A World Peace Bell Made of Cartridges (South Korea)

World Bell of Peace.

World Bell of Peace.

In the north of South Korea stands a Peace Dam. It was South Korea’s response to the Imnam Dam in North Korea built in the 1980s. South Korea’s military dictator at the time, Chun Doo-hwan, predicted that North Korea would use it to create a killer flood, wiping out most of Seoul. This was two years before the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, so no time was lost or money wasted to counteract this by building a dam on the south side.

In 2005 the $429 million construction was finished and it is currently under restoration. There is no reservoir and the dam serves only to contain a possible deluge from the North. Some may call it a necessity, others will say it’s ‘a symbol of cold war hysteria’ (thus said the New York Times, Aug 28, 2007).

The Peace Dam doesn't currently depict these faces. Is it because it's under restoration or were the faces photoshopped on images? I don't know.

The Peace Dam doesn’t currently depict these faces. Is it because it’s under restoration or were the faces photoshopped on images? I don’t know.

This is what the dam today looks like.

This is what the dam today looks like.

The International Peace Art Park

There is more than a dam. Around it are all kinds of manifestations to demonstrate what the South Koreans (and presumably the North Koreans) really want: peace. At the bottom of the dam is an International Peace Art Park with brightly colored tanks, one of them chained to the ground, another turned into a slide for kids, a third of which the barrel has been sculptured into a trumpet.

International Peace Art Park in Hwacheon, South Korea (©photocoen) International Peace Art Park in Hwacheon, South Korea (©photocoen) International Peace Art Park in Hwacheon, South Korea (©photocoen)

Nearby the dam hangs a Bell of Silence (or Bell of Desire), made of wood, and that can’t be rung – a symbol of respect of two nations that don’t speak.

This is the Bell of Silence, which can't be rung out of respect for the two Koreas being separated.

This is the Bell of Silence, which can’t be rung out of respect for the two Koreas being separated.

The World Peace Bell

We drove to the top of the dam but couldn’t drive onto it as, like I said, it was under reconstruction. Alongside the dam are plagues with prints of photos and wish-well notes from Nobel Peace Prize winners. But the part that impressed me most was the World Peace Bell, made in 2008. It was made of cartridges of 30 conflict zones in the world.

The humongous bell weighs 9,999 Gwan. One part is missing: a piece of a decorative wing, which is visible behind glass on the side with a note: When the reunification is a fact, the wing will be added to the bell, totaling its weight to exactly 10,000 Gwan (some 37,5 ton).

World Bell of Peace next to the Peace Dam, South Korea (©photocoen)

Alongside are displays with cartridges that weren’t used. Behind them are explanatory panels with copies of the sender of those cartridges. It tells personal stories that had made people feel connected this project. Among the countries that contributed were:

  • Mexico (1846-1848 American Mexican War and 1910-1917 Civil War)
  • UK (1812-1814 Anglo American War)
  • Ethiopia (1935-1936 Italy Ethiopia War)
  • China (various confrontations, with Taiwan, Indian border and Tibetan independence movement).
  • Among the others are Israel, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Russia and Vietnam)

Some come with a story:

  • Austria: “I am a descendent of a WW II refugee who now lives in Oslo. I’m sending two hunting shells.
  • Sweden: “Sweden has not had war for many years but has a huge weapon industry and thus is contributing to many wars. The shells are from a moose hunt.”

I can only hope the wing can be added shortly.

Practical information:

Hopefully this will help you get it located on the map: The Peace Dam is situated in the northeast of South Korea, in the province of Gangwon-do, north of the big town of Chuncheon and northeast of the small town of Hwacheon.

All photos by Coen Wubbels.


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