Internship Opportunity
The view of plots 34 and 35, containing the graves of thousands of soldiers who lost their lives during the Korean war

Cemetery Testimony 1

Hoh Jun Choi

Babson College ‘20

On June 21st, me and my fellow interns went to do volunteer work through the Jaseng Foundation Outreach Program to the Korean National Cemetery where the soldiers who lost their lives during the Korean war are memorialized.

It was my first time going to the National Cemetery of Korea, and the first thing that struck me was the amount of tombstones and graves that were there and how well kept they were. With thousands of tombstones in the ground, we learned that more than one hundred thousand soldiers lost their lives and were now buried in the cemetery. Sprawling for acres and acres, each tombstone had the name and date of birth etched beautifully into the hard granite with a pot of fresh flowers next to each one.

Various bridges separate the entrance to the cemetery to the burial grounds themselves. This photo taken to illustrate the beauty of the Korean National Cemetery

We went with a large group of around 25 people, mostly elderly women, who had a passion for volunteer work, and upon arrival we learned of our task for the day which was to do maintenance and cleaning work for each and every tombstone in lots 34 and 35. This meant thousands, and I mean literally thousands of tombstones. For each grave we had to wipe off any dust or bird feces that may have collected, while pulling out each and every pot and flower that lay beside the tombstone for cleaning. Although it was hard work, with the large group we went with, the hardship went by much faster than anticipated.

However, during this manual work we were doing in the summer heat, there was a sense of reverence and deeper connection to these remembrance of the dead as these were people just like me and you who fought and died for the freedom of their country so that South Korea could become the nation that it is today. When doing maintenance for each and every grave, I felt a sense of responsibility, where I didn’t know this person personally, I still wanted to make sure I did a good job and take care of the dead.