Seoul’s Historic Walks – Part 1 – Seoul Station to Gwanghwamun (Seoul Anglican Cathedral, Statues of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun Shin, Gwanghwamun, and Dongsipjagak)

This might be the longest title ever.

Here is the second part of part one. Damn, that could be complicated.

The last post, the walk took about an hour to an hour and a half, including breaks and a lunch. However, after that, I hammered out the walk and decided to get to Gwanghwamun, not before a quick detour however.

4) Seoul Anglican Cathedral

How to get there: I decided to take a little detour. I was making good time, and since it was a beautiful day, I decided to explore the area after I walked passed Deoksugung Palace. There was a sign that caught my attention about 100 meters pass the palace, informing like-minded travelers that there was the Seoul Anglican Cathedral. Now, I’ve always been a sucker for a nice church, and decided to check it out. I also wanted to see where the British Embassy was in case the Canadian one shuts down and I’m forced to make communications with my commonwealth brethren. Make a left when you see the sign and walk up a small hill. The church will be on your right.

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History: One of the few modern, Romanesque religious buildings in the city, the church balances its Ying, with Deoksugung’s Yang. The building does compliment the palace quite nicely, and it is an interesting contrast of Western architecture and Eastern architecture. The building began construction in 1922 and completed in 1926. The church is quite unique with its orange tiles, and hints of Korean architecture, such as the elevated eves and Korean tiles. It was the first church built in the Romanesque fashion in the Far East. The church is still active today. I accidentally walked in on Saturday service.

Why Should I go there: Without giving too much information away on the walk, it is a peaceful and calm atmosphere. It is definitely aesthetically appealing to the eye, even if you are not a religious person. For a few minutes, I just relaxed and sat down, enjoy the orange tiles laying perfectly in the clear blue sky. Also, its nice to get off the main road for a bit, for a little peace, quiet and some personal space to stretch out.

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5) The Statues of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun Shin

How to get there: 

1) If you make the detour like I did, turn around and walk back down the hill. Make a left and continue your journey to Gwanghwamun.

2) If you did not make the detour, continue walking straight for about 200 meters.

History:

Korea’s Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Lebron and Wade, Crosby and Malkin… various other famous duos of the sporting variety. There is no way that I can summarize the history of each man, it would require many pages of writing and a sudden interest in the Korean language, but I will tell you about the history of the statues.

Sejong’s statue: Sejong’s statue was erected on October 9th, 2009, showing him holding a book and smiling pleasantly. The statue is 9.5 meters high. Sitting in front of the statue is a rain gauge, a sundial and a globe, all inventions of the great king. However, Sejong is most famous for inventing the Korean language (Hanguel).

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I would personally like to thank King Sejong of the beautiful, phonetic language that I will probably never understand, but can read like a pro.

Admiral Yi Sun Shin’s statue: The baddest Korean in the history of Korea. You can’t mess with this guy. The Japanese Navy tried one time, and he sent them back to the devil islands with their geishas between their legs. The Japanese had over 300 ships compared to the measly (but awesome) 13 Kobukson or “turtle boats” that the Koreans possessed. Oh, and it wasn’t even close. The turtle boat, for its time, was truly a remarkable piece of 16th Century naval technology.

Yi’s statue was erected on April 27th, 1968 and his cold stare has been protecting Seoul ever since. Yi’s statue stands at an intimidating 17 meters with his sword in his hand, with his eyes glaring down at you as though you a filthy piece of barnacle stuck to his turtle ship.  If there is one representation of Korea’s strength and courage, this statue encompasses all of that with his daunt, cold stare.

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Why Should I go here:  First, this is the heart of Korean pride and history. If you have any interest in Korean history, this would be a good place to start. Also, on a nice day, it makes for a great walk. The statues are surrounded by an open terrace of grass, including some water sprinklers for the kids if they are getting bored. Although it is pretty busy, especially during the late summer and fall months, it is a little break from the congestion that seems to plague the core of the city. A pocket of fresh air, in a sea of smog and haze.

6) Gwanghwamun/Gyungbokgung 

How to get there: Keep walking straight, right through Gwanghwamun Square and the gate to the palace will be in the distance. You are almost at the finish line, only about 200 meters or so left.

History: Gwanghwamun gate is the main entrance to Gyungbokgung palace. The original gate was constructed in 1395 by the first king of the Joseon Dynasty. However, tragically, during the Japanese colonization the original gate was destroyed and a government building was erected in its place. The present gate was built in 1968, and is about 10 feet behind where the original gate stood. The gate is purely made of concrete, and although not very historically appealing, it still has a radiance of power and strength.

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Love that Seoul traffic….

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Look a woman holding an invisible tray of beer!

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Why Should I go there: Gyungbokgung is arguably Korea’s greatest palace and it’s in a historic part of town. It is an open area, at least for Seoul, and is the major vein of their history and culture. It’s also a nice walk, and has some excellent palaces and temples nearby.

7) Dongsipjagak

How to get there: Just take a right from Gyungbokgung palace and cross the street.

History: Dongsipjagak was once a guard tower for Gyungbokgung palace, but is now one of the coolest traffic islands in the world. Originally built in 1865, it was one of two guard towers to watch over the king sleeping peacefully in Gyungbokgung. Unfortunately, they didn’t do that great of a job. When the Japanese colonized Korea in the early 20th century, they moved the guard tower in order to make way for a Japanese government building.

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Why should I go here: Honestly, unless you are really into Korean architecture, I would probably avoid it. There really isn’t too much to see, but it is close to Gyungbokgung, so it would be worth taking a quick picture. For me, this was the turning point of the walk. However, time restraints restricted me from going up the other side of the walk.

Final Thoughts: As a tourist, this walk is a must. This is the barebones, but central nerve of Korean history and culture. Also, it is in a fairly friendly part of town that are used to tourists. There are tourist information booths, lots of accommodations, and restaurants. It is a busy walk, but energetic. It’s easy to get caught up in the Korean speed of life. I would recommend it to any tourist.

As a local, it’s nice to get away and be reminded of why we come out here to travel in the first place. As a people, Koreans are a tough nut to crack, but I personally find their history to be fascinating and their pride to be refreshing. They are a proud people, and they worship their ancestors who helped build their country. As a Canadian, I can’t relate, because I don’t think we have nearly enough pride in the founders of our country. As for the walk, it’s an enjoyable urban stroll, and does not require too much energy. The whole walk took about 2.5 – 3 hours including breaks and a lunch. You could do the whole thing in a day, and that would require probably 6 – 7 hours, including a beer and lunch.  However, if you are looking for more of a “nature” stroll, there are better options out there.

2 comments

  1. I left Seoul at 4 and have never been back to Korea so you’re teaching me a lot.

    1. My pleasure, I’m glad you enjoy the blog!

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