Korean Armour – Chosun, Koryo, Silla, Three Kingdoms

Just a reminder to those of you that have been using the pictures of Korean armour and weapons, that because I still can’t get to the Gallery in here, I have them placed in a web album in Picassa. You can find them at Thomo the Lost’s Picassa Album.

Namdaemun Fire :-(

There was the report this morning on CNN and other sources of a fire at Namdaemun (South Gate) in Seoul. This is one of my favourite historical places in Korea and a location most visitors pass at least one when they visit Seoul.

It seems as though the fire was the result of arson and the wooden part of the structure heavily damaged. However, I think that given the significance of the structure that the Korean government will start the process to repair and restore the gate as much as possible.

The Korea Times noted:

The fire occurred around 8:50 p.m., police said. About 30 fire trucks along with 90 firefighters rushed to the scene to bring the blaze under control. There were no reports of any casualties and the cause of the fire has yet to be determined, they said.

They later noted that:

Police suspect someone deliberately started the fire as a taxi driver, identified only by his surname Lee, said he saw a man in his 50s go up the stairs of the gate with a shopping bag, while he was waiting to pick up a customer in the nearby area.

Lee said he then saw a spark like a firework and reported it to police, adding the man came down the stairs afterwards. The taxi driver said he drove around looking for the man but could not find him.

Namdaemun is the oldest wooden structure in Seoul although I am not sure how much of the original wood survived even before the fire. It is so important to Koreans that it is officially National Treasure No. 1.

CNN also noted that

President-elect Lee Myung-bak visited the scene and deplored the landmark’s destruction, telling officials, “People’s hearts will ache,” The Associated Press reported.

The gate was closed to the public for nearly a century before being reopened in 2006 after a renovation, according to AP.

The Hankyoreh provided some history to the gate:

The landmark, officially called Sungnyemun, or “gate of exalted ceremonies,” was the southern gate of the walls that surrounded Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It currently serves as a gateway to Namdaemun market, a traditional market that has been operating for centuries.Construction of the gate began in 1395 and was finished in 1398 during the reign of King Taejo, who founded the Joseon Dynasty.

I must admit to feeling a sadness settle over me as a result of the fire, even though it has been over a year since I was last in Seoul.

I do hope it is restored fairly quickly. I also hope that the Korean government authority in charge of protecting antiquities in Korea surveys their other charges and ensures they are protected as best they can be whilst still allowing the public access.

Korea DMZ

I ran across a website called Korea DMZ which is based around the De-Militarised Zone between North and South Korea. This means that there is a lot of information on the website concerning the Korean War, with sections covering the main combatants from the UN side (I never realised the Ethiopians and Colombians served in the UN forces, for example), the countries providing support (the Lebanon and Liberia were surprises for me there) and brief overviews of many of the engagements. An interesting website for those with an interest in the Korean War as well as good place to start for an introduction to some parts of it.

As a sample, the following is excerpted from that website about the Battle at Baengma-goji:

The battle at Baengma-goji was a defensive campaign waged by the 9th Division of the Korean armed forces (commanded by Major General Kim Jong-o) for nine days in order to secure their 395-meter Hill (Baengma-goji) north of Cherwon against the invading Chinese 38th Army in December, 1952, when the position operations were at the fiercest in the course of the Korean War. Baengma-goji, part of the area controlled by the U.S. 9th Corps, was considered as the most important outpost hill with a good command over Yeokgokcheon Stream Valley, especially when a major supply route to Cheorwon was to be secured by the U.S. 8th Army. At that time, the Korean 9th Division had deployed two battalions of the 30th regiment on Baengma-goji and had reserved the 28th regiment right behind the hill.

As the website is part of a South Korean tour operation, some of the information may have been flavoured a little but then that is a risk no matter where one looks for information. For example, the following about the Evolution of the DMZ may cause some disagreement as well as indicating some of the problems reading the site written in Kor-English:

As the Second World War had ended with surrender of Japan, Korean peninsular met liberation, as agreed by allied force at the time of the war. Korean peninsula were divided by the 38 boundary line, the north of the boundary line were stationed by the soviet army were and the south of the boundary line were stationed by American army forming 38 line as the military boundary line.

The end of 19th Century, the world powerful countries developed power competition to make Korean peninsula under their dominant. In East Asia region, the Japan joined that world power rank of imperialism by succeeding in enhancing the wealth and military strength of a country in1967.

However, a useful site to start gathering some information on the Korean War.

Digital Chosun Ilbo English Edition Fails English

Success at the English ChosunI was looking at an article in the on-line Chosun Ilbo, one of the Korean newspapers, and I decided to email a link to the article to a friend (all right, I’ll ‘fess up, it was the one about the naked models promoting milk by having a naked yoghurt fight on stage).

Generally the English language is good in this publication. I did, however, laugh when after sending the link to the article the message shown here popped up.

Love English as a second language 😆

Korean Female Crew Capture Middle East

I fly a lot. Recently I have been flying a lot more on Emirates than I have in the past (also on Etihad Airways as well). I was therefore amused to read in the Chosun Ilbo of Korea an article about Korean Female flight crew on Emirates Airlines. I was doubly amused reading this because one of the Korean flight crew working for Emirates is an old friend of mine (and translator for a couple of years that I worked for the korean company).

The article was titled Korean Female Crew Capture Middle East and it appeared in early May. The article noted:

“Korean Crew? They are fantastic!” Emirates Airlines vice chairman Maurice Flanagan says. Indeed, the popularity of Korean crew is rising all over the Middle East. Among the 8,000 crew from 100 countries working for Dubai-based Emirates, 620 are Korean women, making them the biggest contingent after Australians.

