The Past Reflects the Present

Seoul Travel Blog

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This morning, I ventured out into the city alone with an agenda. I first went to the Seodaemun Prison (μ„œλŒ€λ¬Έν˜•λ¬΄μ†Œ 역사관). It was originally built by the Japanese to house Korean independence fighters. After the Japanese left Korea in 1945, Korea used it as a national prison until around 1987 when it was then restored as a historical site.

I purposely went today (Thursday) because there's a free English tour. My tour guide was Bae Jeong-hee whose English skills were quite impressive. She gave a very thorough tour of all seven buildings that remain from the original 50. After the tour she even provided me with a booklet that further explained the history of the prison.

On the tour, there was a lot of focus on the torture and execution methods of the Japanese to the Korean freedom fighters. Some of the tactics included pulling out of fingernails, sexual torture and rape (for women), electrocution, and water torture. An estimated 400 inmates were executed by hanging for fighting for an independent Korea.

I did get goosebumps hearing about the noble deeds of my forefathers and mothers, but I couldn't help thinking that today's Korea is still not free. A quote from Abraham Lincoln kept running through my head as I heard the stories of the men and women who gave up their lives for a single belief that rings through the hearts of people around the world: "A country cannot remain half slave and half free." Less than 30km from where I stood earlier today, an entire nation screams for freedom. Their cries are just as loud as the freedom fighters of our past, but no one here seems to be listening.

I don't think this Korea that we have now is the Korea these people had in mind when they died willingly all those years ago.

Bae Jeong-hee asked me why I came to Seodaemun Prison today. I told her that I wanted to learn about the past to fix the future.

From the Seodaemun Prison History Hall booklet: "In order not to repeat the unfortunate past history, we should learn a lesson by reflecting it clearly." South Korea could use a history lesson.
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photo by: chiyeh