Namdaemun – The “Great Gate” in Seoul

Officially known as the Sungnyemun, is one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, which surrounded the city in the Joseon dynasty. Sungnyemun was the oldest wooden structure in Seoul. The city gate, made of wood and stone with a two-tiered, pagoda-shaped tiled roof.

Namdaemun during 1900’s

Construction began in 1395 during the fourth year of the reign of King Taejo of Joseon and was finished in 1398. The structure was rebuilt in 1447, during the 29th year of King Sejong the Great’s reign, and has been renovated several times since.

In the early part of the 20th century, the city walls that surrounded Seoul were demolished to make the traffic system more efficient. Sungnyemun was extensively damaged during the Korean War and was given its last major repair in 1961, with a completion ceremony held on 14 May 1963.

The gate was renovated again in 2005, before being opened once again to the public with much fanfare on 3 March 2006. During the restoration, 182 pages of blueprints for the gate were made as a contingency against any emergencies which may damage the structure.

Aftermath of the Namdaemun fire

On 10 February 2008, a fire broke out and severely damaged the wooden structure at the top of the Sungnyemun gate. The fire roared out of control again after midnight and finally destroyed the structure, despite the efforts of more than 360 firefighters.

Many witnesses reported seeing a suspicious man shortly before the fire, and two disposable lighters were found where the fire was believed to have started. A 69-year-old man identified as Chae Jong-gi was arrested on suspicion of arson and later confessed to the crime.

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