Robert L. Peters

16 February 2008

Sungnyemun gate destroyed,

seoul-namdaemun.jpg

Seoul, Korea

The historic Sungnyemun gate (Namdaemun in Korean, meaning “Gate of Exalted Ceremonies”) in the heart of Seoul was destroyed in a devastating fire earlier this week. Considered South Korea’s premiere cultural landmark and the capital city’s oldest wooden structure (completed in 1398), the iconic gate was for Koreans “a historical link that survived 600 years, multiple wars and disasters,” as Icograda president Don Ryun Chang wrote me this week. “We are at a loss for words but hope there might be critical lessons to be learned for the future of cultural sustainability and civic governance in our country,” he stated (with reference to the 70-year-old malcontent who has confessed to arson). I had the chance to visit the gate during the Oullim (Great Harmony) Icograda Millennium Design Congress in 2000—seeing the pictures of Namdaemun in flames this week was sad, and brought back profound memories…

Photo of Namdaemun gate at night by 南宮博士.

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