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Saturday, 16 February 2008

Namdaemun: Then and Now

I've visited Namdaemun in Seoul on countless occasions. It is located in the heart of the city and I have taken lots of pictures of the beautiful monument, which sits at over 600 years old. So to discover that the ancient gate was set ablaze while I was perusing news headlines, I was surprised to say the least!

For those unaware, Namdaemun was set on fire just over a week ago. The entire incident was suspected to have originated from an arsonist, which proved to be true soon afterwards. A 70 year old man, known as "Chae" confessed to lighting Namdaemun on fire with paint thinner and a lighter.

Why the heck did this elderly man set the structure on fire? Well, his beef was about how he was not properly compensated by delevopers in the sale of a plot of land he owned. His cries for help went unnoticed so he took matters into his own hands!

Koreans are a very patriotic bunch, and to see their #1 National Treasure burn to the ground must have been devastating! They are planning to rebuild and restore the gate, but it obviously won't be the same. Let's take a look at some pictures of Namdaemun I've snapped up in the past...

...during the daytime (check out my post on Namdaemun Market)


...a few during the night...(from my trip to City Hall at night)






Pictures of the fire...here it is set ablaze with the wooden structure at the top crumbling to the ground (picture credit to the AP):


...and the aftermath (NY Times)!


Here's a clip of the inferno...


For those still in Korea...what is the general mood about the destruction of this national treasure?

14 comments:

JMoore said...

Just found your site and thought I'd comment. Even my 5 year old students knew all about it the day after it happened. I went to take pics the day after, and there were many young people taking pics on their cameras as well. It's a shame.

John said...

If I just saw the pics and didn't read the text, I woulda dropped my jaw

John from Daejeon said...

I wish more people over here cared about the real living and breathing human beings (their brothers and sisters to the north) instead of equating this loss as akin to 9/11 where thousands were actually killed.

Recently, N. Korea killed 22 refugees (who made a daring Lunar New Year escape) that were returned by South Korea. These were 22 men, women, and children. N. Korea also killed a businessman who made an "international" phone call. There is something very wrong here when they are more upset over a inanimate object than what is happening to old friends and family a stone's throw away.

This guy has a great blog on such information (it's just too bad that most S. Koreans can't access any information on the North's atrocities or must only rely on the whitewashed version that the S. Korean government must publish at the North's insistence):

http://briandeutsch.blogspot.com/

http://briandeutsch.blogspot.com/2008/02/22-north-korean-refugees-returned.html


P.S., it is sad that a cultural relic was lost (as once were the dinosaurs), but to treat human life with such carelessness is abysmal. It let's people know their true standing in this system, or lack of standing.

will cote said...

several (korean ) people said that they cried or had friends that cried

John from Daejeon said...

Actually, this blog ( http://populargusts.blogspot.com/ ) has the best insight on the fire and aftermath that I have seen so far. Also, he takes us into the role that the media has played in the event. You might have to scroll down a ways to view the first post though.

matthew26 said...

such a cruel thing to do. well compensated or not, one should have not done such a thing. destroying something that is very much important to so many people. there are other ways to catch the attention of those developers. it's just sad.

Aaron said...

Very cool night shots you took of Namdaemun.

The NY Times pic of the inferno actually makes it look like it's being blown apart by artillery fire. Maybe we could start a conspiracy theory blaming the North Koreans, or better yet, the Japanese.

r2 said...

what can we say - shit happens, not just in korea...

W M Schoenhofer said...

Many people here are upset with the fire cheif... since the fire could have been easily controlled but he didn't put enough hoses on it until it was far to late. I was watching live on the news and it didnt even look bad at all just a bit of smoke then the next morning i found out it burned completely down i was so shocked. there are rumors here that the fire cheif will be facing criminal charges as well as the old man.

Anonymous said...

I always pass through this place when going to shop in Dongdaemun.
I heard it's been around for years,they even play some traditional movies in the place.

I am sorry it happened that way....They just have to rebuild it.

They have to endure it..It's not worst than all the stuff that has happened in other countries,that even killed many people.

If this didn't happened ..who knows what might have happened,it could be worst.

I always wish them well....

soccer jerseys said...

Sad thing that happened, made me want to make a trip there just to have a look, after not having visited for 2 years. I really miss Seoul.

Anonymous said...

What a shame. Although thousands of lives weren't loss, a historical monument like this isn't just a patriotic symbol, it's a world treasure. History is priceless, so it's a shame that such work was destroy, probably by an arsonist.

Anonymous said...

Reading through the comments, I don't really disagree with anyone. I would add that this kind of loss does not need to compete with worse situations, like 9/11 or North Korean violence or anything else, in order to be valid itself. The loss of a historical monument, one that survived wars, because of one man's gripe, is maddening.

MikeHu said...

This was such a terrible disaster. Shame on the man that set Namdaemun on fire. It's odd how there wasn't more security for Korea's #1 national tresure. I watched the whole thing on the news and it went down pretty fast. I wonder how it'll be after it is rebuilt.

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