The Korean War Veterans Memorial is a memorial dedicated to the servicemembers who fought on behalf of the United States during the Korean War of the early 1950s. The memorial is located southeast of the Lincoln Memorial in the confines of West Potomac Park, just south of where the Reflecting Pool is located. As one of the most popular memorials in the capitol, there are more than 3.5 million visitors annually.
The origins of the Korean War Veterans Memorial date to the initial confirmation of the project by act of Congress on October 28th, 1986 as Public Law 99-572. The groups tasked with managing the design and construction phases were the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board and the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).
As with other memorial projects, a design competition was held in 1986. However, the initial team of winners from Pennsylvania State University opted to withdraw from the competition due to forthcoming requirements to alter the design to pass review. A federal court case was fought and lost by the team of architects challenging the role of the Commission of Fine Arts. In the wake of the court case, the Cooper-Lecky Architects were chosen to oversee collaborative efforts from multiple designers working on the memorial going forward.
After a lengthy review and approval process, groundbreaking occurred on Flag Day in 1992 (June 14th, 1992) with President George H.W. Bush leading the ceremony. It took the cooperative efforts of multiple construction companies to finally complete the project. In total, it took the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Talix Art Foundry, Richard Sherman company, Faith Construction company, and the Cold Spring Granite Company, to get the job completed.
After completion in the first half of 1995, the memorial was finally dedicated by President Bill Clinton on July 27th, 1995, the 42nd anniversary of the day the Korean War’s armistice deal was signed. President Clinton was joined by the President of the Republic of Korea, Kim Young Sam, during the dedication ceremony.
Visiting the Korean War Veterans Memorial
While the Korean War Veterans Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day, Park Rangers are only on site to answer questions between 9:30 AM and 11:30 PM daily. Between 10:00 AM and 11:00 PM daily there are interpretive programs available at the start of every hour. Please respect requests to prohibit filming or photography that makes use of tripods or other equipment. Any filming or photography must credit the original artist who designed the memorial.
While some may miss out on the memorial, it is advisable that you take the time to visit one of the most significant memorials to the “Forgotten War” located on the National Mall. You can access the memorial via the Metro Bus or Metro Rail service. The closest station to the memorial is Foggy Bottom is accessible via the blue and orange lines. If you do decide to take the bus, the 32, 34, and 36 routes will take you to the site, as well as other memorials in the area.
We advise against bringing your personal vehicles and driving to the memorial directly as street parking is incredibly scarce. However, there are private garages and parking lots with varying fee structures depending on any special events that may be going on in the capitol. Most parking is located downtown, just north of the National Mall. The scarce free parking, which in some cases is day-long, can be found on Ohio Drive SW or in Lots A, B, and C, located south of the Jefferson Memorial. Handicapped accessible parking is available, but remember to plan for any contingencies should space be unavailable.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial’s location on the National Mall places it within short walking distance to many other memorials and monuments in the vicinity. The closest options nearby are the Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool, and Arlington Memorial Bridge, the path to the Arlington National Cemetery.
If you choose to walk, there are also the National World War II Memorial, Holocaust Museum, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial nearby. Other destinations on the Tidal Basin include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the longest-running fish market in the United States at the Southwest Waterfront, and East Potomac Park.