May 23, 2014

Seodaemun Prison

Japan occupied Korea for much of the first half of the 20th century. The annexation and forced occupation of Korea is well documented, with the Seodaemun Prison History Museum (서대문형무소역사관) in Seoul bearing witness to some of the cruelest acts committed by the Japanese during its expansionist period. 

Torture, rape, and murder are just some of the crimes that Koreans have suffered at the hands of the Japanese. Despite an unwavering admiration of their culture, mannerisms, style, and cuisine, many in Korea still harbour resentment towards a remorseless Japan for their harsh behaviour towards them during this dark chapter of history.

The original facilities at Seodaemun Prison were built in 1907, with a capacity of 500 prisoners. A place of reverence and a place of history, a visit here provides insights that no textbook can. Jail cells, execution rooms, and torture chambers have been hauntingly recreated. Korean independence fighters were imprisoned here, with many never making it out alive to see a free nation. 


I have observed that the prosperity or misery of each people is in direct proportion to its liberties or its prejudices and, accordingly, to the sacrifices or the selfishness of its forefathers. ~ Juan Crisostomo Ibarra