A new trend in traveling is coming out of young people. That is ‘Dark Tour’. It means to visit a tragic historical site or disaster place in order to recall, memorize, and learn from tragic history.
What about going to a trip which reminds of history of the nation rather than a sort of taking break like eating or hanging out? Here, ‘What should we do?’, introduces 4 dark tour worth visiting to let you know Korean tragic history.
Tragedy was started here.
Walking along Deoksugung stonewall walkway, which is well-known for a first date place, you can see a lane on your right side. Walking on the lane more, you can view ‘Deoksugung Jungmyeongjeon’. It is one of the most important places in Korean modern history, which was built in 1899 as an imperial library. This is why here is the place where ‘Eulsa Treaty’ was signed and ‘Hague Secret Emissary Affair’ occurred.
Deoksugung Jungmyeongjeon is now used as an exhibition hall. Restored the same as the period of the Korean Empire as it was, Deoksugung Jungmyeongjeon gives a lively experience of how the situation was at the time. There are 4 exhibition rooms; ‘Deoksugung and Jungmyeongjeon’, ‘the site of Eulsa Treaty’, ‘the Korean Empire before and after Eulsa Treaty’, and ‘Secret emissaries in the Korean Empire’.
In the room named by ‘Deoksugung and Jungmyeongjeon’, you can see the history of Jeongdong and the process to establish Jungmyeongjeon at a glance. In ‘the site of Eulsa Treaty’ it brings the urgent moment at that time to life for tourists. In the room of ‘the Korean Empire before and after Eulsa Treaty’ and ‘Secret emissaries in the Korean Empire’, you can see the Korean Empire’s struggles for retrieving its sovereignty again. There are a variety of experience programs using a beam projector and video clips. It is not a kind of exhibition which makes you just look around, but the place that helps to experience in person. If you find a place worth visiting at the same time experiencing and feeling, you should get there.
In Deoksugung Jungmyeongjeon, there is a docent program with an expert explain every day. Do not need to make a reservation, just go to the entrance in time, and then you can join it, starting at 2:00 and 3:30pm on weekdays. Unlike weekdays, on weekends start at 11:30am, 2:00 and 3:00pm. Hopefully, do not miss the time if you want to be with an expert docent.
Address: 41-11, Deoksugung Jungmyeongjeon, Jeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul (https://goo.gl/maps/Yg8ghyuqN2H2)
Operating Hours: 9:30-17:30 (Last admission 30 min before closing, Monday closed)
Admission / Participation Fees: free
Website : http://www.deoksugung.go.kr/
The heart of Korean Modern History
‘Seodaemun Prison History Museum’
‘Seodaemun Prison History Museum’ is also worthy visiting in Gwanghwamun, which is a symbol of Japanese cruelty and oppression. It was built by Japan in 1908, and the place torturing about 5,000 Korean independence activists until Korea was independent in 1945. After getting back Korean liberation, it was used to imprison Korean democratic movement activists till 1987, named by Seoul detention center. That is why here is called the heart of Korean modern history.
Seodaemun Prison History Museum has 3 exhibition halls; indoor, outdoor, and prison life room. The 1st floor gives you the information of Seodaemun prison’s history. You can learn the history of Korean independence on the 2nd floor, where you can also view Korean independence activists’ prison cards such as An Jung-geun and Yu Gwan-sun in a memorial place. Given that you want to bring meaningful time, it is a good recommendation to visit and memorize sacrifice of those activists.
In prison life room, you can view prisons the same as the way used at the time. You can try entering one of cell prisons for more lively experience. There are execution hall, memorial, and separate prison halls for women and young girls. Especially Yu Gwan-sun passed away in one of separate prison halls for women, so it is now used to memorize sacrifice of women independence activists, which is named ‘the room for women independence activists’. Taking a break on weekend will be possibly good though, how about visiting here and memorizing the sacrifice of Yu Gwan-sun?
Address: 251, Seodaemun Prison History Museum, Tongil-ro Seodaemun-gu Seoul (https://goo.gl/maps/4XujxgpTrBL2)
Opening hours: Mar-Oct 9:30-18:00 / Nov-Feb 9:30-17:00
* Last admission 30 min before closing.
