Seodaemun Prison (서대문형무소) was a prison in Seoul , South Korea , now converted into a museum.

Seodaemun Prison History Hall is a museum and former prison in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It was constructed beginning in 1907. The prison was opened on October 21, 1908, under the name Gyeongseong Gamok. During the early part of the Japanese colonial period it was known as Keijo Prison (Keijō Kangoku, the Japanese pronunciation of Gyeongseong Gamok). Its name was changed to Seodaemun Prison in 1923, and it later had several other names.

The prison was used during the Japanese colonial period to imprison Korean liberation activists, and could originally hold around 500 inmates. It had a separate facility for women and young girls. In 1911, Kim Koo was imprisoned. He was one of the more important figures in the Korean liberation movement. In 1919, shortly after the March 1st Movement, the number of imprisoned increased drastically. About three thousand liberation activists were imprisoned, and shortly before the colonization ended in 1945, the number of prisoners was at 2980. Among imprisoned after the March 1st Movement was Ryu Gwansun, who died from the torture inflicted on her.

After the colonial era ended in 1945 as part of the surrender of Japan in World War II, the prison was used by the South Korean government, and was known by various official names, including Seoul Prison until 1961, Seoul Correctional Institute until 1967 and Seoul Detention Center until its closure in 1987. It was replaced by a facility in Uiwang City, Gyeonggi Province.

In 1992, the site was dedicated as the Seodaemun Prison History Hall, part of Seodaemun Independence Park. Seven of the prison complex’s original fifteen buildings are preserved as historical monuments. The History Hall showcases all those imprisoned during the Japanese colonial period and continues to serve as a memorial hall.

During a visit to Seodaemun in August 2015, former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama knelt in front of a memorial stone as an expression of apology for Japanese war crimes in World War II.

Museum 

Of the fifteen buildings that the prison had when it closed in 1987, seven have been fully restored. theFebruary 27, 1988, three prison buildings and the execution building have been classified as historic site number 324. In 1995 it was decided to convert the site into a museum. This museum, managed by the district of Seodaemun-gu  , opened in 1998  . It is also a place of memory for Korean resistance fighters who sacrificed their lives under Japanese colonization  . In 2001 Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the Seodaemun Prison Museum and apologized for the suffering inflicted on the Korean people during the colonial  .

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The museum includes different reconstructions of the prison during the period of Japanese colonization (cells, life in prison, torture rooms, watchtowers, execution site), a monument of tribute to the martyrs, permanent exhibitions on the history of the prison, educational rooms, a video room, an exhibition hall hosting various events and a library .

The prison today is located in Seodaemun Independence Park  서대문독립공원, near Independence Gate  or Dongnimmun (독립문) and Dongnimmun subway station , in Seodaemun-gu Ward.

Exhibition Hall 1F

Various information on the Seodaemun Prison History Hall can be looked up and read.

Information Search Room
Prison History Room

This is the place where changes in Seodaemun Prison, records of violent colonial governing by Japanese Imperialists, and the forcible oppression of people within the democratic movement by the dictatorship after liberation and shows a video of pertinent records.

Prison History Room
Theater

The 80 years of history from 1908 to 1987 and its implications in Seodaemun Prison are shown in the video.
· Viewing time : Every hour and every 30 minutes.
· Length : 7 minutes

Theater

Exhibition Hall 2F

National Resistance Room Ⅰ

This room exhibits the status of the independence movement and the oppression of Japanese Imperialists from the end of the Daehan Empire to 1919 in relation to Seodaemun Prison.

National Resistance Room Ⅰ
National Resistance Room Ⅱ

This is a space of reminiscence to remember independence activists by exhibiting the records of their imprisonment.

National Resistance Room Ⅱ
National Resistance Room Ⅲ

This is a place to exhibit the independent movement from the March 1 Independent Movement in 1919 to liberation in 1945 in relation to the Seodaemun Prison, and it has data on independent activists who were imprisoned in Seodaemun Prison.

