Paying Tribute: United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, South Korea

United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan

I’ve been to Busan many times over the last year. Conversely, I’ve gone for the food, the festivals and for tons of fun. But there is an “attraction” that is none of those things– especially the latter. It brought me near tears, gave me goosebumps and brought me a sense of loss, anger, and pride all at the same time. I’ve been meaning to visit the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan. However, one of you guys forced my hand. And its apropos that I did it on Memorial Day weekend– the same weekend many Americans take the time to recognize, remember, and reflect on the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting our freedoms and I wasn’t alone.

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entrance Paying Tribute: United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, South Korea
The entrance is free of charge. It’s guarded and patrolled by the ROK (Republic of Korea) Army members.

United Nations Memorial Cemetery
(UNMCK)

Busan is awesome, there’s a couple of awesome temples high in the sky, a dozen pretty white sand beaches, one with an underground aquarium, the biggest mall in the world, markets, lots of comfort food, and lots more.

BUT Busan has ONE thing you can’t see anywhere else: it’s the only one in the world… a United Nations Memorial Cemetery. It’s a beautifully landscaped and cared-for memorial patrolled by the ROK Army. 17 nations are inturned there, even some Americans who chose to stay in perpetuity with their fellow soldiers. This reader’s uncle was one, and she asked me to take a couple of pictures of her and her family, so I did.

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20160528_112629-1-1024x576 Paying Tribute: United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, South Korea

Very few things have affected me, like turning the corner of the wall of the fallen above. Steven and I both gasped out loud.

At the end of this path you’ll see a greenhouse, turn right to the main cemetery and as soon as you do, you’ll understand why the cemetery has a greenhouse on-site.

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A Favor that Isn’t a Favor at All

Bel contacted me a couple of months ago and asked a favor. Private Darcy Sansom from New South Wales served with his countrymen on the battlefields of South Korea during the Korean War (1950-53). And on May 6, 1953, less than 3 months from the end of the war, lost his life in combat. He was only 25 years old. Bel and her family have always wanted to visit the cemetery but hadn’t had the opportunity. Then she found my blog.

She asked me a favor that she had no idea would be no favor at all. Furthermore, she asked me to visit the United Nations Memorial Cemetery and take pictures of her family. Moreover, as it turns out, May is a beautiful time to visit the cemetery. The roses were blooming and fragrant, the lawn was emerald green, and the tree branches were full and stately. Ultimately, my husband and I took about 30 minutes to locate the granite headstone among the other members of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.

His headstone, like all the others, rested in the shade of a rose bush. His had not yet bloomed. Signs were posted everywhere that said stay off the grass, but in order to fulfill my promise, I had to lightly tread on the beautiful lawn in order to snap a few pictures. I hoped he wouldn’t mind.

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The flags of 17 nations flap in the breeze.

The Cemetery Occupants

We wandered around the beautifully landscaped cemetery where more than 40,896 souls from all over the world are recognized. The United Nations Cemetery in Busan is the only one of its kind in the world. As a result, It is the final resting place of soldiers representing independent nations assembled and fighting for a singular goal–peace and stopping the spread of Communism in Asia. Seventeen nations are represented in the cemetery: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.

The Korean War

The Korean War began when the North Korean People’s Army attacked the south in June 1950. Many nations responded to the threat of the communist and due to the nature of war, temporary cemeteries were constructed to intern the fallen. Most of the defending Armies collected their dead and buried them in their homelands. But a number of their families decided to intern the remains in Korea. The land was donated for the cemetery by the Korean Parliament in 1955. As a result, approximately 11,000 were interred at the UNMCK between 1951~1954.

There are currently 2,300 at the UNMCK, including Korean soldiers who fell as members of the UN troops. As I said before, most of the fallen were repatriated home; Belgium, Colombia, Ethiopia, Greece, Luxemburg, Philippines, and Thailand have taken back all of their expatriates.

US Residents

The USA, who had the highest number of casualties in the war, took all of their fallen soldiers home soon afterward. However, 36 members of the UNC dispatched from the USA and stationed in Korea after the war, who died and wished to be interred at the UNMCK, also reside here at the UNMCK. An Honor Guard from the Republic of Korea 53rd Division carries out flag ceremonies daily. We saw them move around the cemetery information.

