Above is the picture I took of the ancient, 600 year old, south gate of Seoul a couple years ago–it is a site that I have always loved, sitting right at city center (the city has spread well beyond its original gates and boundaries) and adjacent to Namdaemun market.
I had to post about it here because this is a landmark that is near and dear to me–on my first visit (of many to come) to Korea, I was eight years old and stayed in a hotel very near this gate. I had never stepped outside the U.S. before and was mystified by a country that was proclaimed to be my “mother” country but where no one really spoke English, where there were no McDonald’s, and it was hot sticky hot and I got made fun of because I wore shorts and a tank top (inappropriate wear at the time, even for an eight year old).
I was confused and excited and I also fell in love with Korea. I was endlessly comforted and fascinated and amused by Namdaemun market, right across the street from this gate. We went to Namdaemun market nearly everyday–I had never been to an open air market before, and I had never fathomed buying groceries and sundries from a market stall, having only been exposed to air conditioned stores in the U.S. (Not that there wasn’t a good number of posh air conditioned department stores in Seoul, either–but Namdaemun market began my love and fascination for open air markets and may explain my love for farmer’s markets to date).
I remember looking at the gate, nearly everyday, from that market. It was a landmark from which point I got my bearings. So sad to hear it is now gone.
I first heard the news this morning on flickr, where a friend of mine had posted a picture of the burning gate. While I slept in PST, the gate was burning down.
Update: it seems a frustrated 69 year old man burned the structure down. Just amplifies the tragedy–this structure survived Japanese invasions and the Korean War, only to be burnt down by an act of arson.