National Resistance Room Ⅲ

Exhibition Hall B1

Underground Torture Room

This is the space for interrogation located under of the Security Division Hall during colonialism by Japanese Imperialists. It exhibits the real scenes of various tortures done in the process of interrogating independent activists, and it has the voice testimony of independent activists who survived to show the reality of oppressive colonial ruling.

Underground Torture Room
Shadow Image Experiment

The face of visitors is projected in the video in the shape of a shadow to make him to be a person in the independent movement with this special video to experience the independent movement then.

Shadow Image Experiment
Central Prison Building

This is the building that monitored and controlled entire facilities by connecting to Prison Building No. 10, 11 and 12.

Central Prison Building
Office of Warder

This space has displayed the status of operation of Seodaemun Prison and reproduced and exhibited the warders.

Office of Warder
Life Style in the Prison

This space displays the scenes of meal times, clothing and the everyday living of prisoners and their records in imprisonment.

Life Style in the Prison
Prison Building

This is the original appearance of the prison building where independent activists and democratic movement activists were actually placed.

Prison Building
Prison Building No. 12

It has 3 single cells arranged within the facility and it has reproduced and exhibited encrypted communication for independent activists in ‘Wall Tapping Communication’, ‘Independent Movement in the Cell’ and others.

Prison Building No. 12
Prison Building No. 11

This space exhibits the cell structure and visitors may personally enter into the cell to experience the life of imprisonment.

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Engineering Work Building

– This is the plant building where inmates labored in the Prison.

Engineering Work Building
Video of Laboring

This place shows a video of the fact that the Japanese Imperialists exploited the labor force of inmates to produce various goods and military supplies.

Video of Laboring
Labor Exhibition

This is the place that exhibits various types of labor, its record and relevant relics from the Prison during the Forcible Ruling Era by the Japanese Imperialists.

Labor Exhibition
Special Exhibition of Independent Activists of the Month

The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs selects an independent activist of the Month each month and runs this exhibit all year long.

Special Exhibition of Independent Activists of the Month
Monument

· Work name : Pot with the Soul of Nation
· Artist : Lim Seung-O (2010)
This work was produced to remember and reminisce about the souls of those independent activists who sacrificed their lives while imprisoned in Seodaemun Prison. It has the projected names of those independent activists inside.

Monument
Execution Building

This is the building for executions. Numerous independent activists and democratic movement activists were sent to this place in the name of execution.

Execution Building
Corpse Removal Exit

After executing the independent activists by the Japanese Imperialists, they tried to conceal such acts through disposing of the corpse outside through this secret passage.

Corpse Removal Exit
Yoo, Kwan-sun Underground Cell

This is the building where women independent activists were held. Underground there is a single cell and it is on the site where the Patriotic Martyr Yoo, Kwan-sun died from fierce torture as she resisted against the Japanese Imperialists.

Yoo, Kwan-sun Underground Cell
Cook House

– This is the building where food was prepared for the inmates within the Prison and was restored in 2010.

Cook House
Exhibition of Cook House Relics

This is the place to conserve and exhibit the record and data of the boiler room as discovered at the time of restoring the kitchen and it exhibits various data and relics related to Cook House then.

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Getting there

In Korean  : 서대문형무소역사관 ( seodaemun hyeongmuso yeoksagwan )
Address  : 251, Tongil-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Website  : Seodaemun Prison History Hall
Hours  : 9:30 am – 6 pm from March to October; 9.30 a.m. – 5 p.m. from November to February. Count 1h30 of visit.
Closing days  : every Monday. Also on January 1 , the day of Seollal and Chuseok. If a public holiday falls on a Monday, the museum is closed on Tuesday.
Prices : adults, 3,000 won (approx. 2.40 USD); teenagers between 13 and 18 years old, 1500 won (approx. 1.20 USD); children between 7 and 12 years old, 1000 won (approx. 80 cents). Free for children under 6 years old.
Transport  : Line 3, Dongnimmum station , exit No. 5.

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