After my adventures in Gyeongbokgung and the National Palace Museum, I moved to Seodaemun Prison Hall Museum. Unlike the first few museums I visited, this museum has to be the scariest and most spine-tingling one that I’ve visited so far.
With its red brick facade, from afar it Seodaemun Prison Hall looks like a warehouse in some gentrified hipster place in a western country. But behind all that facade is a building devoted to terror and oppression utilized by both the Japanese and the Koreans. Inside the prison complex, arrows led the way to one of the main buildings, inside exhibits and mockups of various stages in the prison’s history are displayed to educate visitors.
Seodaemun Museum was quite educational but at the same time, it was somber and scary. Somber because of the numerous pictures and letters on display by prisoners who were once incarcerated inside the museum. In one part of the museum, an entire room had ALL of the pictures of the prisoners and a video screen would flash an interview every now and then.
The scary aspect of the museum comes later on. Having gone through a lot of pictures, there would be mockups of buildings where they used to hang prisoners for execution. If that wasn’t enough, there were graphic representations of water torture scenes and torture devices. All of these exhibits were quite graphic and showed the brutality of both the Japanese and the Koreans during those tumultuous times.
After the main hall, I walked around the museum complex, getting a feel of what it was like to be a prisoner there. In another building, visitors are given the opportunity to visit the general cell block, this is where many prisoners were incarcerated. The conditions inside each cell were terrible. Simply put, you wouldn’t want to be one of those people who were imprisoned there.
Overall, there was a sense of despair and painful histories deeply embedded in the walls of this museum. Just walking the pathways, one can already feel a sense of hopelessness and abandonment in the hall. Visiting this museum was another eye-opening experience on another aspect of Korea’s long and troubled history.
Seodaemun Prison Hall Museum
251 Tongil-ro, Seodaemun-gu
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30am – 6pm
Admission: KRW 3,000
Nearest station: Dongnimmun Station