Monday, February 11, 2008


A Sad Day

The following information and photos come from Wikipedia's entry on Namdaemun:

"Sungnyemun or Namdaemun is a historic gate located in the heart of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The landmark is officially called Sungnyemun, literally "Gate of Exalted Ceremonies", as written in hanja on a plaque on the wooden structure.[1] As the southern gate of the original walls surrounding Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty, it is widely known as Namdaemun, literally "the great southern gate".

"Sungnyemun was the oldest wood-built structure in Seoul.[4] The construction of this gate began in 1395 during the fourth year of the reign of King Taejo of Joseon and was finished in 1398. The structure was rebuilt in 1447 and was renovated several times since.

"In the early part of the 20th century, the city walls that surrounded Seoul were demolished by the Japanese Government, allegedly to ease the flow of traffic in the area. The gate was closed to the public in 1907 after the Japanese colonial authorities constructed an electric tramway nearby. Sungnyemun was extensively damaged during the Korean War and was given its last major repair in 1961, with a completion ceremony held on May 14, 1963. It was given the status of "National Treasure No.1" on December 20, 1962.

"At approximately 8:50 p.m. on February 10, 2008 a fire broke out and severely damaged the wooden structure at the top of the Namdaemun gate. Over three hundred firefighters fought to bring the flames under control. There were no injuries reported.

"As of February 11, police are investigating possible causes of the fire. Although no positive determination has been made, a 70-year-old man, Chae, was arrested on suspicion of arson, and reports say he has since confessed to the police in writing. The same man had been charged with setting fire to Changgyeong Palace in Seoul in 2006. The cause was originally suspected as accidental; however, many witnesses have reported seeing a suspicious man shortly before the fire, and two disposable lighters were found where the fire was believed to have started.

"The Cultural Heritage Administration of South Korea said that it would undertake a three year project that would cost an estimated 21 million dollars to rebuild and restore the historic gate."

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