I can’t believe it. We just read that Namdaemun (officially 숭례문) burned down in a fiery blaze late Sunday night (last night!). Namdaemun was the great southern gate of the original walls that surrounded Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. Construction of this gate began in 1395 under the reign of King Taejo and was finished in 1398. It was the oldest wooden structure in Seoul. It has been renovated a few times and was given the title of National Treasure #1.

Here is a picture of Namdaemun before the fire:

namdaemun.jpg

It is similar to Dongdaemun gate that was featured in a previous post. Namdaemun sits at the entrance of Namdaemun market which is one of the largest and oldest traditional outdoor markets in Korea. It was such a shock to hear that this beautiful artifact was destroyed. It withstood decades of occupation, the horrors of war, and the erosion of time only to crumble in a heap of rubble because of one man’s stupid act . The police are investigating the fire since a taxi driver reported seeing a man run up to the building just before the fire started.

This photo is of the fire Sunday night. I got this from the Metropolitician

namdaemunburning.jpg

Follow the link I provided above and you can see video of the fire.

I really can’t believe it. I was just thinking about our own national treasures (which aren’t anywhere close to as old as this gate) like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and how well protected they are. When Daniel and I were in Washington DC we had a chance to see these valuable documents. One thing that I remember clearly was the multiple layers of protection these treasures had and all the security “eyes” that were on us as we moved through the hall peering at each document. I know that Korea can’t place each of its historic buildings under bullet proof glass or lock them up in a fire-proof vault, but at least they could have some security guards or something to protect these immense pieces of history.

It is a really deep loss.

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