Seodaemun Prison & Shinchon

Wednesday, July 26 was my friend’s 8th day in Korea. We met some friends of mine and went to Seodaemun Prison (via exit 3 from Chungmuro on line 3). Admission was cheap, I think 1,500 won or so (about 1.50). Seodaemun Prison was where Japanese forces imprisoned and tortured Korean freedom fighters during the Japanese occupation of Korea.

Inside we saw a group of very young school kids, but most parents I know would consider the prison / museum inappropriate for their kids. I don’t say this because of the flogs or torture cells (solitary confinement cells so small that moving or stretching was impossible – the sign said that 2 or more days in such a cell would lead to paralysis).

What makes the prison inappropriate for kids are the depictions of torture. These depictions included bloody wax figures but the most disturbing part had to be the accompanying soundtrack, especially with the sexual torture exhibit.

Seodaemun Prison is a learning experience for adults, although foreigners will be disappointed that most descriptions are in Korean. It’s certainly best to go with someone who can translate for those who don’t read Korean very well.

Outside the prison, you can see where prisoners were executed. There’s a tree right in front of this place with a large section of bark completely worn off. Apparently this is where condemned prisoners leaned, grabbed, or whatever before being executed. That bare spot on the tree was more moving than the wax figures and soundtracks inside the prison.

It was hard to make conversation after that, but we tried to lighten the mood by going to a coffee shop and doing some shopping. We went to Namdaemun (it’s amazing how Namdaemun is full of old people during the day – I never noticed that before) and then Myeong Dong.

Later that night we went to Shinchon, an area near Ewha Women’s University. This a great place for shopping (especially for women’s clothes), bars, restaurants, and music (Shynara music is probably the biggest music store in Seoul). We walked around, had some Korean bacon (sam gyup sal) bought some Korean and Japanese music, and then went home.

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