National Value of Soong-Rye-Moon HS10415 Ahram Cho Does the damaged toy, once one’s favorite, become worthless to a child? It doesn’t. The child will do anything to recover it. Like this, what once was valuable to us does not lose its value just because it is impaired. Therefore I believe newly repaired “Soong-Rye Moon”, the door during the Cho-Sun dynasty, too still holds its value as the first national treasure of Korea, even though it once had collapsed in flames. In May 4, 2013, the commemoration ceremony for completion of restoration of the Soong-Rye Moon was held in Seoul. A huge crowd gathered to welcome back our treasure and commemorate its restoration. A large part of crowd was elderly, which embarrassed me. To them, the Soong-Rye Moon was something living inside their heart, so the ceremony must have been a poignant sight. They not only know but understand its history and a meaning behind it. As majority of them had born in 1940s to 1950s, they have suffered the most turbulent days of Korean with the country. We the young people, who were raised with unbelievable riches, can never comprehend their patriotism or their resentment. We are the ones who should be most grateful to our nation, yet we are the most ungrateful to our country. I have noticed that there are people who feel ungrateful countless times but I was even a little shocked when I read one comment about newly constructed treasure. Someone had commented on the internet that our Soong-Rye Moon has lost its value as national treasure because it is ‘newly constructed.’ How can they say that? Although I understand why they feel that way, I believe it is extremely impolite to slander a nation’s symbol like that. Throughout 600 years since its construction it has undergone several repairing processes. Did the people of that time say the Soong-Rye Moon is now worthless because it is repaired? They didn’t. It is not only impolite but also illogical to say something like that. What’s more important is that Soong-Rye Moon is a symbolic representation of 500 years of the Cho-sun Dynasty. As it is the main gate of capital, it could not avoid any obstacles that a country met. Therefore every picture, every scene of this gate represents the state of Korea. Here is the history of Soong-Rye Moon and Korea. • This is the map of capital of Korea. The big circle in the center shows the area that citadel covered, and red dots are where the gates were placed. Soong Rye Moon is at the bottom of the map, left to the big mountain. It was first constructed in by King Tae-Jo, the founder of the dynasty. Since then, it has been a main gate of Seoul. However just after about 50 years it needed reconstruction; It was placed to low in the first place and therefore the river flowed into the structure. At that time the construction team had rebuilt the upper story of the gate, so the citizens thought the team had rebuilt the gate totally. • Since then the Soong-Rye Moon had watched and felt every joy and sorrow with our ancestors for 500 hundred years. Only Chinese ambassador could enter the door but still it was a good friend to citizen. • There is a record that Kim Jung Hee, a famous scholar of Cho-sun dynasty, adored the hanging board of Soong-Rye Moon so much that he always stood mesmerized with its beauty whenever he walked around the gate. The hanging board was written by King Sejong’s elder brother, YangNyung.
This is a picture taken at 1890s, and it is the oldest picture of the gate. Soong-Rye Moon had underwent several constructions during Cho-sun dynasty and even had endured two great wars(with Japan and China), however starting from late 1800s it had to suffer severe humiliations. From the late 1800s Japan yielded direct influence over Korean politics, military , and even economy as Japan was planning to advance into the main continent through Korea. Japan had used various methods to demolish Korean identities and Soong-Rye Moon too was used to mar Korean identities. This picture is taken at 1904, few years before annexation. If you compare two photos, you’ll notice that two electric poles in picture taken at 1904. These two poles were erected as railroads were constructed around the gate.. The concept of railroad was new to people so the accidents occurred sporadically. This disordered traffic caused discontentment among people and at the same time provided five corrupted government officials an excuse for demanding to cut off the citadel of Soong-Rye Moon. Cutting citadel of Soong-Rye Moon contained much more meaning than clearing railroads. The citadels have functioned to regulate lives of common people and were a manifestation of Government authority. Eliminating citadel means the government will be impotent and the former rules will not restrain people anymore. Basically these officials wanted to show people that current government will not be in power but Japan will. Regardless of these meanings the king consented to constriction. In 1907, only 3 years before annexation, the Prince Imperial of Japan visited Cho sun. To celebrate the occasion Japan and the group which favored Japan built two gates in front and behind Soong-Rye Moon. They were small gates with little significance, but they symbolically disgraced the country. Building a gate for Japan in front of Soong-Rye Moon means placing Japan in front of Cho-Sun. And even it alters the road that originally was road to Soong-Rye Moon. In 1910, Japan filled up the pond that was located in the west of castle. It functioned as a water supply for fire-fighting use and at the same time suppressed the spirits of fire. According to theory of geomancy the power of fire was too strong around that region that they had to dig up the pond. Cheong Do-Zeon, government official who laid foundation of Cho-sun, predicted that Soong-Rye Moon burns down, people will have to leave the country because it means that country will an be no longer be able to sustain. Then leaving Soong-Rye Moon vulnerable to fire can be viewed as wanting country to fail. Besides this Cheong Do-Zeon had predicted few more that are related with Soong-Ry e Moon. Every time there was trouble in Cho-sun Soong-Ry e Moon showed some sign. One month before the war with Japan there was small fire, and in 1910 few months before annexation the hanging board cracked.
