Namdaemun gone

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Namdaemun is gone.

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.

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8 Comments

Filed under Memories, The World

8 responses to “Namdaemun gone

  1. hyunjini

    I can’t believe it, either. It breaks my heart.

  2. while not equally old and amazing, my daughter was very very much looking forward to visiting camden market when she goes to london in april.

    it’s not ALL gone, but … it sure did burn.

    i’m sorry something so amazing and part of your memories of childhood has gone. i think you feel as i felt when the twin towers fell… i grew up outside manhattan and watched the buildings get built, reports on the news… visiting many times over the years. it was part of the TV news logo for channel 11, the two towers turning into the number 11 as a helicopter flew around it to Action! News! Music!

    thank you for providing news links to the story… i had not heard about it today.

    again… sorry that this had to happen…

  3. hyunjini: well they will rebuild it–and i guess this gate joins the ranks of dozens of Korean monuments that have had a history of being burnt and rebuilt.

    christine: oh yes, i too was looking forward to camden market! for all the times i’ve been to London, i now regret not having visited the market! hopefully they too will rebuild.

    watching the twin towers burn and fall was like watching the apocalypse. i was born in new york, and have many early childhood memories of those buildings–i still can’t imagine the new york skyline without them.

  4. So sad that it’s gone! It’s beautiful 😦 Pretty soon every big city will look the same.

  5. bustopher: you are sooo right. every big city, eventually WILL look the same, won’t they? especially if we have more wars and end up destroying all the old things.

  6. Eric

    I’m actually going to London on the 21st and was planning specifically on going to Camden…
    Although, now that I’ve seen the pictures of Namdaemun I would REALLY have loved to see it. Guess I’ll have to wait for the reconstruction to be complete…

  7. Oh, wow, thanks for posting this, I had no idea. I loved seeing the contrast of Namdaemun against the backdrop of all those glass and steel skyscrapers. What a loss.

  8. Eric: Namdaemun is gorgeous–there are other gates in the city, outlined fantastically by The Marmot’s Hole–they’re still standing, and parts of the original city wall are still up, too. But Namdaemun was the glorious one.

    elizabeth: I know! There was this one ancient building in the midst of all the high rises, in the middle of a very busy traffic circle. Soooo sad. It defies war and so many other historical and treacherous situations, only to be burned down by an arsonist!

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