Korean War Memorial and Museum, Seoul

Korea has had a tough history.
 
I'm sure you're familiar with the Korean War. But the nation has been invaded countless times over the centuries from all sides. The museum honors those who fought to protect their country and tell their stories.
 The entire building is massive, and it took me about three hours to get through it.
 You start with a hall of reflection to set the mood. Then the history lesson begins.
 As is common in Korea, dioramas and models help bring the details to life.
 Artifacts are also found, from battle armor to documents.
 One of the rooms holds a model castle that you can explore as you learn about defending it.
 You can climb to the top of the wall.


 The major wars are explained in chronological order, and the evolution of weapons technology becomes apparent as you move from swords to cannons.
 As you move from exhibit to exhibit you find yourself back in a main hall which has a wartime ship.
 A large portion of the museum is devoted to the Korean War.

 There are several life-size recreated scenes from the war, from the battlefields and bases to the villages and cities.



 Once you've "finished" the Korean War, you end up in a large area with several planes hanging from the rafterse. The bottom floor had some fun things for children when I visited, though I think it was a temporary exhibit.
 A smaller wing tells the story of the Vietnam War, and Korea's involvement in battle.

 Continuing on, there is a section on uniforms, including the futuristic looking combat gear in the right-hand picture.
 An indoor collection downstairs has several more planes and other vehicles.
 But once you've finished inside, there's a lot left outside.
 Dozens of planes, tanks, boats, large guns, and more are found parked on the museum grounds.

 As you can see, there was a good bit of snow on the ground; I visited early in the morning just after a fresh layer of the white stuff had fallen. I believe some of the vehicles are opened for viewing at various times, but due to the snow almost nothing could be looked into. How cool it would be to climb inside a tank! The snow also made it difficult to get great pictures of some things due to glare or just being covered. I'll have to visit again sometime!
The museum opened in 1994. It's now open daily (except Monday) 9:00-18:00, with last admission an hour before closing. Admission is free.

The easiest access is via subway Line 4 or Line 6; get off at Samgakji Station. Take Exit 12 and follow the road for a couple minutes; you can't miss the museum just after the first stoplight.

Seoul Museum of History, Korea

Sometimes, museums just pop up in front of you.

Somehow I wasn't aware of this museum, located almost right next to the Korean National Police Heritage Museum. It opened in 2002, but it either wasn't listed or I overlooked it in my guide book while picking out places to visit in Seoul. Yes, I saw the Agricultural Museum and the Police Museum, but not the local history museum.
 I'm glad I saw it and had a little free time that afternoon, because it turned out to be quite a nice museum. It starts with some early history, including some nice historical artwork.
 There are several dioramas, including what must be a model of Seoul during the Daehan Empire - possibly Jongno.
 Korean museums love small models with lots of interesting details, like this pair carrying their load of wood into town.
 Some exhibits are larger, including this recration of a market stall.
 The museum is divided into five chronological areas, starting with the Joseon Dynasty, moving on to the Daehan Empire, Japanese control, growth after World War II, and finally modern Seoul. The exhibits have decent English signage.

Not everything has explanations in English, but almost everything in the permanent exhibition has English titles, as you can see from this collection of smaller dioramas relating to the occupation period:
 Laundry by the Stream.
 Barbershop.
 and Pyeonghwa Cafe. You can usually see the street scenes on one side and inside the buildings on the other.
 The modern section has a lot of great exhibits, including some recreated environments. THis is a small apartment.
 I believe they took the entire restaurant here and moved it into the museum. Seoul grew insanely fast after the Korean War, and the museum looks at the good and the bad related to that growth. Of course, the museum tells it with a mostly-happy ending, showing a futuristicly designed layout of the current city.
It started to snow just as I was leaving the museum, which at the time was quite nice! Seoul gets a good bit of snow in the winter - you may or may not like that.

Admission is free and the museum opens at 9:00 daily except Monday. It closes at 20:00 on weekdays, and 19:00 on weekends and holidays (18:00 on weekends and holidays November-February).

Access is fairly easy from the subway Line 5. The closest stop is Gwanghwmun; take Exit 7 and walk straight until you see the museum above. From Line 5's Seodaemun Station, take Exit 4 and walk straight as well; you'll pass the police museum on this route. Lines 1, 2, and 3 also stop nearby. The museum's website has pretty good English information.