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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Seoul-Hanyang Fortress: Covering the Ancient Capital Hanseong from any threats.

Ageha during her old days: Kimi ga Aruji de Shitsuji ga Ore de ver. (Font used: SeoulNamsan)
The Seoul-Hanyang Fortress wall (Hanja/Romanization: 漢陽都城 or 서울城郭/Hanyang Doseong or Seoul Seonggwak) was built in 1397 as protection from invaders and show the boundaries of the city, surrounding Hanyang (한양/漢陽; the old name for Seoul) in the Joseon Dynasty. At that time, it was called Hanseong (한성/漢城). The fortress wall surrounds along three districts in Seoul: Seoul Jung-gu, Seongbuk-gu and Jongno-gu.

The wall stretches 18.2km but most of it has been destroyed over the years during the Japanese Imjin Invasion (1592~1598) and Korean War (1950~1953). The Korean Republic Government under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST/문화체육관광부/文化體育觀光部/Munhwa Cheyuk GwanGwang-bu) is currently trying to restore most of the wall.

In 1395, just five years after King Taejo Yi Seong-gye founded the Joseon Dynasty, he established a government office which is called Doseong Chukjo Dogam (도성축조도감/都城築造都監) to build a castle to defend Seoul, and he ordered Jeong Do-jeon to search for and measure a site.

On January 1, 1396 (by the lunar calendar), King Taejo Yi Seong-gye held the groundbreaking ceremony. 197,400 young men were placed under requisition over 2 years and completed building the castle 98 days after the war along the mountains Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan, and Inwangsan. The wall contained eight gates, all of which were originally constructed between 1396 and 1398.

The original walls, built in the late 14th century were constructed of medium-sized round stones held together by mud. The next major expansion, which took place during King Sejong the Great’s reign in the mid 15th century, are marked by rectangular stones closely fit together. Another major restoration in 1704 was when King Sukjong (19th Monarch of Joseon Dynasty) rebuilt sections of the wall using large, uniform stone slabs joined so tightly that even a sheet of paper can’t fit in-between.

Present-day Ageha: Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai ver. (Font used: SeoulHangang)
Extract from the Korea Times: Seoul to restore old Joseon fortress by 2015, written by Kim Rahn (May 7th 2012, 1922 KST [+9])
Seoul will restore all the walls surrounding the old capital of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) by 2015 under a plan to make the 600-year-old fortress a worldwide-recognized cultural heritage.

To make the restorations as close to the original form as possible, the city government will try to open or move private properties or military facilities currently situated on the original site, including the mayor’s official residence.

Mayor Park Won-soon announced the scheme to link severed sections of the 18.6-kilometer walls named “Hanyang Castle a.k.a Hanyang Doseong” where Hanyang is the old name of the Joseon capital. 

“We’ll connect all the sections by 2015. For parts where the wall cannot be set up because of roads or buildings, we’ll put a mark indicating the fortress. We’ll make the walls the most charming walking course for citizens and tourist course for foreign visitors,” Park said.

The city is also hoping to have the walls listed as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage by 2015. The fortress was put on the tentative list as a world heritage on April 20.

Many parts of the fortress were destroyed when roads and buildings were built during Japanese colonial rule and following the modernization of the city. Of the total sections, 12.3 kilometers have been restored since 1975.

The city will build fortress-shaped overpasses for sections where streets are covering the original site, while putting specific paving blocks for sections where the land is privately owned or buildings stand.

It will also seek cooperation from private and military facilities in mountainous areas which cut the walls stretching along the ridges, so that the facilities will open their property to people or move. “I’ll talk about the issue with the U.S. Embassy as well because some U.S. military facilities are blocking the fortress site,” Park said.

Included in the plan is the mayor’s residence, located on the hillside in Hyehwa-dong. Parts of the residence are covering about an 86-meter section of the fortress, and the city plans to demolish them.

“I plan to move by next March, maybe to one of the city-owned buildings. We may be able to use the remaining parts of the residence as a fortress-related museum or an information center for visitors,” Park said.

The city will spend some 32.7 billion won by 2015 on the project.