Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Seodaemun Prison

Back in 1907 the Korean government under the Joseon Dynasty built a prison that they named Gyeongseong Gamok.

It was opened in 1908.

When the Japanese invaded and took control in 1910 they used this prison quite a bit since it was located right in Seoul.

In 1919 it was rather famously used to house those captured in the March 1st Movement that I mentioned here.

After that event it was used to hold an ever increasing number of political dissidents.  Most of these people were men, but they even had a building to hold females.

In 1923 the prison's name was changed to Seodaemun Prison (서대문 형무소) by the Japanese

There were originally fifteen buildings, but only seven remain now.  These include the execution building, work building, and command center.

In the basement of the command center is where they conducted torture.  They used a variety of means that would fit right in with the Medieval Torture Museum I went to in Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Germany.

The entrance and the watchtower.
What it looks like now.
What it used to look like.
Inside of a prison hall.
Solitary Confinement.
Regular prison cell.
A handy device for prisoners to summon the guards.
Rather forbidding, right?
New surrounding the old.
Exercise area.  I'm standing on the guard's platform.
The holes in the prison cells down near the floor where for human waste.  No bucket or chamber pot was provided.  Considering conditions of European prisons that used the bucket system this was a lot more sanitary.

This prison was also used to manufacture goods for the Japanese government.  In times of peace this meant prison uniforms and such, but in times of war this meant war supplies.

The prisoners chosen to manufacture goods usually worked 13-15 hour days in terrible conditions.  Also, on their way to and from work they were made to jump over a pole naked to make sure they weren't hiding anything on their person.

I'm sure conditions improved at the prison after World War II, but it was still in use until 1987.

In 1992 it was dedicated as the Seodaemun Prison History Hall, a part of Independence Park.

It was a very creepy place, but I'm glad I got to see it.  I learned a lot of Korean history this past weekend and I hope to keep learning more.

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