- Ollie Kim (G5) Jangan Branch
From 1910 to 1945, Japan created the Eulsa Treaty and colonized South Korea. During the occupation, Japanese soldiers killed Korean citizens and, at the same time, tortured them mercilessly. They did this at the Seodaemun Prison here in South Korea. These thirty-five years of occupation were one of the hardest times in all Korean history. To prevent this from happening again, it must be remembered what happened, and it has to be said its history as well.
First of all, what is Seodaemun Prison? Seodaemun Prison was first built in 1908, under the name Gyeongseong Prison in South Korea. Japanese soldiers used this prison to lock and torcher the citizens who fought for the independence of South Korea. During the occupation, many independence fighters such as Shin Chae Hoe and You Guan Soon were killed in this prison.
After March 1st, commonly known as 3.1, the Japanese soldiers brought independence fighters and harshly killed almost three thousand people. They also tortured people who resisted Japan's actions, including innocent citizens too, and they did it in the same horrible ways.
Especially, in order to get the fighter's confession, the Japanese tortured them with cruel ways such as water torture, electric torches, and nail plucking. Like this, Seodaemun Prison was a terrible place where many fighters and innocent people got killed.
Furthermore, after many years, Seodaemun Prison is still standing in present-day South Korea. However, nowadays, the prison has become a hot tourist spot. The prison was closed after the Japanese occupation, but in order to learn about and remember the painful history, the South Korean government reopened it in 1998 as a historical tourist place. The government tried to erase the painful traces, but at the same time, it was rebuilt with the purpose to remind the citizens and let the tourists know about the South Korean's painful history and relation with Japan.
After three years of construction, the terrible Prison became an important historical place. When people visit the Seodaemun Prison they will be able to see the cells where they kept the prisoners, the torcher chamber, and the death row. This vivid recreation of the prison is transmitting the pain people back in the days suffered through an educational and touristic way.
Yet, most people wonder if the prison is a painful memory of South Korea's hard time, is there a need to protect and preserve the prison? Some people might think that Seodaemun Prison is a useless place that has only claimed many lives, but personally, I think that it is an important building that reminds and teaches us a piece of the history of South Korea that cannot be learnt just through textbooks.
Seodaemun Prison used to be a miserable and terrible memory for the majority of South Korean citizens, but now it is a precious memorial that preserves and shows the inside history of time. If people do not protect their history, it is easy to forget what happened, either good or bad, and as time goes by, it is easier to forget who they are, their roots, and their history that describe who they were and are. Furthermore, it is a reminder and proof of what happened at its time because it is easy to deny the truth.
In conclusion, Seodaemun Prison is a place where the souls of the independence warriors rest. It is important that all South Koreans remember why and what happened at the Seodaemun Prison. Not only because of what happened but most of all because of who it happened against.
At the same time, it is important to preserve the place as a meaningful and historical monument. It reminds the South Koreans of the hardships they went through, and by doing so, they are also remembered that they fought back and rose even though they lacked in strength and power. The prison is a way to keep their past alive and heads up high.