Seodaemun Prison was originally built in 1907 and opened in 1908 to imprison Korean independence fighters who resisted the Japanese colonization. Originally called Gyeongseong Prison, at its height held more than 2,000 prisoners when it was only meant to house 500. At the time even the capability to house 500 inmates made this a huge prison as the entire capacity of all of the prisons across the country at the time only totaled 300. Inmates not only died from torture and starvation but because of the cramped space and lack of basic human necessities died of heat stroke in the summers and froze to death in the winters.
After purchasing a ticket, visitors follow signs throughout the eerily quiet complex that is unsettlingly beautiful with the red brick against the bright blue skies that Seoul often enjoys. The first building is the museum itself which offers three floors of information. The first floor is “A Place of Reverence” to learn more about the prison and its history. Visitors then follow the signs up to the second floor which is “A Place of History” with one room that might be the darkest of all, three walls covered from top to bottom with photographs of those that died here and finally the signs lead into the basement where the torture scenes are depicted. Videos and lifelike mannequins portray what the imprisoned went through and though the English subtitles and translations are lacking they are unneeded with these representations.
After this in depth look at the grounds and the history, arrows lead visitors into the prison halls. The doors swing open and some rooms house mannequins to allow visitors to see how they communicated by knocking on the walls and how they got through the daily struggles housed here. The dimly lit dank feeling of the prison gives visitors an overwhelming feeling of loss and hopelessness especially when one tries to picture how 2000 activists could possibly be housed here at one time. After the prison halls have been visited, the arrows lead to the execution chamber and a small tunnel. The dead bodies were removed through this tunnel so that the executions could be concealed.
In 1987 part of the prison was moved to Uiwang, Gyeonggi-do but the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th prison halls as well as the leper house and the execution building were left in the area because of their historical significance. The area around the prison became a park in 1988 and monuments were relocated and erected and in 1992 the block became known as Seodaemun Independence Park. The park and prison are worth a visit to learn more about the history between Korea and Japan and the Korean fighting spirit.
Directions: Dongnimmun Subway Station exit 5. Turn left out of the station and walk through a small thicket of trees and bushes and you’ll come to the prison.
Hours: March – October: 9:30AM – 6:00PM; November – February: 9:30AM – 5:00PM
(last admission is 30 minutes prior to closing)
Closed on January 1st, Seollal, Chuseok and every Monday. If a holiday falls on Monday, the museum is closed on the following Tuesday.
Amenities: Wheelchair rental, bathrooms, parking (parking fee is W1,000), English and Japanese tour guides are available but must be reserved one week in advance by calling 82-360-8586
Website: Seodaemun Prison History HallSeodaemun Prison Seodaemun Prison was originally built in 1907 and opened in 1908 to imprison Korean independence fighters who resisted the Japanese colonization.
This month at Seodaemun Prison in Seoul there is an added exhibition titled The Flower That Doesn’t Wilt: I’m the Evidence. The exhibit is a collection of comics by 14 different artists that depicts different aspects of the lives of the comfort women from the past, the present and into the future and it is powerful. The artists did not hold back with some drawings showing men crawling all over naked women and drawings with women draped in a sea of blood. The hall that was chosen for the exhibition once held independence fighters that were tortured over and over again on their path to freedom and it seems a fitting place for such an exhibit as the dark dank hallways make the screams depicted in the comics that much stronger.
This exhibit was showcased at the 41st Angouleme International Comics Festival, the world’s largest festival for published comics, in Angouleme, France last month. This year organizers chose to focus on comics that portrayed war and sexual violence against women in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI. Not surprisingly, the exhibit did not please the Japanese government who pressured the festival organizers to cancel the exhibit and when the event was not cancelled, Japan prepared an exhibition in retaliation with a sign that read, “Comfort women do not exist”. Fortunately, the booth was immediately taken down by festival organizers who explained, “It is not political to tell people an unknown fact; what is political is to tell people a distorted fact. The South Korean exhibition is art in nature for artists to tell their memories and history, whereas the Japanese booth was extremely political in nature. So we had to tear it down.”
The exhibit will run until March 30th and is definitely worth a visit even if you can’t read the Korean titles and descriptions. Not only do people need to be more aware of this issue, but need to support the women that are fighting daily to make people see that this existed and still exists around the world today. If you’re interested in other ways to support these brave women check out my article on their Wednesday protests outside of the Japanese embassy here in Seoul and the The War and Women’s Human Rights Museum in Mapo-gu, Seoul which gives visitors a look at the history and what is happening now around the world.
Where: Seodaemun Prison
Directions: Dongnimmun Subway Station, exit 5. Turn left out of the exit and through the trees you’ll come to the prison.
Admission: W3,000 for entrance to all of the prison grounds including the exhibition.