There are many annual events held here, some of the key events include April’s Tributary Ceremony of the Veterans of the Korean War, May’s American Memorial Day, June’s Korean Memorial Day, and October’s UN Ceremony Day.

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The Main Cemetery

There is a large main cemetery where the fallen are buried under their respective flags and amongst their fellow countrymen. Scattered all around the grounds are various monuments and, additionally, tributes donated by the member nations themselves. The cemetery is landscaped in vibrant and fragrant roses in yellow, pink, orange, and red punctuated with pink azalea bushes and other flora. The shape of the trees is both ethereal and majestic and showcase the care and dedication the Korean caretaker demonstrates on a daily basis.

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20160528_120018-1024x576 Paying Tribute: United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, South Korea

A Beautiful Stroll

The walkways are lined with sculptured trees that create a zen-like feel as you walk among them. Moreover, a koi pond stretches the length of the main cemetery. The colorful fish splash every once in a while, breaking the silence that is loud and constant. The Korean government has designated this cemetery as sacred. As a result, I was a little “peeved” to see some guests taking selfies and photographs like it was a school trip to the zoo. It just seemed a little inappropriate under the circumstances. But I was energized by the amount of Koreans there to pay their respects and to the dedication and care, I witnessed the grounds people and ROK Army soldiers show as I tour the cemetery.

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The Memorials and Statues

The UN Sculpture Park was established in October 2001 and twenty-nine permanent memorials are in the cemetery. The memorials include:

  • Commonwealth of Nations memorials:
    • Australian Memorial
    • British Memorial – dedicated 2010
    • Monument to Canadian Fallen
    • Commonwealth Memorial
      • Commonwealth Missing in Action Memorial
    • New Zealand Memorial
    • South Africa Memorial
  • French Memorial – dedicated 2007
  • Greek Memorial – dedicated 1961
  • Interfaith memorial chapel – built by the United Nations Command in 1964
  • Main gate – designed in 1966
  • Memorabilia display hall – built by the UN in 1968
  • Norwegian Memorial
  • Thai Memorial – dedicated November 2008
  • Turkish Memorials I and II – dedicated 1960, 1962, and 2008
  • UN Forces Monument – dedicated 1978 and refurbished in 2007
  • The United States Korean War Memorial – dedicated by the American Battle Monuments Commission in 2013
  • The Unknown Soldiers’ Pathway
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The Remembrance Wall

The Remembrance Wall at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery is quite sobering. The wall is constructed out of beautiful black marble that is reflective. As you read the names, you also see your image. I couldn’t help but see myself in every name on the wall and there are so many. Too many. We wandered around the beautifully carved memorial where more than 40,896 souls from all over the world are carved in perpetuity. While there are 17 nations represented at the memorial, only 11 of them have bodies actually buried on the cemetery grounds.

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From Every State in the Union

The United States has 36,492 names on the United Nations Memorial Cemetery wall. More than any other country. The names begin on panel number 21 and end on 140. We walked the length of the wall, not realizing until we got to the end that we weren’t even halfway through all the states in the union. Then we turned the corner and we both gasped.

The list continued on the backside of the panels we had just visited and then continued on the towering walls behind us. Subsequently, I got goosebumps, I honestly got goosebumps. Just then Steven, as if responding to something I said, said he also got goosebumps. e had to stop a moment and just look. Then we walked the rest of the wall making sure to touch each panel as we remarked about the overwhelming numbers of casualties from the southern states and California. I am very happy we finally visited the cemetery and I highly suggest you visit the next time you’re in Busan. You don’t have to have someone interred here to appreciate their sacrifice.

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Location

93, UN pyeonghwa-ro, Nam-gu, Busan. For more info: +82-51-625-0625, www.unmck.or.kr (Korean and English) The cemetery is at the Daejeon stop on Line #2. Come out at Exit #5, make a U-turn, and immediately take a left. Walk to the next major intersection (where you should see signage), and make another left.. The cemetery will be on the right.

