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Document: Tongdosa had military hospital during Korean War

Document: Tongdosa had military hospital during Korean War

Posted October. 22, 2019 07:30,   

Updated October. 22, 2019 07:30


Evidence has been found pointing to the installment of a military hospital at Tongdosa Temple during the Korean War in the 1950s. In the process of studying Buddhist relics from a molding sitting Mireuk statue at Yonghwajeon, they came across a document stating the history of a military hospital of 31 Army Division, which was built at Tongdosa Temple after the war broke out on June 25, 1950, which later on was operated for two years until April 1952.

In the document handwritten by Buddhist monk Guha, the document contains description about 3,000 wounded soldiers entering the temple and leaving it after care. The exact name of the hospital is Tongdosa Branch Hospital of 31 Army Division. On October 24, 1951, this newspaper issued an article titled “Socks provided for wounded soldiers by President Rhee Syng-man” where 1,600 pairs of socks were sent to the soldiers at the branch hospital.

From the major palace to small hermitages inside the mountains, the temple was packed with patients who were injured from the battle of the Nakdong River. Some facilities were used as an office, care unit or operating room, with Buddhist monks taking care of the injured.

“I’ve heard from my predecessors that more than 10 soldiers died every day while in treatment. They were cremated at the temple’s Dabijang,” said Seongpa, the head monk of Tongdosa Temple. The Dabijang where the injured soldiers were cremated is located on the right side of the mountain, roughly 400 meters away from the temple gate.

Hyo-Lim Son aryssong@donga.com