Hours: 9:30AM – 6:00PM, last admission is 30 minutes before closing, closed on MondaysThe Flower That Doesn’t Wilt: I’m the Evidence This month at Seodaemun Prison in Seoul there is an added exhibition titled The Flower That Doesn’t Wilt: I’m the Evidence…
Most people that spend any amount of time in Korea, visiting or living, will at some point hear references made to war, commonly the Korean War and WWII or any number of wars with Japan. Signs at historical sites will remind people that the site was burnt down during some Japanese invasion before being rebuilt and political turmoil between North and South Korea is a constant reminder of the…
This month I decided I should become a professional substitute. I’m not really sure if that’s possible, but since December, I have had three substitute jobs and I just had an interview for another for April which I heard I will probably get, though it’s to be confirmed. Back when I had just come to Korea and was starting out and probably even into my third year I could not have thought of anything worse. If you were to ask me to go into a new classroom with new students on a regular basis, I probably would have gone home and sat down to cry into my dinner. Now, however, after having spent so much time here in classrooms with students ranging in age from kindergarten to adult and considering that the first few classes are filled with ice breakers and fun get-to-know-you activities, I can’t think of anything better. I feel as though I’m at an impasse. My contract has ended with a school and I have no urgent feelings to find another long term job just yet. I have things in the works and travel plans made which makes substituting on an ongoing basis seem swell at least until after we’ve traveled. I also can’t get over this feeling that no matter how long I stay in Korea and how married to a Korean I am, I will never be seen as stable or reliable in the Korean workforce. Management just never believe me when I say I’ll stay longer and I’d like to know how to get a contract longer than a year. “Give me some hoops and I’ll jump through them,” I say but, it’s to no avail and this is why in about a month I will be launching something new, details to come later. You’ll just have to wonder for a bit, but I’m excited!
Other than that which I cannot say just yet, the next most exciting thing that happened this month was that I learned to knit. I should say I’m learnING really. I met up with a friend in Ewha at this shop I’d seen as I passed by on the bus and we picked up some necessities. The shop is large and has yarn and all of the doohickies and doodads you’d want. Big needs and small needles. Needles attached with rope and needles unattached. I had no idea there were so many options and I was very glad I had a pro with me. Though the yarn was a bit expensive, I found the same for cheaper on Gmarket when I got home, the people there know what they’re doing and there are classes offered as well. Women that have all of the answers are prepared to give them to you. It was a colorful adventure.
I’ve only been at it a week, but I can’t put these needles down. I sit on my couch knitting away. There are a couple holes, but I’m okay with that on my first go of it. Imperfections prove it’s handmade… is what I’m telling myself. I’m starting with a scarf because I was told that’s pretty much what everyone starts with because it’s easy and even though winter is basically over, you’ll be seeing more sporting this when it’s done for sure.
Other than knitting, I’m finishing up this month long substitute job at two elementary schools and excited for the winds of spring that are blowing in, not excited that they’re bringing yellow dust from China though, yuck! I’ll leave you with pictures of us and our cats on my computer because they never want to be left out of anything and always want to stop me from working.February On The Go! I started learning to KNIT! This month I decided I should become a professional substitute. I’m not really sure if that’s possible, but since December, I have had three substitute jobs and I just had an interview for another for April which I heard I will probably get, though it’s to be confirmed.
Last night our little Mae, a kitten that is a growing, tried her paws at flying. It was her first attempt, though she’s been busy preparing for months and with her eagerness I imagine there will be more. Mae and Meyo are like the Wright brothers of cats. While Mae is the one doing the “flying”, Meyo is always safely on the ground beneath her keeping an on eye on the arc and speed at which she bounds. It feels like just a year ago that she was learning to drink from a straw. Oh yes, that’s right, it was a year ago.
Mostly there was sleeping in preparation for last night’s event, but in between naps there was fetch and lots of climbing to the highest places in the house scoping out the best positions. For now, here’s a quick video of Mae and the road to her first flying attempt. Do not worry, she is resilient and no animals were harmed in the attempt. Just this morning she was sitting in the very spot that she’d fallen to clearly going over various errors she made in distance last night.
Couples in Korea & Money, Part 2:
After we were married we headed to the bank with the purpose of opening up a joint account. As newlyweds we didn’t really know what we were doing, but I was sure if we were married, we should have a bank account with both of our names on it. That would make it truly official, right? If anything, I thought, this would be important in case of an emergency or…
Couples in Korea & Money, Part 1:
“How much allowance will you give your husband after you get married?” Allowance? Husband? Why were these two words in one sentence? I didn’t get allowance when I was growing up, but allowance or pocket money as my Korean students have always called it, was something that went along with children in my mind. Why would my husband need an allowance and why were my…