Seoul, Then And Now: 76 Years After National Liberation Day

When going around Seoul, you're bound to see many iconic landmarks. These landmarks have been around for decades - or even hundreds of years - and have witnessed many important moments in history. In honor of Korea's National Liberation Day, we've decided to showcase some important locations in the capital city of Seoul throughout the years to showcase how far Korea has come since its times of hardship.

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Gwanghwamun Gate

Gwanghwamun Gate is the largest gate of the Gyeongbokgung Palace and is a distinct landmark of Seoul’s rich history as the capital city during the Joseon Dynasty. The historical gate was first constructed in 1395, but was later destroyed during an invasion in 1592.

In 2006, Gyeongbokgung Palace underwent a 4-year restoration project where the entire palace was disassembled and rebuilt with wood in its original location and position. The palace was reopened to the public again on August 15, 2010, Korea’s National Liberation Day.After being left in ruins for 250 years, restoration efforts began in 1867. However, in 1926, the Japanese government moved the gate to another location in order to build the Japanese Governor General Building in Gwanghwamun’s original spot. After the gate was destroyed in the Korean war, the landmark was rebuilt with concrete in 1968. It was restored back to its original wooden structure and its original position in 2010, and the landmark was opened to the public on 15th August that year.

Seokjojeon Hall

The Seokjojeon Hall is part of the Deoksugung Palace and was built in 1910 when Japan annexed Korea. The long-term construction and completion of Seokjojeon Hall was made possible because of King Gojong’s strong belief that the hall was a symbol of the Korean empire itself and the authority of the royal family. True to his belief, Seokjojeon Hall served as the imperial palace of King Gojong, the last king of Joseon, from 1910-1919; when Korea became occupied by Japan.

Today, Seokjojeon Hall stands as a reminder of King Gojong’s fervent belief in the sovereignty of Korea and a symbol of the country’s perserverence, after it survived the colonial era.

Today, Seokjojeon Hall reflects Emperor Gojong’s hope for the continued sovereignty of the nation, and after the Japanese colonial era, continued to stand as a landmark of the late Joseon/early Korean Empire period.

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Hwanggungu Pavilion

The Hwanggungu Pavilion is an octagonal shrine built in 1899. It sits on the north side of the altar complex formerly occupied by the Wongudan Altar, which was demolished by the Japanese in 1913. The pavilion is meant for the worship of Heaven and paying respects to Taejo, the founder of Joseon. The Rite of Heaven was performed first performed by King Seongjong during the Goryeo Dynasty. He standardized the Wonguje rituals, but they eventually came to a halt. After a series of failed attempts to restart the rite by King Sejo and King Gojong during the Joseon Dynasty, the Gocheonje ritual was finally revived in 2002 with the intention of annual performance as a revival of Korean cultural heritage.

The Hwanggungu Pavilion was once the location for a sacred rite meant to bring a bountiful harvest. After the Japanese colonizers abolished the practice in 1910, it took almost 100 years for the sacred rite to finally be brought back.

Cheonggyecheon Stream

Cheonggyecheon Stream is a 10.9km-long stream that flows from the west to east through downtown Seoul before reaching the Han River and emptying into the Yellow Sea. After the Korean War in the early 1950s, there was a large migration of people into Seoul. Overcrowding caused people to build makeshift houses by the stream. Due to the lack of proper garbage facilities, people had no choice but to dump their trash into the stream.

The Cheonggyecheon Stream is now a public recreation space and a popular date night spot for couples. It also hosts various events such as the annual Seoul Lantern Festival.

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