19 December 2010

History Of My New Home

Well I said I would update you on the history of Waegwan and Daegu when I got the time.  Since I didn't wake up till 12:00 today I decided hang around Waegwan which means I do in fact have the time.

Waegwan and Chilgok

I am currently living in Waegwan ( 왜관 ), which is a town of about 30,000 people that is situated in Chilgok County ( 칠곡군 ).  Before I get into Waegwan's history I want to discuss how places are named in Korea.  The last symbol in Chilgok's name is 군, which is pronounced gun.  Although it doesn't mean exactly the same thing as a county, it is the closest English equivalent.  At the end of place names there will often be an extra symbol that indicates what type of place it is.  The country of South Korea is broken into 16 divisions.  A division can be a province (도 or do), a metropolitan city (광역시 or gwangyeoksi) or a special city (특별시 or teukbyeolsi).  The seven largest cities are not part of any province and are instead labeled as metropolitan cities with the exception of Seoul, which is labeled as a special city.  A province is then broken into the division of city (시 or si) and county.  The other divisions are as follows: district (구 or gu), town (읍 or eup), township (면 or myeon), neighborhood (동 or dong) and village (리 or ri).

Now onto the history of Waegwan and Chilgok.  Although there is not a great deal of history for these two places, I was able to find a couple interesting facts.  Waegwan originated as a stopping point for Japanese traders during the Choson Dynasty.  As a result, the name Waegwan was chosen because it means "foreign dwelling".  Chilgok means seven valleys (chil or 칠 is the number seven and gok or 곡 means valley) and is a reference to the seven peaks of Palgongsan.  Chilgok and Waegwan also played an important part in the Korean War, or 육이오.  The Korean actually just reads 6-2-5, which is what South Koreans call the war because it started on June 25.  Another interesting tidbit is that the North Koreans refer to the war as the Fatherland Liberation War or as the Choson War because North Koreans call their country Choson rather than Korea.

During the war Chilgok was home to the Dabu-dong battle ( 다부동전투 ), which lasted 55 days and resulted in the deaths of over 27,000 people.  The battle took place during August and September of 1950.  Waegwan saw the brutal massacre of 36 American POWs on August 17, 1950.  As North Korean forces were retreating they took 41 POWs and tied their hands behind their backs before gunning them down on a hillside.  Of the 41 men on the hill, 5 survived the encounter.

I'm planning on at least starting the write up on Daegu tonight.  Not sure exactly when I'll get it posted but it should be within the next day or two.

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