The QiRanger Adventures

Life and Death…

with 5 comments

Execution Memorial

Execution Memorial

One of the more interesting aspects of living abroad is trying to find some hidden cultural gems. Sure there are the big ticket touristy attractions many go out and see, but some of my best travel memories have come from just opening up the map and picking a direction and going. To a certain extent that’s what happened yesterday.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve traveled in Korea alone. Not by choice, but because the activities I’ve chosen were, as some have called it, “along the lines of thrill seeking.” Now I don’t think going on a mountain hike or visiting the DMZ all that adventurous, but then again, I like to jump out of airplanes… but I digress. So during the past week, my friends and I realized that when they first came to Korea we did many things together, but as of late we went about on different excursions. Each of us missed the camaraderie and connection we had in the beginning and decided to explore Seoul together this weekend. The problem was what exactly to discover… As I had recently chosen activities too thrilling for others, I let them plan out the day. This is what we did…

Seodaemun Prison

Seodaemun Prison

Our first stop was Seodaemun Prison. It was a good choice, as it happened to be on my list of places to visit… and the price was right at a mere W1500. Unfortunately, most of the materials for the self-guided tour are in Korean, so I missed out on a lot of what was available, but this I will share:

The prison is just over 100 years old, and by that I mean it was opened 21st October 1908. It was constructed by the Japanese to contain political prisoners when they occupied the peninsula. Once World War II ended, the Korean government used the prison until 1987.

The prison itself hasn’t been well maintained over the years and is currently undergoing renovation. The Administration Building for the prison currently serves as the museum. It was here that was the most interesting bits of history were presented. Unfortunately they do not permit photography inside, so I can’t share some of the more chilling images we saw. Namely, how the Japanese would torture men and women with cat-o-nine-tails, bamboo shoots, and soldering irons. The curators shared this gruesome history by using mannequins and screaming audio tracks. The entire scene was a bit eerie. At it’s height, the prison held roughly 500 men in women in cells no bigger then my apartment… but rather than just a single occupant, there were 8-12 per cell. To get an idea of how bad conditions were, do a little research as to how the Japanese treated American POWs in WWII… then imagine it worse.

Fall in the Yard

Fall in the Yard

But in a welcome contrast the prison grounds have been turned into a wonderful place to sit back and watch the changing colors of autumn. Doing so allows one to take in the beauty of the area, while paying respect to those that lost their lives fighting for Korea’s independence. In fact, surrounding the prison is Independence Park.

Following this little educational trip, our group went to Jamsil in search of a free cultural performance. But alas, none was to be found. It wasn’t for lack of trying either, since we found the venue only to discover no performance taking place (this was despite the Official Seoul City Guide, printed by the Seoul Tourist Authority, stated that there were weekly performances. That was fine, since I was able to scope out a new destination… Lotte World. It’s the Korean answer to Disneyland, but on a smaller scale and with out as many thrills as Everland.

Again, I digress. Those trips will have to wait for another weekend. Maybe next weekend.

Sunset on the Han

Sunset on the Han

So to round out our afternoon, we walked down to the Han River and hopped on the ferry for a delightful W11000 cruise. It took maybe an hour to float up and down the river. It was a great way to see Seoul from a new perspective. But more important it gave us a fantastic sunset.

More pictures can be found in the associated album.


Written by Steve Miller

November 2, 2008 at 4:56 am

5 Responses

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  1. Namely, how the Japanese would torture men and women with cat-o-nine-tails, bamboo shoots, and soldering irons. The curators shared this gruesome history by using mannequins and screaming audio tracks.


    John Lacey

    November 2, 2008 at 5:48 am

  2. I wouldn’t consider a mountain hike or a DMZ tour as very adventurous either. Parachuting… so-so… LOL!
    What a great day trip!
    I love the pictures you take. I especially like your artful picture of the Execution Memorial.
    I checked out your photobucket album and I noticed something on picture #3–I don’t know if it’s just me or your camera lens just caught some light reflection but there are subtle shadow plays in it.


    November 2, 2008 at 2:04 pm

  3. That’s because the sunken cells were behind a glass enclosure.


    November 2, 2008 at 2:06 pm

  4. Oh ok. Silly me. Halloween hangover spooks. : )


    November 2, 2008 at 3:09 pm

  5. Wow… visits to any prison are always creepy… especially with the audio tracks of screaming… kind of like Alcatraz, but then Alcatraz was a lot calmer!


    November 2, 2008 at 7:40 pm

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