March 18, 2004 20:55
Whenever I pass Gwanghwamun in central Seoul, I ask myself this question: "Is there any other building with such a sad history?"
Gwanghwamun, which served as the main gate of Gyeongbok Palace, was demolished in 1929 and then was rebuilt north of Geonchunmun, the east gate of the royal palace.
During the Japanese colonial rule of Korea, a number of buildings at the palace were destroyed, and Gwanghwamun was one victim. In the first place, the Japanese had planned to remove Gwanghwamun completely, but facing strong opposition from Japanese intellectuals such as Yanagi Muneyoshi and Koreans, they moved the gate to the north of Geonchunmun.
Criticizing the Japanese colonial government's attempt to demolish the gate, Yanagi deplored, "God! Please help them. They don't know what they are doing." The misfortune of Gwanghwamun did not stop there.
During the Korean War, the upper story of the gate was bombed to ashes. It was only in 1968 that Gwanghwamun was returned to its original site.
The upper photograph shows Gwanghwamun in February, 1966. Part of the upper story, which was burned down, shows clearly. About 40 years later, the road in front of Gwanghwamun is decorated with flowers for spring. The weather is still cold, but no one can stop the return of spring.
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