Culture & History Seoul

Seodaemun Prison History Hall

In this article, I would like to talk about SeodaemunĀ Prison History Hall. Seodaemun Prinson History Hall is a museum and memorial thatĀ honorsĀ those patriotic activists. They are the patriots who dedicated their livesĀ and fought for the countryā€™s independenceĀ during the Japanese occupation.

TheĀ buildingĀ wasĀ previously a prison built by the Japanese administration toĀ arrestĀ house KoreanĀ independence movement activists.Ā SeodaemunĀ Prison History HallĀ serves a place to commemorate the ideals ofĀ independenceĀ and freedom, as well asĀ reminding theĀ publicĀ aboutĀ the historical significance of the site.

An Introduction toĀ SeodaemunĀ PrisonĀ 

SeodaemunĀ Prison was openedĀ on 21 OctoberĀ 1908 during the Japanese colonial period under the name ofĀ GyeongseongĀ Prison (ź²½ģ„±ź°ģ˜„).Ā The prison wasĀ thenĀ expanded and changed its name toĀ SeodaemunĀ JailĀ onĀ 3Ā September 1912.

The name of the prison becameĀ theĀ SeodaemunĀ PrisonĀ inĀ 1923.Ā After the colonial era ended in 1945, South Korean government remained the prison inĀ use as theĀ Seoul Prison. And then it became theĀ SeoulĀ ImprisonmentĀ CenterĀ in 1961 until it is replaced by the Seoul DetentionĀ CenterĀ inĀ Uiwang-siĀ in 1987.Ā In 1998,Ā SeodaemunĀ Prison History Hall (NationalĀ Historic Site No. 324) opened as a part of theĀ Seodaemun-guā€™sĀ sanctification project.Ā Seven of the prisonā€™sĀ original fifteen buildings became the historical monuments.Ā 

Exhibition HallĀ 

Stepping intoĀ SeodaemunĀ Prison History Hall, the first thing you will come across is the Exhibition Hall. The 3-story exhibition hall was originally the Administration and Security Office. It was the building where the prison guards supervised the prison.Ā 

The first floor of the exhibition hall features history of theĀ SeodaemunĀ Prison. You can see the Materials related to the introduction of judicial system, installation and expansion of prisons in Korea here.Ā 

The second floor of the exhibition hall exhibits relics related to the independence activist.Ā 

There is a memorial hall. It is used to pay tribute to the deceased who sacrificed their lives for the country independence. There are 5000 prison records on independence activists placed on the wall.

The underground of the exhibition hall features the investigation room and interrogation room. It shows the cruel tortures such as fingernail torture, water torture that the Japanese did on the Korean people.Ā 

Central Prison BuildingĀ 

Next, it is the Central Prison Building. This buildingĀ is where the prison guards in charge of supervising and controlling the prisoners worked.Ā Ā 

The prison guard can oversee all the prison buildings from here.Ā 

The building exhibits the organization of theĀ SeodaemunĀ Prison personnel, its arrangement and operation, as well as the daily life of prisoners in the prison.Ā 

Prison BuildingsĀ 

There are three two-story prison buildings in theĀ SeodaemunĀ Prison History Hall. They are the Prison Building 12, Prison Building 11 and Prison Building 10. Each prison building contains 46 cells, 56 cells and 72 cells respectively.

You can see the information regarding the activists in the prison cells here.Ā 

You can notice there are small woodenĀ sticks installed near the door of every prison cells. TheseĀ devicesĀ are ā€œPaetongā€ which is used by the prisoners to inform the guard in case of any emergency.Ā Inside the cell was a hole with a small rod. When the rod is pushed, the stick will fall out and drop onto the hallway, sending a visual signal to the guard.Ā 

It is also possible to see the artworks that pay tribute to the activists here.


GyeokbyeokjangĀ is an exercise facility used by the prisoners to do simple exercise.Ā The structure has lots of partition walls. It is to prevent the prisoners from talking to each other and escaping.

Execution BuildingĀ & Corpse Removal Exit

The execution building was built in 1923 and many freedom fights were executed here by hanging. It is not allowed to take pictures in the Execution Building.

Next to the execution building, there is aĀ corpse removal exit. The hidden secret passage was used to move the dead bodies to a cemetery outside of the prison compound at night.

Womenā€™s Prison BuildingĀ 

SeodaemunĀ Prison had a separate facility used to detain female inmates.Ā Ā The prison is similar to the menā€™s one but in a much smaller size.

Statues of independence fighters Lee Hyo-jeong and Park Jin-hong are displayed inside a womenā€™s prison cell.

There are also other buildings such as Leperā€™s Building, Watchtower, Reverence Space, Storage, Kitchen Barrack and Museum Shop here.Ā 

The 10-meter-high watchtower has observation windows on its eight sides. There were originally watchtowers but only two remain now.Ā Ā 

The Museum Shop sells souvenirs and exhibits past objects from the Kitchen Barrack and Boiler Room.

Overall ExperienceĀ 

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana

SeodaemunĀ Prison History Hall represents the suffers of the Korean independence activists for the country independence and democracy. I highly recommend that you visit here if you have keen interest in Korean history. It is a good place for field study and learning. You will be able to gain a lot of knowledge here since the place is thought provoking.Ā 

Admission FeeĀ 

  • Adults: 3000 wonĀ Ā 
  • Teenagers: 1500 wonĀ Ā 
  • Children: 1000 wonĀ 

How to get there?Ā 

Walk out fromĀ DongnimmunĀ Station (Subway Line 3, Exit 2). The Seodaemun Prison History Hall is 7 minutes walking distance from the station.Ā 

Address: 251,Ā Tongil-ro,Ā Seodaemun-gu, Seoul. ģ„œģšøķŠ¹ė³„ģ‹œ ģ„œėŒ€ė¬øźµ¬ ķ†µģ¼ė”œ 251Ā (ķ˜„ģ €ė™)Ā 

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Hi! I am Kok Ke Ying. I'm an engineering student currently studying in Korea University. I enjoy travelling and writing. You can find me on Instagram at xuanzhen_99