The QiRanger Adventures

The Sights of West Seoul

with 8 comments

If you’re ever on the west side of Seoul, there are some great historical sights to see. They tend not to get as much attention as the famous cultural landmarks of the city, but they are worth seeing. In fact, the three that Jo and I visited with friends on Sunday are all within a few blocks of one another can are easily accessible by both bus and metro.

Independence Gate

The first place we visited was Dongnimmun (동님문) Gate. It serves as a marker for the spot where Korean and Chinese offices met when Korea was part of China. It’s also the gateway for Independence Park.

The park has several memorials dedicated to those who helped spur Korea’s independence from China during the Qing Dynasty under King Gojong. The place must really look fantastic in the summer, since there are several large fountains and pools that are now all dried up. One of the places where I’d really like to take a longer look is Mohwagwan (모화관) – which is now named Independence Hall. Information states that there are memorial tablets for many martyrs housed in the basement.

Torture at Seodaemun

Our second stop that day was Seodaemun Prison (서대문). It’s a frightening structure that served as a repository for those interned by the Japanese. It was home to some gruesome instances of torture.

It was used up through the end of World War II. Things have changed a little since I was there last year. Most notably, the Prison History Hall has been closed and many of the exhibits have been moved to one of the prison wings.

In some ways this is good, as it allows visitors to spend more time in the actual “prison” – but a lot of the effects that were in the hall are now gone. For example, in the scene above, there used to be more audio and movement from the mannequins. It still drives home the point at how horrific the Japanese were during this time, but I found the prior displays better. The other good great thing about the new displays, is that now you can take photos and video, where you couldn’t before.

Gyeonghui Palace

Our last stop was Gyeonghuigung and the Seoul history Museum. Here’s what the Wiki entry says about it:

It was one of the “Five Grand Palaces” built by the Joseon Dynasty.

In the latter Joseon period, Gyeonghuigung served as the secondary palace for the king, and as it was situated on the west side of Seoul, it was also called Seogwol (a palace of the west). The Secondary palace is usually the palace where the King moves to in times of emergency.

From King Injo to King Cheoljong, about ten kings of Joseon dynasty stayed here at Gyeonghuigung. This palace was built using the slanted geography of the surrounding mountain, has traditional beauty in its architecture and a lot of historical significance. For a time, it was of a considerable size, even to the point of having an arched bridge connecting it to Deoksugung palace. For the king’s royal audience, there were the Sungjeongjeon and Jajeongjeon buildings, and for sleeping, Yungbokjeon and Hoesangjeon buildings.

The Japanese completely destroyed Gyeonghuigung during the Japanese occupation period in order to build a school for Japanese citizens. Reconstruction started in the 1990s as part of the South Korean government’s initiative to rebuild the “Five Grand Palaces” heavily destroyed by the Japanese. However, due to urban growth and decades of neglect, the government was only able to reconstruct around 33% of the former Palace.

For more pictures of our day out, click here.


Written by Steve Miller

January 26, 2010 at 2:15 pm

8 Responses

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  1. Amazing pictures! Those museums are definitively the kind I would go visit!! Makes me want to go to Japan! 🙂

    Have I said I loved your camera by the way? lol


    January 26, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    • Thanks. Jo took over 500 with the 20D. I think I wound up only taking about 50 in total with the video camera. I’ve been really pleased with the camera, but still learning how best to use it. It’s so much more advanced than my other one. These places are fantastic, but there are even more spectacular places to see here in Seoul. I can’t wait for Gwanghwamun to reopen… that and Namdaemun!!!


      January 26, 2010 at 2:28 pm

  2. Hi, Steve
    Your blog is awesome always. 😀
    okay anyway, I found wrong Korean in your page.

    Dongnimmun is right! and Dongnimmun is right.
    But, 동립문 is wrong. 독립문.
    독립 mean Independence. 문 mean Gate.
    독립문(Independence Gate).

    Korean literature is very difficult. I do not remember about it. 🙂

    Benjamin Jeong

    January 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    • Thanks Benjamin.

      독립문 is Independence Gate (it’s even written on the gate itself), but the older name for the area is Dongnimmun, which is why the station was given that name. Both are used today.


      January 26, 2010 at 4:02 pm

  3. I love visiting cultural spots when travelling, and especially those a bit of the tourist map!

    I have Korea on my To-Visit list, and if I ever make it there I’ll definitely check these places out! 😀


    January 31, 2010 at 4:01 am

    • Very cool Julie. I think you’d really enjoy it! Be sure to let me know if you do come here… I might still be in-country.


      January 31, 2010 at 1:13 pm

  4. Hello!
    I’d just like to say that I immensely enjoy your blog. I’ve been reading a lot of your past blog entries, and came across this one.

    Although the history surrounding Dongnimmun is an intricate one, it’s a bit misleading to say that Korea was ever “a part of China”, as Korea was never culturally or even territorially a part of China. The gate does, however, symbolize the re-instatement of complete sovereignty of the Joseon Dynasty.

    I know it seems like a very trivial difference, but it’s always important to have these kinds of reservations when talking about such touchy subjects.


    September 19, 2010 at 3:18 am

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