Monday, April 25, 2011

Seoul Fortress Walls (re)completed by 2014

Seoul confirmed that the restoration of its 18.6 km fortress (see "Donuimun Restoration and Sadaemun Resurrection") would be finished in 2014, and that it would keep pushing for the inscription of this most defining cultural asset on the UNESCO Heritage list.

Of course, the monument itself cannot be fully rebuilt since whole sections are now occupied by roads or (often private) buildings. The idea is to fake seamlessness for pedestrians by building overpasses mimicking the walls, where possible. That's what I expected for Donuimun, but it is now planned around Sungnyemun / Namdaemun and Heunginjimun / Dongdaemun, and I wouldn't be surprised to see another overpass at Hyehwamun. In other sections, the walls shall be more symbolically materialized on the ground.

Let's hope these overpasses will be delicately built... and not serve as alibis to remove pedestrian crossings in key traffic hubs.

Jongno-gu officials have recently started promoting full circle hikes along the wall, and here's their estimation of the distances for pedestrians between each monument. I'll follow their order to drop a few updates about the fortress, starting from Dongdaemun* :

- Heunginjimun (Dongdaemun) to Jangchung Gymnasium (장충체육관, near Dongguk University Station) via Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Gwanghuimun : 1.695 km / 1 hour. Three sections of the wall are missing : on both sides of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza Park, and after the Gwanghuimun Park.

- Jangchung Gymnasium to Sungnyemun (Namdaemun) via Namsan, N Seoul Tower : 4.617 km / 3 hours. Most of Namsan is covered but three sections are missing, the longest in the final stretch, the small hill hosting the Namsan Public Library. Both sides of Sungnyemun are also disconnected from the wall.

- Sungnyemun (Namdaemun) to Donuimun (Seodaemun), or rather Samsung Gangbuk Hospital : 1.4 km / 50 mn. This is the most damaged section : only a short stretch of wall remains along Sogongno (Sogong-dong). Donuimun itself
must be completely rebuilt.

- Donuimun (Seodaemun) to Jongno Culture and Sports Center (Gwanghwamun Art Hall) : 800 m / 25 mn. The wall has been partly restored at the top of the hill separating Gyeonghuigung from what will become Gyeonam New Town (now known as Donhuimun New Town). There, near Hong Nan-pa's house (now a small cute museum), a public garden was inaugurated. And as we saw earlier, the triangle of hanok restaurants between the hospital and Gyeonghuigung will be replaced by another public garden, and the wall shall be prolonged with an overpass to the gate, the key missing gate but not for long anymore. At the other end, a group of "villas" prevents the connection with the main section of the wall, which starts above Sajik Tunnel and goes all the way to Seongbuk-dong.

- Jongno Culture and Sports Center (Gwanghwamun Art Hall) to Changuimun (Buksomun, better known as Jahamun) : 3.1 km / 2 hours. This Inwangsan stretch may be my favorite one : I sat countless times on a rock to enjoy one of the best views over Seoul (see the 2009 focus "
Inwangsan's Great Wall and Seoul's Royal "T" Time"), and not only after a stop at the center's swimming pool !

- Changuimun (Buksomun / Jahamun) to Sukjeongmun (Bukdaemun) : 2 km / 90 mn. This Buam-dong / Seongbuk-dong section includes a Bukhansan summit (344.2 m).

- Sukjeongmun (Bukdaemun) to Waryong Park : 1.5 km / 25 mn. Jongno-gu suggests to reach Samcheonggak from Bukdaemun (400m Northwards / 15 mn), or Samcheong Park from Malbawi Information Center (600 m Southwards / 20 mn, the center being on the way, 200 m after Bukdaemun, on the other side of Samcheong Tunnel).

- Waryong Park to Hyehwamun (Dongsomun) : 1.215 km / 30 mn. The final Heyhwa-dong stretch of the wall doesn't exist anymore. Only a few meters subsist before the Hyehwa Gate, which towers over Dongsomunno and could be typically linked to the next section, just across the street, with an overpass.

- Hyehwamun (Dongsomun) to Heunginjimun (Dongdaemun) : 2.3 km / 1 hour. Another pleasant journey along Naksan. We now know that the new park at the Dongdaemun end of this mountain will be connected to the gate.


Seoul Village 2011

* about the names of the gates (daemun and somun), see the focus "
Donuimun Restoration and Sadaemun Resurrection"

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