Saturday, April 30, 2011

Seodaemun Prison

The Seodaemun Prison was built in 1908 by the Japanese during their colonization of Korea.  Because Japan occupied Korean by force, there were (obviously) several Korean patriots who fought against Japanese rule for Korean sovereignty.  Many of these men and women were kept in the Seodaemun Prison.  When Japan lost World War II and Japanese occupation ended in 1945, this remained a prison ruled under the South Korean government until 1987, when they moved the prison to a facility in Uiwang (near Suwon).  Now, the prison is used as a historical site to document the suffering of many Koreans during the occupation.  Next to the prison is Independence Park, a park to honor the sacrifices of Korea's martyrs.

This room was lined with photos of Korean patriots that were imprisoned at Seodaemun.

One example of torture they used at that time.  The soldiers would lock the prisoners in this box, lined with sharp nails, and shake it over and over.
Rooms used for torture.  I'll choose not to go into details.
They would lock the prisoners in these small rooms.  They were shaped awkwardly so you couldn't stand or sit properly.

These rooms were for solidary confinement.  These prisoners were subjected to the worst torture.  When they weren't being tortured, they were kept in these small rooms all alone.  Because they wanted them to have as little contact with humans as possible, they were to go to the bathroom though this small hole in the wall and it would go out the building.  They didn't want to have to spend time to clean the room.  There were no toilets in the entire facility during the Japanese occupation.  The Korean government later put in bathrooms when they used the facility.

These are the regular rooms where most of the prisoners were kept.  They were often overcrowded and could hardly sleep because of the lack of floor space.  There was no heating or cooling system and prisoners often died of frostbite or heat exhaustion.

This is the "excrement hole."
This building was built in 1923 and used to segregate the prisoners who had leprosy.
The prison is set right in the middle of the city, along with apartment buildings and mountains.

The tree is known as the "wailing popular."  It is located right outside of the execution building.  Read the photo above.  If you can't read it, just click on it and it will get large enough to read.

This was the hidden underground passage built by the Japanese to take the bodies away after execution.  It was found only in 1992.
We were not allowed to take photos of the execution building, in order to respect those who lost their lives there.  I did, however, take a photo of a photo of the building.  It was difficult to be in the historical presence of so much pain and suffering.
Most prisoners throughout Korea were forced to work in factories, usually manufacturing something for the war.  Seodaemun Prison was known for making textiles and bricks.  The bricks made in the prison were imprinted with the logo you can see on the bricks below.
Many buildings were destroyed after the war.  They have outlined these areas in the Seodaemun bricks that were from the deomolished buildings.
This Japanese-style building wasn''t found until 1992.  The Japanese built an underground dungeon to keep women patriots in 1916.

Lots of Seodaemun bricks.

Independence Park was beautiful and vibrant...especially after going through the prison.

Independence Gate.  This gate was actually built before the Japanese occupation in 1897.  It was built to commemorate their independence from China as a protectorate.
Some kids playing soccer in the park.
I like the part about never being frustrated - click if you can't see.
You would think we could look at history and see that this sort of cruelity is not necessary...but still, to this day, at this moment, men and women are being tortured or tormented in facilites around the world - and not much is being done to stop it. 

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