South Korea’s historic Namdaemun Gate destroyed by fire

by John Mink
February 13, 2008
The Republic of Korea has suffered the loss of one of its greatest national historic treasures. Seoul’s 610 year-old Namdaemun (Great Southern Gate) was set ablaze by an arsonist on the evening of February 10th, 2008. The majority of its ornately-tiled wooden pagoda structure on top was destroyed, leaving only the stone gate beneath intact. Also known as Sungnyemun, meaning Gate of Exalted Ceremonies. Namdaemun was the oldest wooden structure in Seoul, built during the earliest years of the Joeson Dynasty as one of three large gates in the wall that surrounded the city. As the Seodaemun (Western) Gate was demolished along with the rest of the city walls during Japanese rule of Korea in the early 20th century, the Dongdaemun (Eastern) Gate is now Seoul’s only intact gate from the original city wall.

CyArk mourns the loss of the Namdaemun Gate, a great tragedy for Korea and the entire world. This event unfortunately highlights the fragility of some of the world’s greatest cultural heritage sites, which have survived for centuries only to be vulnerable to destruction in a single moment. Comprehensive, high-definition documentation will not stop the ravages of time, nature, or the destructive capacity of mankind, but it can help us to understand these important sites better and give us something to look to when it is time to reflect or rebuild.

Go to Namdaemun on CyArk’s Hazard Map

Well-referenced Wikipedia entry on Namdaemun Gate
Namdaemun Gate before fire
Namdaemun Gate after fire
Namdaemun Gate on fire