Many people may be familiar with this attraction, as it is located right smack in the middle of Seoul, and right opposite Gyeongbokgung!
On August 1st, 2009, the redesigned Gwanghwamun Square opened to the public. The close to 20,000m2 Gwanghwamun Square is located at the center of Sejong-ro which connects Gwanghwamun Gate and Cheonggye Square. The square is divided into the sections, “Recovering the History of Gwanghwamun Gate Plaza,” “Reenacting Yukjo Street Plaza,” “Korea Main Plaza,” “Civil Participation Urban Culture Plaza,” “Downtown Plaza” and “Cheonggyecheon Stream Connector.”KTO
Plus point: This was the filming location for dramas such as Boys Over Flowers, Queen and I!
One thing that may first catch your attention is the presence of the tents, as well as the yellow ribbons. These are actually memorial tents to remember the victims of the 2014 Sewol Ferry tragedy.
Also, according to Korea Herald, the tents were set up at Gwanghwamun Square in July 2014, where the bereaved families staged a hunger strike calling for a thorough probe into the maritime disaster. What really shocked me was learning about the next part:
“A year later, the protest area was turned into a commemorative one. Of the 14 tents at Gwanghwamun Square, 11 are operated by the Seoul city government while three are unauthorized installations. They have been at the center of controversy, with some conservative groups claiming the tents prevent others from using the square.
On March 1, 2018, members of conservative groups tore down an 8.5-meter candlelight-shaped monument that was erected near the tents, and set fire to it.”
The Seoul city government also recently announced that they will remove these memorial tents, and instead build a commemorative space at the site.
I think it is really upsetting that such people would actually intentionally destroy a memorial for these innocent victims and their families. I strongly encourage you to have a look at the tents (or commemorative space, depending on when you go), although I personally advise against taking photos of the insides of the tents.
If you are interested in reading more about the memorial and the Sewol Ferry incident, do check out this great article from Korea Exposé.
Now you may be wondering, who is Admiral Yi Sun-Shin?
According to Wikipedia, he was a Korean naval commander famed for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Imjin war in the Joseon Dynasty, who became an exemplar of conduct for both the Koreans and Japanese. Despite the fact that he had no prior naval training, Admiral Yi was never defeated at sea nor lost a single ship under his command to enemy action, and military historians have placed him on par with Admiral Horatio Nelson as one of the greatest naval commanders in history.
In other words, Admiral Yi is Korea’s national hero.
You may also be wondering: of all the kings that they could put up a statue of, why only King Sejong (or Sejong the Great)?
Well, King Sejong is highly regarded among the Koreans for having personally created and promulgated the Korean alphabet Hangul, encouraged advancements of scientific technology, and instituted many other efforts to stabilize and improve prosperity in the kingdom.
This statue was actually dedicated on Hangul Day in 2009, in celebration of the 563rd anniversary of the invention of the Korean alphabet by King Sejong. Now you know!
One interesting sight (at least for me) was that of protestors in Gwanghwamun Square. I know protesting is not unseen or unheard of in most countries, but you must know that it is illegal in Singapore and will probably get you thrown in jail – unless you apply for a permit to do it in Hong Lim Park – so this is an absolute eye-opener.
It wasn’t a rowdy protest, just a few people holding placards in English & Korean. Of course, you’ll see a few policemen there making sure that the protestors don’t create a ruckus. I think the police tried to get these protestors to leave, but to no avail.
Of course, you also can’t miss out the iconic Gwanghwamun Gate of Gyeongbokgung from afar. Its close proximity usually makes this landmark an inclusion in an itinerary involving the palace, and you should definitely consider doing that too!
Address: 172, Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
1) City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1 & 2), Exit 3.
2) Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6 & 7.
3) Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 1, 2 & 8.
* Connected to the underground exit.
Red Bus: 5500-2, 9602, 9706, 9708, 9713
Blue Bus: 103, 150, 401, 402, 406, 408, 607,704
Green Bus: 0212, 1711, 7016, 7018, 7022, 8000
Village Bus: Jongno 09, Jongno 11