Seodaemun Prison & The History Behind It

Programs for this blog post

Arts + Sciences

Authored By:

Ekram B.

If you're looking to educate yourself on the history and heritage behind the beautiful and modern South Korea today, then Seodaemun Prison is the place to go. I'm one that believe that we should expose ourselves to the good and bad to really come to know and appreciate something. As you probably know, there is a dark and sad history sprouting from the Imperial Japanese invasion of Korea and this place stands to commemorate all of those that fought for themselves and their country's freedom.

Main Hall (Museum)

Located in the heart of the site, the museum was formerly the main hall and where all administrative processes took place. You can visit 3 floors in total, and you start off on the ground floor touring around in a particular manner. The museum is really well made and uses various forms of media to depict the message it stands for, keeping you engaged throguhout your journey. I also really liked the level of detail that is available and you can choose at what pace you would like to visit the place; you can really spend anywhere between an hour to three hours looking at the place.

You will then be guided to the first floor, which is a continuation of what was on the ground floor. The difference is that it now focuses more on the people that were imprisoned not only in Seodaemun Prison itself but all over the country by the Imperial Japanese.

The basement is more of a demonstration of the tortures that were used on the prisoners. Some of the scenes and puppets that are shown can be too violent for some, so approach this with caution; viewer discretion advised.

Prison Halls

There are some individually standing halls and some that stem out from the main building. Most are available for viewing besides one or two that are blocked off. Feel free to walk into the actual prison cells, which housed up to 40 people per cell. The bathrooms consisted of a small hole in the prison cell itself, so you can imagine the state of not only the cell but those housed by it as well. One of history's largest human right violations was the Japanese occupation of Korea.

Women's Prison

A small cottage-like building with a few cells dedicated to the women that fought for their freedom. Each and every cell here is filled with information about these women and the things they went through to finally gain independence. I recommend you pay special attention to Yoo Gwansun's cell.

Recreational Areas

These are the fan-like rows that can be found around the field. One prisoner was allowed per row for a certain period of time, where they were allowed to stretch and spend some time outside the cell.

Execution Hall

Another small cottage-looking building, except this one is much more eerie and sad to be around. This place was used as the execution hall, and there is a small tunnel connected to the back of the building where the bodies were carried out: the corpse removal exit.