As I am currently between jobs (my new job doesn’t start till July 3), I am taking a three-week holiday to Thailand (I have a friend at the Dhammakaya Temple just outside of Bangkok).

I packed up some of my stuff and sent it to the new school, which is in Cheongju. Other stuff I am storing with a friend in Pyeongtaek, and the things I don’t need I am leaving behind for the next occupant of the apartment. The rest I am taking with me to Thailand. So this morning, I left my apartment in Pyeongtaek for the last time and headed to the train station.

I got a pleasant surprise, as some of my friends and former colleagues were setting up a food stall fundraiser outside of the station. I chatted for a while and got a hot dog, which was good as I hadn’t had any breakfast.

After arriving at Seoul Station, I found the storage lockers. Unlike the coin lockers in Japan, these involved a sophisticated piece of electronic equipment, including a fingerprint reader which is used to identify the customer when she or he collects the luggage at the end. The machine told me all the lockers were full, but there was clearly one open (but my CPAP machine didn’t fit as well as the suitcase). A Japanese couple came along and reclaimed their luggage, which was stored in the biggest size locker, which I used.

After some lunch, I caught the subway to Yongsan Station, and then took a bus to the National Museum of Korea.

National Museum of Korea as seen from the entrance.

We all had to put our bags through a metal detector to be allowed to enter. While I was waiting in line, I met a young lady from Spain who I chatted to while we were waiting. She told me she was Basque. I’d never met a Basque before!

I went to the third and top floor and started in the Asian Art section. They had exhibits from India, China, Vietnam and Japan. Some of the Chinese exhibits dated back to the 6th century CE. There isn’t a lot that old in New Zealand museums!

The Buddhist Art exhibit consisted of statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, many from the Goryeo period (918-1392).

There were a number of Korean wooden boxes decorated with mother-of-pearl on display.

On the second floor was calligraphy and painting, but there were a lot more paintings than calligraphy exhibitions. Many of the Korean paintings featured flowers and birds. There was also a Buddhist painting section, which featured paintings of the Kings of Hell, as well as a painting of Amitabha Buddha presiding over Sukhavati (the Western Paraside). This painting was similar to ones I’d seen in temples here in Korea.

There were also a number of private collections on the second floor. It was in one of these (I think) that an unusual exhibit was on display: a Corinthian Greek helmet from around 800-700 BCE. The reason that this helmet was here was that a Greek newspaper had acquired it and promised to give it to the winner of the marathon in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The winner was a Korean, Sohn Kee Chung, who had to compete using the Japanese version of his name, Son Kitei (due to Korea being under Japanese control at the time). He also refused to acknowledge the Japanese national anthem at his award ceremony. But he didn’t get the helmet, as the International Olympic Committee said that presenting a valuable gift to the winner of an event would violate its amateur rules. The helmet went to a Berlin museum but was finally awarded to Sohn in 1986, and in 1987 he donated it to the Korean government It was designated the 904th treasure of South Korea.

The helmet.

After looking at the exhibits in the other private collections, I went down to the first floor. These galleries covered the history of Korea, and the first one I looked at was about the Korean Empire (1897-1910). King Gojong declared himself Emperor Gojong, and began a series of modernizations to Korea. However, the Japanese and Russians fought a war in the early 1900s, and in 1910, Japan annexed Korea with the signing of the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910 (which the exhibit claimed was invalid as it was not signed by the Korean Emperor).

I didn’t look round all the galleries on the first floor, as my back was sore from carrying my backpack (which didn’t seem heavy this morning). I got a bus back into Seoul and briefly visited the Joygesa. After getting a mobile card reader from Daiso, I made my way back to Seoul Station where I had dinner. Then I caught the Airport Railroad to Incheon Airport, where I am now (sitting near a charging station). My flight to Thailand leaves at 5:50am on Sunday.

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