December 30, 2008 12:19
On Feb. 10. Koreans witnessed in shock the destruction of one of the country's best-known landmarks which guarded the capital for 600 years. A 70-year-old man angry over a compensation payment for his house had set fire to Sungnyemun, Korea's national treasure no. 1.
Seventy percent of the structure dating back to the Chosun Dynasty had vanished in the flames. After the smoke had settled shocked citizens lined up to pay their last respects. Many shed tears. More than 10 months later the gate, more commonly known as Namdaemun, is being reconstructed according to its original plans.
The Cultural Heritage Administration has laid out a three-step restoration plan with completion scheduled for the end of 2012. The second phase of the reconstruction is underway with experts checking the original design. Officials say it will cost roughly US$2 million to rebuild the gate. Luckily, 3,000 scorched remnants remain that can be used again.
Researchers are also trying to reconstruct the Sungnyemun name tablet, written in Chinese characters. The reason they are written vertically rather than as is more common, horizontally, was ironically to repel bad energy that could cause fires, according to Korean lore. Meanwhile large pine trees are being donated from across the nation by ordinary citizens.
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