And in 1950 just after the part of citadel caved in, Korean war broke out. During Korean war which started in June 25th, 1950, Soong-Rye Moon was damaged seriously. The damage of gate .was relatively small compared to that of whole city, but there had been a gunfight around Soong-Rye Moon so the roof had collapsed. From 1953, the government started to repairing but only supplemented the missing parts. Then in 1960s the governments repaired it totally. For next 50 years Soong-Rye Moon remained free from danger. But in 2008, an elderly who was discontent with estate distribution sneaked into the second floor of the gate. A taxi driver first saw the fire and reported it to 911. The fire moved on to pillars and burned down the second floor. After the incident numerous presses published articles about it. Some said that the cultural assets were not treated properly, and some argued about reasons why fire department couldn't just extinguish the fire right away. First of all, the government wasn't fully prepared to every possible accidents that could happen. Also, the lack of knowledge of Wooden buildings and the importance of this cultural asset hindered firemen from putting out a fire more efficiently. Because they didn't know how to treat wooden buildings and because they couldn't act autonomously as Soong-Rye Moon was cultural asset that shouldn't be damaged, they couldn't just pour the water on it. • Most of presses reported Soong-Rye Moon as 'lost' or 'entirely destroyed.' And some groups treated it as 'dead person' that they held funerals and religious rituals. However, 90 % of the lower layer still remained and some of the upper part remained also. But what's more important was protecting it from rains and snow. Therefore right after the incident the government shielded Soong-Rye Moon to repair it. After 5 years of restoration Soong-Rye Moon was completely restored. And it had changed a bit too. The construction team built a new citadel that was cut off during reign of Ko-jong to protect it from another fire and to revive the old image of it. Soong-Rye Moon is a cultural asset that had endured 600 years, and therefore it is reasonable that it was repaired and reconstructed several times. And the value and time that Soong-Rye Moon spent with Korea will not diminish or decrease. It might be awkward that it is repainted and changed, but after all sufferings and time Soong-Rye Moon has endured with nation I believe it still is our treasure that we should respect. Source: 디지털뉴스팀. "성공을 부르는 습관 한국경제." '노무현 예언' 이어 '정도전 숭례문 예언' 화제. 한국경제, 17 June 2008. Web. 03 June 2013. (After prophecy about former president Roh, prophecy of Cheong Do-Zeon is now a hot potato) Kwon, HyoJun. "성공을 부르는 습관 한국경제." 박근혜 대통령 "새로운 시대의 문이 열렸다" … 4일 오후 숭례문 복구 기념식. 한국경제, n.d. Web. 05 May 2013. (President Park, a door to new era opened) Cho, KuHyung. "숭례문 화재가 남긴 것." Www.naver.com. N.p.g 30 Apr. 2013. Web. 3 June 2013. (What burnt Soong-Rye Moon left us) Cho, KuHyung. "숭례문 수난의 역사." Www.naver.com. N.p., 30 Apr. 2013. Web. 3 June 2013.(History of sufferings Soong-Rye Moon endured) YongJae Lee, 'Daddy's Soong-Rye Moon story) SeonYoung Jung, 'first trip to citadel of Seoul)