Independence Hall in Cheonan

Independence Hall might be the most famous attraction in Cheonan.  Everyone who lives here tells me I need to go.  It is also the most prominent site featured on Cheonan’s travel wiki page.

You can take the 400 bus to and from Independence Hall from downtown Cheonan.  It’s easy enough to find since you really can’t miss the giant monument next to the mountains.

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It feels like Spring!

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I saw kids flying kites and families having picnics even though it was cloudy.  There was also a Lotteria.  No offense Lotteria, but your restaurant doesn’t really match the pleasant country atmosphere.

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Cheonan is famous for walnut cookies, which I love.  You can eat Cheonan’s most well-known food in Cheonan’s most well-known attraction.

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Don’t worry Cheonan, I made sure they were delicious. Your reputation is safe.

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some people required tents

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This looks official, but I have no idea what it says.

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It is called Independence Hall because the whole park is dedicated to Korea’s independence from Japan.  There were several exhibits about Korea’s history, particularly the 35 years Korea was a Japanese colony.

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I’m feeling patriotic

You could rename the park “Every way Japan has wronged Korea”.

Every panel was about a Japanese transgression against Korea.  Whoever translated this from Korean into English really got the disdain for Japan down.

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I wouldn’t call this the most unbiased recording of history.  This was actually one of the more gentle panels.

While I was amused by the dramatic word choice, Japan’s war crimes are no laughing matter.  Japan essentially tried to stamp out Korean culture when they colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945.

Korean men were conscripted into the Japanese military, Korean women were taken as sexual prisoners, everyone had to take a Japanese name, and the Korean language could not be uttered in public.

When Koreans tried to fight for independence from Japan, they were tortured or killed.  There were several graphic pictures and even some animatronic reenactments of brutal Japanese treatment.

I saw plenty of parents take their young children through these exhibits.  I’m torn because while I don’t think parents should ever try to cover up the reality of life, I’m sure some of those kids had nightmares.

When I came to the end of the exhibit, there was a wall of accomplishments by Korean athletes, business owners, and politicians who made it to the world stage.  It was basically saying look how far Korea has come despite Japan trying to ruin everything.

I’m all for patriotism, but not when it becomes xenophobia or hatred.

I would never deny the atrocities committed by the Japanese.  I also think Japan editing out their imperialist history from their national textbooks is wrong on every level.  Don’t get me started on Japanese politicians who think colonization was actually good for Korea.  However, there is no excuse to hate an entire country and its people for an eternity.

I have had students say they hate Japan, even though they have Totoro key chains and they watch several Japanese films and cartoons.  Maybe they are just repeating what they hear from relatives.

Remembering history is essential, but if the only thing you take away from Independence Hall is that Japan is an awful country, you haven’t really learned anything.  There are plenty of angry, nationalist Korean blogs for that.

I would have liked to see something in the exhibit where it talked about turning the previous awful relationship with Japan into a positive one.  But I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.

I have no business telling Koreans how they should feel about Japan colonizing their country, but I’m not going to listen to any hatred.  If I was in Japan and I heard someone talk smack about Korea, I wouldn’t tolerate it either.

All in all, I learned about a heavy subject in beautiful surroundings.  I don’t think I will visit the exhibits again unless any visiting family would like to see it.  But the mountains were gorgeous and I’m sure I will be back when the weather improves.

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