Tag Archives: Japanese occupation

The hidden hangouts of Seoul City Hall

I’ve been curious to visit the new Seoul City Hall building since I first saw it. Its striking wave-like glass design makes you wonder what kind of modernities you might find inside. Here’s a picture from a previous post in case you’ve forgotten:

The new Seoul City Hall. It's the glass building in the rear that looks like a wave. The former city hall in front is now the Seoul Metropolitan Library.
The new Seoul City Hall. It’s the glass building in the rear that looks like a wave. The former city hall in front is now the Seoul Metropolitan Library.

Little did I know, you actually can go on a self-guided tour of new (and old) City Hall — they make it easy by providing small booklets that guide you step-by-step through the various things to see. I was just looking for a place to grab a drink and do some work, so that was a pleasant surprise.

A bit of background before I take you on part of the tour. The new City Hall opened not that long ago in 2012. It has 13 floors above ground and five floors underground, and is designed to be eco-friendly, of course.The former City Hall, which sits in front of it, was turned into the Seoul Metropolitan Library. Continue reading The hidden hangouts of Seoul City Hall

If old prison walls could talk

This might seem like a morbid post for some of you, but I was intrigued by the Seodaemun Prison History Hall and the stories those walls had to tell. I don’t believe I’ve ever visited a former prison, and definitely not one that housed prisoners of war.

Seodaemun Prison is located at Seodaemun Independence Park in Seoul. It was built in 1908 and used during the colonial period of Japanese occupation to house Korean independence activists. (After the colonial period ended in 1945, it was used by the South Korean government until 1987.) I shouldn’t say “house,” since many of them were brutally tortured and then executed. The prison was built to accommodate about 500 people, but eventually housed more than 3,000 prisoners simultaneously at the height of protests. They were cramped, their cells had no heating in the winter and no cooling in the summer. They ate small rations of rice and were forced to work long days on the complex building bricks and military uniforms.

The prison is now a museum and a self-guided tour takes you through most of the buildings. You can step into regular cells and isolation cells. You can see the basement where the Japanese interrogated and tortured prisoners upon arrival (life-like scenes are recreated in case you can’t picture the torture clearly enough in your mind), including the various torture devices used. You can also visit the lepers’ building, the outdoor exercise facility and the execution building. Continue reading If old prison walls could talk