This huge museum documents the history of the Korean War (1950–53) with heaps of black-and-white documentary footage (with English commentary) of the main battles and events. Along with photos, maps and artefacts, the films give a fascinating insight into what the war was like. There's plenty of military hardware outside – tanks, helicopters, missiles and planes, plus stirring war memorials. Time your visit to see the Honour Guard Ceremony, an awesome display of military precision and weapon twirling by the armed forces.
Exhibits cover the surprise 4am attack from the North (spearheaded by 240 Russian-made tanks), the build-up of UN (mainly US) forces in Busan, the daring amphibious landing at Incheon, the sweep north followed by the surprise Chinese attack – all of which took place in 1950.
On the 1st floor are paintings and panoramic displays illustrating many fierce battles fought against invading Mongol, Japanese and Chinese armies. Many items are only vaguely dated, but there is a replica of one of Admiral Sun-sin’s famous iron-clad turtle warships (called geobukseon), which he used to defeat the Japanese navy in the 1590s.
On the 3rd floor the Combat Experience Room is just that, and lasts five minutes (every 30 minutes from 9.30am to 4.30pm). Other displays cover Korea’s involvement in the Vietnam War (4700 Koreans died), North Korean attacks on the South since 1953, and Korea’s UN peacekeeping roles.
It takes at least three hours to browse the whole place, so arrive before 3pm. Don’t try to cover this museum and the National Museum of Korea in one day. There are free one-hour tours at 10am and 2pm daily.