A Brief Visit to the 4.19 Memorial Cemetery

4-19 Memorial

I had got the bike that I mentioned in my Ilsan post back in late June, the 25th to be exact. Like any new toy you just get, I was taking out my bike all the time. Any and every opportunity I had, I used to ride my new bike. This was actually my first bike I’ve ever bought, so it has an extra sentimental value to it. It also opened a new world of freedom that I hadn’t experienced before. I have always had this distaste for walking – it took too long. With my bike, I could go further and faster and explore more of not just my neighborhood, but all of Seoul. It gave me access to places that I was just to lazy to reach via by foot.

Anywho, around early July, I decided to take my bike out during my lunch break. The weather was overcast, which was great because it shielded from the hot summer sun. I hit up my buddy Kyle (who had also gotten a bike the same day as me) and invited him to join me on this spontaneous bike ride. We had no particular direction but found ourselves heading towards the nearby bike trail. We had always taken the southern direction towards the Han River. We decided to take a risk and head north on the bike trail instead. Yes, we’re so daring and adventuresome. At the end of the trail, we had to carry our bikes up the stairs to the streets. We had found ourselves at one of the gates into Deoksung Women’s University. We still had plenty of time left and continued heading north along the quiet neighborhood streets while still running parallel to Ui Stream. It seemed the houses in this area had been around for a long time.

4-19 Memorial

Kyle recognized that we were in the vicinity of the 4.19 Memorial Cemetery. He suggested we go check it out. I have been living in Suyu-dong for over 4 years. I always knew the 4.19 Memorial Cemetery was there. In fact, there’s a street from the 4.19 Memorial Cemetery intersection that’s lined with all sorts of fancy cafes – in huge contrast to the rest of the grimey-ish mega-neighborhood of Suyu. I don’t know why, but I never ventured down into the actual 4.19 Memorial Cemetery before. In 4 years time, this was the first time I’d be visiting the national cemetery.

4-19 Memorial

Let me pause here to briefly explain what 4.19 means and why this memorial was established in the first place. 4.19 refers to April 19th, 1960. The first president of South Korea, Rhee Syngman, was rigging the voting ballots so that he’d be elected again. Obviously, nobody likes a cheater (why are politicians historically under the impression that they can get away with illegal conduct and not think they’ll get caught. I think, other than celebrities, they are one of the most scrutinized public figures in any society). And those people wanted to voice their disapproval. Several of these civilians, in particular students, marched towards the National Assembly to protest against Rhee Syngman. Police then opened fire on the protesters, and some 224 civilians were killed. This enraged the nation, forcing President Rhee to step down. You can read more about the events in this wikipage.

Back to the 4.19 Memorial Cemetery visit, I’m so glad I did – the memorial was huge and beautifully designed. There were several monuments and a variety of trees and plants carefully placed around the graves. A traditional style Korean shrine was in the back containing the photos of all the people who died in the revolution on April 19th. I got Kyle to do a #strideby photo in the large open courtyard as you can see up top.

4-19 Memorial
4-19 Memorial

Time quickly passed as I wandered around exploring the memorial. I wanted to take more photos but realized our lunch hour was almost over. A little disappointed I had to leave so soon, we got back on bikes and headed back to work. You can learn more about this national cemetery and the revolution that occurred on April 19th at the official website here.

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