Last weekend, we finally visited Seodaemun Prison History Hall, which had been on my list for quite a while. Our friends Cheryl and Basil joined us and we made a day of it, brunching at Flying Pan Blue before heading out to the prison, which is just outside Dongnimmun subway station.
The prison entrance fee is just 3,000₩ per person, and there are many areas to explore and learn about its history. It was originally built in 1908 and was used during the Japanese occupation to house Korean independence activists. After the Japanese occupation ended in 1945, the prison was used by the South Korean government until 1987, when it was replaced with a newer facility in Gyeonggi Province.
There were originally 15 buildings, and seven of them are preserved as historical monuments. We started with the exhibition hall, which gave us an overview of the history of the prison.
In one room, the walls were completely covered with photos of independence activists who had been imprisoned in Seodaemun.
In the basement of the exhibition hall, there’s an underground torture chamber, which shows scenes of various tortures employed by the Japanese Imperialists. It was a pretty gruesome area, and I didn’t take any photos. You could definitely feel an echo of all the horror that had taken place in those rooms.
Here is the outdoor exercise area, built to keep prisoners isolated from each other and unable to share information easily:
In the central prison building, we were able to enter the cells used for solitary confinement, which were ridiculously small.
It was very interesting to learn more about the history of Korea during Japanese occupation. This historical complex is worth a visit.