Korean county building dedication to Marilyn Monroe's 1954 USO show
A small county in South Korea is betting on a legendary blonde’s visit with American troops 61 years ago to bolster its profile.
Inje County, located in the picturesque but sparsely populated northeast, is building a 10 million won ($9,150) dedication to Marilyn Monroe’s 1954 USO show.
The stone dedication at Inje Catholic Church’s square will recall an era when some of America’s biggest stars came to Korea to visit servicemembers during and soon after the end of Korean War combat.
In February 1954, Marilyn Monroe and her new husband, Yankee great Joe DiMaggio, arrived in Japan to massive fanfare. DiMaggio was well-known for his baseball clinics in the country, but it was Monroe who captured more of the country’s attention.
After a few visits with servicemembers at the Tokyo Army Hospital and elsewhere in Japan, Monroe was asked to visit troops in South Korea, a country still very much recovering from the scars of war.
Monroe performed 10 shows in four days for about 100,000 servicemembers, according to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, which houses several color pictures of the visit taken by Navy corpsman David Geary.
“[The trip] was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Monroe said, according to the Smithsonian. “I never felt like a star before in my heart. It was so wonderful to look down and see a fellow smiling at me.”
The dedication will include a large picture of servicemembers watching Monroe on stage, with the county’s fields and mountains as a backdrop. An inscription will note how Monroe “soothed the hearts” of U.S. servicemembers at the time.
Monroe’s visit to Korea is well-known among her die-hard fans, though her visit to Inje isn’t mentioned as often in the vast number of books, blogs and other tributes to her life.
Inje is mainly known for its mountains, including Seoraksan National Park, and its proximity to the Demilitarized Zone. County officials hope that recognizing Monroe’s show will cast a little bit of her limelight on them as well.
“We would like to motivate people to know about here,” said Kim Myungsoon, Inje’s public relations spokeswoman. “We’ll try to make good use of it, for not only commemorating her visit to Inje, but also promoting the county’s local culture.”