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Heritage Office to Move Palace Gate

Posted January. 25, 2006 03:00,   


The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) announced a plan to move the Gwanghwamun, the southern gate of Gyeongbokgung (Gyeongbok Palace), south and construct a large square around the gate yesterday. The public square will cover the area where the road in front of the current Gwanghwamun, the U.S. Embassy, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism are located.

Implementing the project, which will bring about big changes in the city center’s landscape and traffic flows, requires the agreement of related organizations, including the Seoul Metropolitan Government. A bumpy road lies ahead for the plan because an agreement has not yet been reached.

Yoo Hong-jun, the head of the CHA, unveiled the Seoul Historic City Project on January 24, saying, “We are planning to restore the historic site closer to the original site to help it be listed as a UNESO World Historic Site.”

Under the plan, Gwanghwamun will be restored as a wood structure and moved 14.5m south of where it is now by 2009 (to where the road in front of the current Gwanghwamun is located). A 52-meter-long “woldae” (a flight of stairs in front of a palace) and a “haetae” (a mythical animal believed to guard a palace against fire) sculpture will be put in front of the gate to add to the majesty of the palace.

The Gwanghwamun restoration project will also include the construction of a public square on a 12,000-pyong plot covering the location of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the U.S. Embassy. In addition, Bukak Mountain, at the back of the Cheong Wa Dae, which has been closed since a botched North Korean attack on the presidential residence on January 21, 1968, will be open to the public. The mountain will be gradually opened to the public beginning with the 1.1km–long Sukjeongmun area in April (containing the Hongryunsa and Chodaebawi). The 1.6 km-long Malbawi rock area will be opened in October, and the rest of the mountain, totaling 1.93 million pyeong, will be opened in October the following year (except for areas that could threaten the security of Cheong Wa Dae).

A Seoul Metropolitan Government official said, “A simulation of the restoration plan predicts the time drivers have to spend stuck in traffic will double. Making changes to the scale of the plan is inevitable for better traffic flow and safety.”

He added, “The city government has already set aside 2.7 billion won for restoring fortresses in Seoul. The CHA’s plan to restore more of the fortresses will take more government budget money.”

Hee-Kyung Kim susanna@donga.com kimjy@donga.com