Monday, February 11, 2008

National Treasure #1 – Collapse

Posted in Korea at 9:34 pm by graceandpoise

It’s rare that I am driving to work and turn a corner and literally gasp in complete shock at what I see in front of me. It’s particularly rare in a city like Seoul where the rules of the road are not always followed and accidents are relatively common. However, today that is exactly what happened.

Because today is the day that this:


… became this (I took this photo just after recovering from that great astonished gasp):

Namdaemun, or “Great South Gate” is (was?) one of only two remaining gates from the city walls that protected Seoul back in the old days. Years ago, the Korean government designated it as National Treasure #1, and it is (was) probably the most famous landmark in all of Korea. It represents a deep connection to their history, and a great pride in their country – indeed some colleagues today called it the symbol of their country.

There is some speculation as to the cause of the fire that led to the subsequent collapse of the top part of the gate. Knowing what I do about how Korea works, it is doubtful that Namdaemun will remain in this state for long, and it is also doubtful that the timbers now lying charred atop what remains of the gate are anything close to the original 14th century timbers. But people here in Korea are nonetheless, quite understandably, completely appalled.

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