Apparently the Korean Staff renew their contracts more often than other nationalities which is one of the reasons I guess they are popular with Emirates Airlines.

I must admit that every Emirates flight I have been on, there has, so far, been at least one Aussie and one Korean flight attendant.

Bridges and Tunnels

It was a few days ago that the Lost Nomad commented on discussions about linking Korea and Japan by tunnel. It just so happened that this was the day after the Arab News here ran a piece about a Causeway Linking Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Seems the causeway is a bigger and better link than the “Junnel” or “Kunnel”. After all, the Korean-Japan tunnel simply links two countries (same really as the Sweden Denmark Bridge, the Channel Tunnel and so on). The Egypt-Saudi Causeway however is a much bigger event, after all, it links two continents, Asia and Africa.

The bridge is going to link Ras Hamid in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia with Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh and Tiran Island.

Ah, it is so nice to be able to put Japanese-Korean relations into perspective 🙂

Korean Soldiers in WW2 German Army

Korea Soldier in German Uniform from http://www.worldwar2database.com/ There was a book review recently in the Korea Times about a couple of authors who had published recently. The review was titled Masters Return With Bitter History and covered a couple of areas of Korean History.

What particularly interested me was a photo from World War II that served as an inspiration for Jo JungRae, an author, for his latest book, “Oh God.” The photo shows a Korean soldier in German uniform on a Normandy beach in 1944. The photo itself had been previously featured in “D-Day” by Stephen Ambrose. Apparently an American soldier from the war had told Ambrose that he had met four Koreans wearing German uniforms when his unit participated in action against German troops on the beaches of Normandy.

It seems that the Koreans had been conscripted into the Japanese Army but after being captured by the Russians at the Battle of Nomonhan in the Russo-Japanese War (part II, the 1940’s one, not the 1904-05 one). They were pressed into service in the Russian Army. Captured by the Germans in a battle near Moscow, the Koreans were then pressed into service in the Wehrmacht. They were then captured by the Americans whilst they were engaged working on the Atlantic Wall. The Americans (mercifully) did not press them into service but rather held them as prisoners of war.

It seems that these poor souls never made it back home to Korea as apparently the Koreans were exchanged with the Soviets for American POWs liberated by the Red Army. This I find a little suspicious as at that time the Red Army and the US Army were on the same side and no POW exchanges should have been necessary. I could accept that they were returned to the Soviet’s however as at that time there was a largish Korean Diaspora under Soviet control and they therefore would have seemed like a Soviet problem to deal with.

The picture itself can be viewed at the WW2 Multimedia Database == World War II Multimedia Database, WW2 Talk the homepage of the Database being here at http://www.worldwar2database.com/. The book itself is written in Korean so I cannot read into it, however, the idea behind the book was appealing, doubly so as I have been doing some research into the Battle of Nomonhan anyway. I will post an article about that later when I get the research finished.

Added 3 May 2016: For some further information have a look at https://thomo.coldie.net/2011/06/20/korean-soldiers-in-ww2-german-armypart-2/

I have recently added a post which has some illustrations of Central Asians caught up in the war against Germany – in this case Mongols and possible Kazakhs. See Images of War – Two Books Reviewed for details

Myth Debunking and the Truth

Recently there was a piece that did the rounds about Japanese buying sheep whilst thinking they were poodles. As is right, this was found to be an “urban myth” picked up by the news services (including CNN – not sure about BBC as the cable was playing up in my hotel room).

This was even picked up by a couple of my favourite Korean based Blogs. There is a blog in Japan called Cerebral Soup which is written by an Aussie and which was one of the debunkers of this myth. MJ on her blog goes on to note that:

Oh yes we published a story that was complete crap and xenophobic – but hey it’s ok because gosh we could then make silly puns and have a jolly laugh!

I must agree with her. Having spent a period of time in Mongolia, I have spent a fair bit of time debunking myths about Australia there (and at the same time having to shamefacedly admit some truths as well). I also spent time correcting myths about Mongolia from some foreigners.

I have even seen some of the racism working and it really piddles me off as well. Some of the worst though has been between the Asian nations. Korean attitudes to the Japanese. Japanese men’s attitudes to Korean women (I have not met many Japanese women so have no experience from that quarter). Chinese attitudes to the Mongolians (and that was made doubly worse as it was happening in front of my eyes).

So MJ, feel free to wear your citizen journalist boots. In the meantime, I am getting Pancho to saddle up the mule as there is a windmill turning just over there.

Australian Visa Rules Abuse

The Chosun Ilbo of Korea notes in an article about Prostitutes, Traffickers Abusing Australian Visa Rules that many Korean women are lured to Australia by unscrupulous Koreans on working holiday visas and that these women end up working in Korean Salons and in brothels in Australia for a year or two. Some women know the eventual destination of their travel, others are duped.

Apart from the appalling issue of the human trafficking that this involves, what really annoys me is that these practices make it so much more difficult to get visa approvals for genuine travel, especially for residents of other countries, especially those that are considered high-risk.

I also get annoyed with what can only be seen as some discrimination within the Australian Immigration Department. For example, somewhere between 40 and 60% of all visa applications for Mongolians to travel to Australia are rejected by the Australian Embassy in Beijing. Around 20% of the applications from the Chinese are rejected. It should be noted that both Mongolians and Chinese are the same risk group as far as Immigration Officials of Australia are concerned.

So, why the statistical anomaly? Are we in Australia really so frightened of 2,500,000 Mongolians? Chinggis Khaan did, after all, die about 800 years ago, surely we do not need to fear them any more?