Monday, February 11, 2008


A few months ago I took some pics of Namdaemun (officially Sungnaemun 숭례문) on two different occasions (mun is gate). I had planned on posting them but never got around to it.
October 26th:side view at nightthe ceiling through the gateNovember 4th:Front view with guardsUnfortunately, I was unable to go into the main structure.
Seoul Sungnyemun
Designation: National Treasure No. 1
Period: Joseon Dynasty 1389
Location: 29 Namdaemunno 4(sa)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
This was the main gate in the fortress wall of Seoul. It is also called Namdaemun (Great South Gate), as it is the southern gate of the capital city. It was first constructed in 1389, and was rebuilt in 1448.
The gatehouse, which measures 5 kan (a kan is the interval between the pillars) in width and 2 kan in depth, is a wooden structure built in typical style. It is the largest city gate in Korea. There are some conflicting theories about the author of the characters on the plaque hanging from the gate, but it is recorded in an old text called "Jibongyuseol" (1634) that they were written by Prince Yangnyeong.
[from the sign posted at the site]
It is just around the corner from Seoul Station. Next to it is Namdaemun Market, which is a huge outdoor/indoor market full of clothes, shoes and other such things.
Namdaemun WAS such a beautiful structure. Last night it burnt down.
The fire supposedly started at around 8:30 and lasted long through the night. At around 11pm a news article came out reporting that there was no major damage.
Arson Suspected in Namdaemun Fire
REALLY??? No major damage? From seeing live coverage on Korean news channels I could tell that it was pretty much destroyed, even at around 11 P.M.
Fire Destroys Historic Seoul Landmark
Fire destroyed perhaps Seoul’s most famous landmark on Sunday night when flames engulfed the Sungnyemun, more commonly known as Namdaemun or South Gate, the nation’s no.1 national treasure. Thirty-nine fire engines and 88 firefighters rushed to the scene at shortly before 9 p.m. on Sunday. The destruction of a six-century-old national treasure is being blamed on the misjudgment of firefighters and inept attempts to bring the fire under control at the initial stage. At 10:30 p.m., firefighters believed they had extinguished the flames, but it rekindled on the second floor and engulfed the gate. A taxi driver identified as Lee Sang-gon said he saw a man entering Namdaemun with a bag in his hand while waiting for a fare. “Several minutes later, a fire broke out on the second floor of the gate. I immediately reported it to police.”
Firefighters fought the blaze with ladders and fire hoses at 8:55 p.m. and by 10: 30 p.m. thought the fire was under control and focused on putting out smaller flames. But the blaze rekindled at 10:40 p.m. and burnt the roof out. It collapsed at 12:40 a.m. on Monday. At 12:00 a.m., firefighters belatedly tried to take the roof apart and douse the gate with water inside, but the effort failed and firefighters were reduced to watching the gate collapse while they sprinkled water around it at ground level.
Gate That Survived 600 Years Consumed by Fire in Hours
Seoul’s historic Sungyemun, better known as Namdaemun or South Gate, which was razed by a fire on Sunday night, had survived several wars including the Japanese invasion during the Chosun dynasty in 1592 and the Manchurian invasion of Korea in 1636. Now, due to a suspected attack by a lone arsonists, one of the oldest remaining wooden structures in Seoul is no more.
The 600-year-old gate was designated the no.1 national treasure in December 1962. The biggest remaining castle gate, construction began in the area where Mt. Namsan met the southern castle wall in 1395, after the Chosun dynasty moved the capital to Seoul. It was completed in 1398.
The gate was repaired in 1447. According to historical documents found during repair work in the early 1960s, the gate underwent another massive restoration in 1479. There was also large-scale repair work from 1961 to 1963 of damage inflicted during the Korean War. Since then, only minor repairs have been carried out. The Sungnyemun stood forlorn on a traffic island in the thick traffic of central Seoul after the Japanese destroyed the castle wall during colonial rule. But in May 2005, a new plaza was opened around the gate, which was opened to the public in March 2006 for the first time in 100 years. Sunday night’s tragedy was the first fire at Sungnyemun in 600 years.
How sad. :(
[photos of fire and damage from]

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