[personal profile] niori_1709
Welcome to the miscellaneous sights of Seoul, version the second. Here, I give you three more smaller, yet still extremely interesting things that you can see while you're enjoying Korea's capital city. Like before, they are free or close to it and easy.

First up, is another gate. Last month, you read about Namdaemun/Sungnyemun Gate, which is the southern gate of the city. This month, I'm going to take you on a journey to Heunginijium Gate, more commonly known as Dongdaemun Gate. When Seoul was once surrounded by a wall, it functioned as the eastern gateway into the city. Heunginijium literally translates to "The Gate of the Rising Benevolence". It was first built in 1398, and the current structure is the one that was rebuilt in 1869. Dongdaemun Gate is a lot like Namdaemun Gate. There are, however, a few differences. Those differences are structural. While the wooden pagoda part is the same, the stone base is different. Unlike Namdaemun, Dongdaemun Gate loops around, almost making it a circular way. It's not much of a difference, but it's enough to make both gates must sees when visiting Seoul.

Another reason this gate is a must visit, is because it's right beside the Dongdaemun Market. It's one of the biggest shopping districts in Seoul. It's divided into four sections and a shopping town. There's twenty-six shopping malls and thirty thousand speciality shops. It was traditionally a night market, but is now open from roughly 10:30 am to 5 am. It's an interesting maze to shop in, that's for sure, and if there's something you need, you'll probably find it there.

For our next stop, we're going to jump over to the Seoul City Hall area. Here, we'll find our other two sights. The first is Cheonggyecheon Stream. Cheonggyecheon is considered one of the great sights of Seoul, and I completely understand why. The stream is gorgeous, with a beautiful water fountain that leads to a crystal clear waterfall. The stream has stepping stones across it, ones that are big enough that you can step across them to cross the stream. There's pathways on both sides, and a few bridges that run over the stream. There's even a spot where, if you throw some coins into it, you get to make a wish. It's a beautiful and wonderful spot to spend a relaxing day.
The thing that makes this stream so lovely is that it's in the middle of downtown Seoul, and that it's only there because of, at the time, much criticized beautification efforts. Until 2005, Cheonggyecheon was nothing more than a neglected, hidden waterway. Now, it's considered a huge success in beautification. Cheonggyecheon Plaza is also used as a cultural space, where events and festivals are held year round. One of those festivals is the Lotus Lantern Festival, which you may remember I described as "the most amazing thing I've done in Korea". The giant lanterns? They light them up and guide them down the stream on rafts. I didn't get to see that regrettably, but I'm looking forward to it for next year.

Not even ten minutes away from Cheonggyecheon Stream, is our last stop for this month. That stop is Gwanghwamun Square. The square has two of the most famous statues in Seoul, if not in South Korea as a whole. The first of those statues is the statue of Admiral Yi. It's a pretty imposing statue, with a fierce looking man, one hand holding a weapon, the other on his hip, standing there, almost daring you to come back at him. It represents protection and patriotism, and it completely manages to portray that. Admiral Yi Sun-Sin was a Korean naval commander who is famed for his victories against the Japanese when they tried to invade Korea during the 1500s. During the Battle of Myeongnyang, Japanese ships versus Korean ships was 333 to 13. It was a last stand, with only his small fleet standing in the way of the Japanese entering Seoul. In one of the most astounding military defeats in history, Admiral Yi beat back the Japanese. He died in 1598, at the battle where the Japanese army was on the brink of being expelled from Korea. He's one of the few admirals in history who remained undefeated for the amount of battles he was in. In front of the Admiral's statue, there's a fountain/water show that represents his sixty-three victories.

It's not a wonder that the Koreans decided to put up a statue of the man. It's also not a surprise of the man. It's also not a surprise that they erected a second statue, one depicting King Sejong the Great. This statue is a benevolent looking man sitting on a throne, an open book in one hand and the other gesturing openly. The statue is a celebration of his achievements, which still have an important impact on Korea today. While Sejong had many accomplishments, it was his invention of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, that made him so important to Korean culture. He wanted something other than Chinese characters, something that all his people could use. Hangeul isn't the only thing he invented- the celestial globe, a rain gauge and a sundial were all his inventions, and they are all in front of the statue. Behind it, there is an exhibition hall called "Sejong's Story". King Sejong is a crucial figure in Korean history, so I completely recommend the exhibition as a way to learn all that you can about him.
There you have it! The end of my two entry extravaganza of miscellaneous Seoul.

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August 2017

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