Day 5. Seodaemun Prison and Bukhansan National Park, Seoul

We woke to clear blue skies so after our hotel breakfast we took the metro to the Seodaemun Prison History Hall near the Dongnimmun metro station, exit 5.  After leaving the station it was just a short walk through Independence Park to the museum entrance, admission is 3,000 Won (£2.00).

Seodaemun Historic Prison Hall, Seoul
Seodaemun Historic Prison Hall, Seoul

This former prison stands as a symbol of the bravery of the Korean independence activists and as a grim reminder of the cruelties committed by colonial Japanese forces during the occupation of Korea.

Seodaemun Historic Prison, Seoul
Exercise Yard, Seodaemun Historic Prison

Half of the original red brick prison buildings have been preserved including the entrance gate, the wooden execution house, two watchtowers, the prison walls and the interrogation cells.  There were few people around when we started our self guided tour which was very interesting but harrowing to learn of the atrocities suffered by the prisoners.

Seodaemun Historic Prison, Seoul
Cell Block, Seodaemun Historic Prison Hall

The first exhibition hall told the story of prison life from when the prison was constructed in 1907 for use by the Japanese to hold Korean independence activists.  It had been built to hold 500 prisoners but at the height of the anti-Japanese protests in 1919 this rose to 3,500.  The overcrowding led to the spread of contagious diseases and a lack of proper sanitation, a shortage of food, torture and regular beatings led to many prisoners dying in custody.

Seodaemun Historic Prison, Seoul
Life behind bars, Seodaemun Historic Prison Hall

At the end of the Japanese occupation in 1945 the prison continued to be used by South Korea until it finally closed its doors in 1987.  The prison complex was converted into the Prison History Hall in 1992.  We viewed two of the cell blocks, walked through the exercise yard, prison factory and the gruelling execution house.  It was just as well we had arrived early as several coach loads of school children appeared later making it very busy.  I would definitely recommend exploring the prison but suggest visiting in good weather as buildings are spread out across quite a large site.

Seodaemun Historic Prison, Seoul
The Watchtower, Seodemun Historic Prison Hall

Leaving the prison we strolled back through Independence Park to the metro station and took a train towards Bukhansan National Park.  The nearest station is Bulgwang, Exit 2. where we stopped for our morning coffees before setting off to find the start of a walking trail.  This was troublesome to find as we had started followed signs on the road but at some point the road must have been re-laid causing us to head off in the wrong direction.

Bukhansan National Park , Seoul
Starting our trail in the Bukhansan National Park , Seoul

We eventually found the Dulle-Gil Trail, Section 8, 5.2 km which began with a lengthy flight of steps.  Our chosen trail was labelled moderate but I would grade it more strenuous than that.  The trail followed the contour of the hillside resulting in us constantly gaining and losing height on steep slopes or flights of steps.

Bukhansan National Park Trail, Seoul
Bukhansan National Park Trail

Apart from the excessive number of steps, the trail was very pleasant and offered good views.  Picnic tables and information boards (in Korean only) were located at various points but as there are no refreshment kiosks I suggest taking bottles of water.

Bukhansan National Park Trail, Seoul
Along the Bukhansan National Park, Trail, Seoul

Finishing the trail, we headed to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a cultural hub where exhibitions, fashion shows and conferences take place.  From there it was only a short walk to the Dongdaemun City Gate which looked out of place in the middle of a large road junction.

Dongdaemun City Gate, Seoul
Dongdaemun City Gate, Seoul

We walked along a short distance of the city wall where we found the Seoul City Wall museum.  This modern museum offered free admission and explored the construction and reasons for building the wall.

Seoul CIty Wall
Seoul CIty Wall

After such a busy day, it was 6.30 p.m. by the time we arrived back at the hotel so we had a little rest before enjoying dinner at a restaurant in Myeongdong.  Tables were equipped with gas burners so that food could be cooked at the table.  We were given aprons to wear and a large wooden spoon but these weren’t really necessary as the waiting staff prepared our Chicken Galbi which tasted delicious.

Chicken Galbi in a restaurant in Seoul
Helping to prepare Chicken Galbi in a restaurant in Seoul

We walked off our dinner with a short stroll through the shops then returned to the hotel exhausted.

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42 thoughts on “Day 5. Seodaemun Prison and Bukhansan National Park, Seoul

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  5. jasonlikestotravel

    Sounds like a really interesting day, it’s crazy how overpopulated the prison was! I’m glad you had such a good time in South Korea, I’m looking forward to catching up on what else you got up to 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have lost count of the number of times I visited Korea but in all that time I never visited the prison. That was interesting and probably parallels the horrors of those who were caught in the occupation of south east Asia and the Pacific during WWII. I love the way North Asia cares for their parks and walkways. so beautifully cared for.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting post. One can tell a lot about a nation by visiting a prison or a war memorial. By how they treated prisoners or how they were treated as prisoners. This is how we all learn moving forward. Thanks for sharing South Korea with us. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love your posts on Seoul. I really want to visit Korea. Is the water and food safe there? I only ask because I have a toddler and have to worry about sickness when travelling and have experienced the worse of it when travelling in South East Asia.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Vanessa for your kind words, it’s so nice to read that you are enjoying my posts on Seoul. You don’t need to have any worries about hygiene and food and water in Korea. Everything is very safe and of a high standard, even the street food which we had plenty of. Do try and visit soon, you will love Korea!


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