Seodaemun Prison History Hall

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120-080 (101, Seoul, South Korea
(02) 360-8590

Seodaemun Prison History Hall Seoul Reviews

WalterC WalterC
317 reviews
Should be visited when in Seoul Nov 25, 2012
As a museum that tells the story of human cruelty, Seodaemun Prison History Hall is a museum that is worth visiting, being the only place that tells the story what Korea was like under Japanese rule.

A dark attraction, Seodaemun Prison was built in 1907, and mainly used by the Japanese to crush the Korean resistance movement, as Korea was under the colonial rule of Japan for 35 years. During that time, the Japanese tried to erase Korean identity, any way they can. The resistance fighters who fought for independence, were jailed and tortured in prison by various methods, whether by starvation or hanging upside down with water poured down the nose and mouth.

After Japanese rule, the prison continued to be used by the military government, to jail pro-democracy activists. The military ruled South Korea until 1987. The prison has become a symbol of freedom in Korea.

It starts with the main Exhibtion Hall, which tells the story of the prison, and has photos of people who were imprisoned and died there. Then to the bottom level, which displays of tools used to torture the prisoners. One notable torture tool was a box with spikes in it, where moving an inch would mean major pain for the prisoner inside it.

After that, you are led to the actual prison buildings, where some cells are opened. Then various features around the prison park, now known as Independence Park. Most notable are the Execution Building and the Corpse Removal Exit, which was a tunnel, used to remove the bodies from the Execution Building secretly. The Execution Building is the only place on the premise where photography is NOT allowed.

Overall, it is definitely worth visiting, though it could be better if there were more English descriptions, as I felt like it was very limited. Still, the displays should give a very good idea about what it was like in Korea under Japanese rule.
map of Seodaemun
exhibition building
model of the prison
4 / 4 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
sarahsan says:
A very good museum! Definitely a place to visit when in Seoul!
Posted on: Feb 06, 2013
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sarahsan sarahsan
403 reviews
The destiny of Korean patriots Feb 02, 2010
Seodaemun Prison was designed by a Japanese Architect and was constructed in 1908. The Japanese ran this prison to oppress Korean patriots who fought against the Japanese invasion for sovereign independence. Seodaemun Prison is the symbolic site of Korean independence movement and a symbol Japanese cruelty. More than 40.000 independence fighters were imprisoned and tortured here, and died for the country.

After paying $1.25 entrance fee I started my visit at the administration building, which had three floors of exhibition, including re-creations of torture scenes, photographs of the prison and prison conditions as well as video footage. Unfortunately, there is little explanation in English. From here I continued to the prison cell blocks.

The solitary cells (3.95 sq yds) where built to conduct physical torture and impose psychological and mental suffering to the patriotic fighters. They were sorted as special criminals and imprisoned in the solitary cells with no electricity and toilets, and were put under severe torture and violence. I will not describe the torture methods any further. They were just too gruesome. As the number of prisoners increased there was 7,9 inmates in these 3.95 sq yds cells. Even worse than a pen for animals.

The limited space did not allow the prisoners to lay down and sleep during the night, so they took turns with 2-3 shifts, which often resulted in epidemics. This took the life of numerous of the prisoners.

The harshest suffering was starvation. At the end of the Japanese colonial period the quality of the food was reduced and later also the volume. Many of the prisoner starved to death.

In the back of the prison ground is a small wooden building, the execution building, which was established in 1923. Right next to the execution building is a secret exit made by the Japanese to be used to carry out corpses to the public cemetery outside the prison after executions. The Japanese covered this exit in order to conceal their brutality, but part of it was restored to its original form in 1992.

In a separate building you can see the underground cells. They were designed to house and torture female prisoners who had joined the national independence movement. These cells, with a hight less than 1.48 cm, did not allow the prisoners to stretch their backs. This demonstrate another act of Japanese cruelty. Ryu Gwan-sun, an 18 year old high school student and a great heroin of the independence movement, died here of harsh torture and malnutrition.

Seodaemun Prison was transformed into a museum in 1998 and has preserved the buildings as they were. This museum shows the cruelty of war and hopefully by visiting it we will learn. A visit to Seoul should include this museum.
Seodaemun Prison History Hall
One of the prison cell blocks
Inside a prison cell block
Solitary cell (3.95 sq yds)
2 / 2 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
trippin_jen says:
Oh I thought it was a replica of the history...
Posted on: Feb 08, 2012
sarahsan says:
Jenny! You can read in the first paragraph how and when this was a real prison.
Posted on: Feb 08, 2012
trippin_jen says:
Sarah, very interesting review indeed! Is this once a real prison or is it just a museum?
Posted on: Feb 07, 2012

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