Admission / Participation Fees : Adults 3,000 won, soldiers & teenagers 1,500 won , Children 1,000 won
Inquires : 02-360-8590
The road to have painful history
'Namsan road called Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty'
Namsan is the place for Seoul citizens to take their time. However, it is said that the painful history of Korea still remains there. One of Namsan roads, called ‘the road of Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty’ is the place to preserve such a historic site and to memorize. It is the 1.7km path, starting from the place of Joseon Resident-General, Governor-General of Korea, Nogi Shrine, memorial for Gabo station, Gyeongseong Shrine, Hanyang Park Monument, and to Joseon Jingu.
The path is connected by the shape of ‘ㄱ’, which means ‘do not forget the painful history and remember’ with a heavy heart. Starting from the site of Joseon Resident-General, here remains the site only. Instead of the original of Joseon Resident-General, ‘the site built upside down’ and ‘the site to memorize’ stand there. As for the name of ‘the site built upside down’, it means there is a statue of Hayashi Gonsuke standing upside down, who is responsible for Eulsa Treaty and Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910. In the case of ‘the site to memorize’, it is for the victims, comfort women, from Japan. Facing with these two completely different aspects of history, it reminds of sorrow and pain.
Passing the site of Joseon Resident-General and walking down, you can see Seoul Animation Center, which was originally the site of Japanese General Government building. Looking into the site, you can see a mark standing at the entrance. The mark was made from waste concretes from which Governor-General of Korea building was exploded, so this will be supposed to stand every starting point. Looking from it, struggles for memorizing the tragic history of Korea stand out. ‘Nogi Shrine, Gyeongseong Shrine, Joseon Jingu etc’ also still remain as it is, where Japan forced Joseon people to visit these shrines and believe their religion. Do not forget, but wish to visit there.
Across Namsan road called Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty, on the opposite of it, there is ‘a road called human rights road”. Standing at the road, you can feel something dreadful, which comes up with the period during military dictatorship. It is a better recommendation for those who want to know the painful history of Namsan in detail to walk together.
Address: 6, 26 Toegye-ro, 12ga-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul (https://goo.gl/maps/75HnqcoBfrN2)
The symbol of sadness but peace
‘DMZ Demilitarized Zone’
On 15th of Aug in 1945, Korea finally welcomed its national liberation. The happiness, however, was soon ended up. Later 5 years, unfortunately Korean war took place and the painful history of Korea was written again. ‘DMZ’ is well worth visiting in order to experience it in a direct way. Here becomes more famous recently after a program named ‘Welcome, first time in Korea’ broadcasted. Here is the course of the Third Tunnel passing by Imjingak Pyeonghwa Nuri Park and Dora Observatory.
Imjingak Pyeonghwa Nuri Park is built for those who lost their hometown of North Korea. When they miss their hometown, they come here and wish for peace. By the way, here is getting famous for beautiful scenery. The marker, “Iron horse wants to run”, is right there which marks the termination of the rail line between Seoul and Pyongyang. You can view ‘the bridge of freedom’ where south Koreans crossed when they came back to their mother country.
It takes just 5 minutes to get Imjingak Pyeonghwa Nuri Park to ‘The Third Tunnel’. It was founded in 1978 and one of tunnels extending south Korea. It is located 52km only away from Seoul, considered as the most aggressive tunnel out of discovered tunnels. ‘Dora Observatory’ is just near by the Third Tunnel. You can see around Gaeseong when it is sunny. Visiting DMZ, taking a look away to North Korea will be a special experience.
Some of places in DMZ is likely to prevent from taking a photo because of security. Before bring your camera, it is good to ask a guide or staff if you can take photos.
Address: 618-13, Majeong-ri, Munsan-eup, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do (https://goo.gl/maps/BAkwTL4rwTx)
No future does have the people who forget the history of their country!
The present cannot exist without the past. Even though feeling insulted, do not forget Korean history especially for all of Koreans. With dark tour, hope you to keep in mind. Dark tour is not just a kind of eating or hanging out, but presenting meaningful trip.
Pictures: Cultural Heritage Administration Deoksugung, Seodaemun Prison History Museum, Seoul Metropolitan Government, Seoul Animation Center, Paju culture tour, KTO Korea Tourism Organization etc