Millions of people come to Korea each year. Some come for work. Some come for pleasure. Many arrive with friends and family, but others still set foot on the peninsula solo. Many do this through Incheon International Airport or the Port of Incheon (the nation’s second busiest). However, after arriving, they usually set off for other destinations, which is a shame. Incheon is filled with history and some great destinations. This month on The Korea Blog, featured writer Steve Miller takes a look at some key historical and tourist destinations in this often overlooked area of the country. To begin the series, he visits a museum dedicated to Incheon’s most famous visitors.
The Incheon Landing Operation
In the early days of the Korean War, North Korean forces bested South Korean and UN forces time and time again. By August 1950, the UN had established a line of defense around Busan; known at the time as the Pusan Perimeter. This line was the final hope for keeping a foothold of democracy on the peninsula. It almost fell on September 1, when North Korea launched a surprise attack on the perimeter along the Naktong River.
UN Forces were successfully able to thwart the offensive and drive North Korea back in a weakened state. This was the first major defeat for North Korea since the onset of the war, and General Douglas MacArthur sought to capitalize on his demoralized opponents. He knew that Seoul needed to be retaken as a measure to break the supply chain of North Korean troops on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. While many in command wished to attack from the east, MacArthur devised the risky and bold plan to land an amphibious assault force in Incheon.
Many military analysts call the Incheon Landing Operation one of the most decisive military victories of modern warfare. The maneuver included more than 70,000 UN personnel, 10 large naval vessels, and countless smaller crafts. In four days, more than 1,300 North Koreans were killed in battle, compared to just over 200 UN soldiers. The landing led to recapture of Seoul in less than two weeks and served as a major turning point in the war.
Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall
The Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall is divided into three main areas. The lower, outside portion is dedicated to retired military vehicles. Among those on display is an US Army tank, ROK Fighter jet, amphibious assault crafts, and anti-aircraft guns. These exhibits provide visitors with examples of the tools Marines used when storming the beaches of Incheon in 1950. Ascending the staircase to the upper area leads visitors to an impressive statute of three Marines with an impressive carved mural behind the monument.
Inside the Memorial Hall are several exhibits. Unfortunately, many visitors are unfamiliar with the circumstances surrounding the division of the Korean Peninsula and the war’s inception. The first hall of the museum addresses these facts and has many US State Department cables on display. The next hall recounts troop movement and the bloody details of war. From there, visitors are guided into a large room with an amazing multimedia diorama. This showpiece accurately depicts the massive scale of the landing. Two films can be seen here that provide great insight to this decisive victory (languages available for the film: Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese).
The final hall is dedicated to weapons and equipment used by South Korean, UN, North Korean, and Chinese troops during the war. While it’s normal to see weapons on display, it’s the inclusion of mess kits and cameras that make the exhibit more human. This is probably best exemplified by the inclusion of the Japanese flag given to Kang, Dae-yoon. He was a Korean living in Japan at the onset of the war. Moved to enlist in the ROK Army, his Japanese neighbors wrote prayers and wishes for his safe return on the flag and presented it to him Kang carried the flag into battle and later had his UN comrades sign it as well.
The Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall isn’t as large and extensive as Seoul’s War Memorial and Museum, but it doesn’t need to be. The museum serves as a reminder to those who fought bravely to secure freedom. When visiting Incheon, this is one spot that can easily be overlooked, but those interested in examining Korea’s modern history closer shouldn’t pass up this excellent opportunity.
138, Cheongnyang-ro, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon
인천광역시 연수구 청량로 138 (옥련동)
• 1330 tt call center: +82-32-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
• For more info: +82-32-832-0915 (Korean)
Closed: New Year’s Day, Mondays (If a holiday falls on a Monday, then the Memorial Hall opens on that day)
1) Dongmak Station (Incheon Subway Line 1), Exit 1.
Transfer to bus 6-1, 8 or 908 and get off at Songdo Resort Bus Stop. (송도유원지)
It is a 5min-walk from the bus stop.
2) Dong Incheon Station (Seoul Subway Line 1).
Transfer to bus 6, 16 or 908 and get off at Songdo Resort Bus Stop. (송도유원지)
It takes 20min by taxi from Dong Incheon station, 10min from Dongmak station.
Web: www.landing915.com (Korean only)