United-Nations-Memorial-Cemetery--519x778 Paying Tribute: United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, South Korea


 

Comments

  1. George N. Guerrette

    Thank you so much for this website! I am a veteren of 7 tours of duty in South Korea starting in 1973. During my 24 years of service, I was a regular Infantryman all the way to Special Forces. From Private to First Sergeant. My wife (Korean) and I were married in 1974 when I was assigned as a Plt Sgt with Co C 1/17th (M) Inf at Camp Howze, 2ID. We currently live in Austin, TX. We are planning to relocate to Korea permanently. Would I be eligible for internment at the UN cemetery or are there other “American Forces” locations in South Korea? Thank you for any info you can provide. George

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Hi George. Thank you for our service and your wonderful comment. I am so grateful to hear when I have written something someone responds to. I am so jealous, I loved my five years in South Korea and would go back in a heartbeat if I could.

      According to the website, people Interred at the UNMCK are the UN troop members killed in the Korean War. Widows of the interred at the UNMCK may be buried here. In addition, members of the UNC may be interred at the UNMCK with the approval of the CUNMCK. I suggest you contact the UNMCK to find out for sure. And come back again soon.
      Stacey

    1. duffelbagspouse

      So you too have a hobby degree, thats what my hubby calls my BA in History. I think if more people understood history, the world would be in a much better condition than it is. Don’t you agree?

  2. Erin

    That was so kind of you to take those photos for the family of the fallen soldier. I can only imagine how pretty it is with all of the roses, they are so fitting as to give remembrance to those who gave all.

  3. kahlan

    I’m currently in Korea but I’ve never been to Busan. I think it is a good idea to visit. I want to see those flowers in person.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I hope you do, the memorial is beautiful. We went in late May when the flowers were in full bloom and the temperature was a little milder.

  4. Jazz

    Wow! This was an amazing read. That was very touching to hear about the favor that wasn’t a favor. Im sure she appreciated every picture taken. I especially love the gardens. So breath taking and the upkeep is immaculate! Thans for sharing with us all.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank you. That was the first time that had happened and I felt honored I could do something that was so simple but so important to their family.

  5. Elizabeth O.

    I had no idea that Busan has a memorial like this. It would be so nice to pay our respects and honor for those who have given their lives for peace.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I agree, its special, being the only one in the world, it would be a shame if people here didn’t explore it.

  6. Kelvin Mariner

    Hey I really like the layout of your blog and you provide a lot of interesting info about the places you visit. You also have some great pictures! I hope to travel to more countries in the future as well!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank Kelvin its always a work in progress and a love hate relationship. But I am happy to share my love and passion for travel and I hope it shows.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I’m glad you enjoyed Busan. Busan is awesome, there’s a couple awesome temples high in the sky, a dozen pretty white sand beaches, one with an underground aquarium, the biggest mall in the world, markets, lots of comfort food and lots more.
      BUT Busan has ONE thing you can’t see anywhere else, its the only one in the world… a United Nations Cemetery. It’s a stunning memorial, beautifully landscaped and cared for, patrolled by the ROK Army.
      17 nations are inturned there, even some Americans who chose to stay in perpetuity with their fellow soldiers. This reader’s uncle was one and she asked me to take a couple of pictures for her and her family, so I did.
      I tell you, very few things have affected me like turning the corner of the wall of the fallen above. Steven and I both gasped out loud.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      You are so right. It’s hard to live in a country where so many of my countrymen have died and not pay my respects at least once. It was very reassuring to see so many Koreans there too.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I wn’t say I love cemeteries but I too visit them because its another piece of the puzzle of the place. It is beautiful and sobering to see so much loss of life here in this country and my own… which was staggering. Numbers are just that, but having someting tangible like the wall really puts in into perspective.

  7. Porche

    It’s always painful to really feel the weight of sacrifice like that. I’m glad the place is so beautifully cared for.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      You are so right. It is very well taken care of, like a beautiful garden with the formality of military decorum.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank you Ashley so true. Memorials like this are prophetic reminders NOT to do whatever we did to get HERE again.

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