July 20, 2013

National Treasure #1

With public drunkenness rivalling baseball and video gaming in popularity as South Korea's national sport, it comes as no small surprise that the occasional mishap takes place. Five years ago in Seoul, one drunkard wobbled through the streets of the capital city on unsteady legs until he arrived at Sungnyemun. Located near the bustling markets of Namdaemun, Sungnyemun was one of the gates of the fortress walls that encircled Seoul in the past.

Having imbibed an inappropriately large quantity of alcohol, the boozer set fire to South Korea's officially designated National Treasure #1. Despite the best efforts of valiant firefighters, the six hundred year complex was badly damaged by the flames after quietly witnessing several Korean dynasties, Japanese occupation, dictatorship, and democracy.

Although not totally destroyed, Sungnyemun would require even more reconstruction work than the average K-girl. A five year, 22 million US dollar rebuild took place and the reconstructed gate was unveiled to the public in May 2013. The restoration team was composed of the finest artisans and historians in the nation. They used traditional techniques and materials wherever possible but also added extra fireproofing to the stone and wood structure.

The current prime minister and former dictator's daughter, Park Geun-hye, was on hand during the opening ceremony. The crowd was composed of many oldsters, who let out a loud roar of approval upon her arrival. Her father was the man they hold responsible for transforming South Korea into an economic powerhouse, and some of that goodwill has trickled down to the lady president decades later. She looked in the direction of International Treasure #1 and gave me a quick wave, before beginning a speech to commemorate the special occasion.


"The rebirth of Sungnyemun means more than just the restoration of a cultural asset. It heightens the pride of the Korean people once again and will serve as a gate to a new era of hope." ~ President Park Geun-hye