Fire at Namdaemun

Yesterday evening, an arsonist set fire to Namdaemun Gate here in Seoul, destroying this Korean Historical Site #1. When I woke up this morning and heard the news, I found feelings for this historical structure I never knew I had. Koreans everywhere are saddened to hear the loss of this gate, which was once part of the wall that surrounded Seoul.

Namdaemun, before the fire

Namdaemun, before the fire

Namdaemun, officially called Sungnyemun, was completed in 1398 during the Joseon Dynasty as the southern entrance to the old city of Seoul. Now only Dongdaemun, the old East gate, still stands. The Japanese destroyed the protective walls around Seoul in the early twentieth-century during their rule here.

Officials added a pretty green lawn around Namdaemun Gate two years ago and reopened the site after it had been closed to the public for a number of years. It sat peacefully on its grassy island surrounded by a noisy traffic circle and tall highrises, reminding this modern city of its long history. While it had gone through a number of renovations, it still contained some original timber, making it the oldest structure in Korea.

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Click here for an AFP news article, with pictures.