. However, Korea has now become the 10th largest economy of the world, and is now exerting every effort to for the sake of the world peace.
While staying in our County, I wish that you will all have a pleasant time and take home many fond memories. At the same time, I would like to solicit your continued interest and support for the preservation and promotion of peace on the Korean peninsula.
Once again, I would like to thank you for your visit to our County and wish you all the best of health and happiness.