Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seodaemum Prison & Inwangsan Shaminist Hillside Walk

Recently, it was Children's Day in Korea which is a public holiday for parents to spend the day with their kids. It also means that teachers have the day off work!

It took us a while to decide what to do on our day off, as many places would be packed with children - I don't mind being around kids but I already spend my week with more than three hundred ten year olds.

We decided on a couple of destinations which we thought would be relatively free of little kids.

The first was Seodaemun Prison History Hall, this was a prison was used during the Japanese occupation of Korea which lasted 35 years.

The prison was used to hold people who were fighting for independence from the Japanese. The prison was a very humbling place, the prisoners that were held there (both men and women) were subjected to horrific forms of torture. There have been models set up to show some of the forms of torture that were used - it's a really intense place.

However, just when things were getting a little too heavy the tension was broken by a group of very old Korean women that all looked about four foot tall. We were the only westerners at the prison at that time and I don't think these women were used to seeing western people - especially people as tall as Rich!

They were so astounded by us - I think we were unlike anything they had ever seen before. They kept looking up at Rich and touching us to make sure we were in fact real.

The most unsettling place in the whole prison was the execution building, as you would expect, this is the area where the Korean prisoners were hung. Korea is a country that has been subject to a lot of warfare, in fact I live in Uijeongbu, the city (at that time a villiage) where M*A*S*H is set. But this execution building is the only place I've ever visited that made me feel uneasy.

There is a poplar tree both inside and outside the grounds of the execution building. The poplar tree inside the wall is known as the wailing poplar tree. This is due to the fact that it hasn't grown much - it is said that this is due to the unsettled spirits of the Korean martyr's.

After spending some time in the prison we walked through the memorial park next to the prison.

After lunch we took a walk to Seoul's most famous shaminist shrine at Inwangsan. This walk was really amazing - it's not a difficult walk and along the way we saw Buddist temple's complete with lantern's for Buddha's birthday. The walk also gave us an amazing view of the old city wall and the city of Seoul.

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