Monday 30 May 2011

Geoje POW Camp

A couple of weeks ago I went to visit the site of a POW camp on Geoje Island (very near to Busan). I was really disappointed with the site and wasn't sure whether to post about it or not. Since I have the pictures from it I've decided to voice my opinion on the place, and what I feel are it's bad points. Firstly let me say that I've come to realise how lucky us Europeans (Gasp a Briton referring to themselves as European, what would the Queen say!), how lucky we are. Despite being ravaged by war throughout history, many, many historical sites still exist and have been well kept or restored. In my experience in this part of Asia (China and Korea are my examples), places of historical importance or interest have been totally destroyed, and what now stands in their place are below par replicas. Case in point: Geoje POW Camp. Whilst we were there I got the feeling of it being in a similar vein to Auchwitz (which I have also visited). I know they are not the same as one housed soldiers and the other total innocents, but still there is a slight similarity as they both were held as prisoners. In Auschwitz you are confronted with the horror of the place and the exhibits show you exactly what went on there, in all it's gory details. This Korean camp was like being at a theme park. There was even a place for children to stick their heads through wooden screens and have their pictures taken as one of the prisoners. This area was called 'Photo Park'.

Around the main area there was nothing original still standing. Plastic figures showed you what camp life was like (there was even a modal of a guy squatting over the latrine). The captions below every picture or reconstruction inform you that 'conditions met with the Geneva convention rules'. This to me read like propaganda. I hazzard a guess that not every single guard knew the rules of the Geneva convention let alone followed them to the letter. Please don't water down my information. I want to know what actually happened in this place. Call me crazy but isn't it important to see where we went wrong so we can learn from it in the future?! For me as soon as I have 'look how good we were' shoved down my throat everything begins to lose it's authenticity. (another case in point; The museum to resist US aggression and aid Korea, Dandong, China. So biased I walked around the whole place godsmacked!). Here are two examples of the propaganda from the war on show there:

This reads: Where would you rather be? Blair Hall; Princeton University (above). If your parents had the money, you might be there instead of in Korea. University students get draft deferments. US Marines in Korea (below). Gaunt and tired after facing death on a night patrol. They couldn't go to college and got no draft deferments.

and this one says:

‘She’s happy because her husband is a POW and no longer risking his life on the front lines. She KNOWS he will go back to join her as soon as the armistice is signed.

What about you? You may be killed or maimed any minute. That’s why your mother, your wife or your sweetheart don’t know a moments peace from worry about you. Why don’t you ease their minds. Why don’t you make sure you too will go home.

The Koreans and Chinese are lenient with their prisoners. They guarantee your life, security and freedom for maltreatment.’

Anyway I digress. So after walking around the site, looking into empty tents and being shoved by Korean visitors who rushed around each exhibit, click, got a photo, and onto the next one, click, and on again, click click click. I felt really let down. We did manage to find a small area outside the main complex where the original buildings that are left were. These are merely shells of the guards quarters, but still they are the real parts of the camp. So my verdict? Not worth it, read about the place on the 'net if you're interested. Save your money and go to the DMZ instead.

See you again? Don't hold your breath.

A ride through the big tank.

Communists to the left of me, capitalists to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.


Camp life

Fights between the communists and anti-communists.

Ignorance breeds Ignorance.

Reconstructed camp.

Looks, here's me, pretending to be a Prisoner of war. What fun!

Another photo op.

Something interesting, I wish I could have read it: Kim Il-Sung's letter to Mao Zedong asking for assistance.

A big helmet

This is what the DMZ soldiers do.


Carrying away the sh*t.

People lined up to have their picture taken squatting behind him.
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