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Sungnyemun returns after tragic blaze

April 29, 2013 - 19:56 By Korea Herald
Interior of the second story of Sungnyemun. (Yonhap News)
Sungnyemun is back.

After five years and three months of restoration costing 25 billion won ($22.5 million), the National Treasure No. 1, which served as the South Gate of the capital city during the Joseon era (1392-1910), will be open to the public May 5, the Cultural Heritage Administration said Monday.

On Saturday, a grand celebration stretching all the way from Sungnyemun to Gwanghwamun Plaza in central Seoul will be held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., marking the restoration of the gate that was severely damaged in a 2008 arson attack.

According to the CHA, there will be performances by a children’s choir and a Buddhist ritual called Cheondo, which is believed to send the spirit of the dead to a better world. The main event, a restoration completion ceremony, will be held at 2 p.m.
Signboard of Sungnyemun, which is believed to be a restored version of calligraphy by Prince Yangnyeong (1394-1462). (Yonhap News)

At the main event, the organizers will report the completion of the construction to the “great figure in the sky” and unveil the signboard of the gate that is a restored version of calligraphy by Prince Yangnyeong (1394-1462). This will be followed by the opening of the gate and a procession of royal palanquin containing postcards from the people expressing hopes for the future of the gate and the country to Gwanghwamun Plaza.

Government officials, craftsmen, volunteers and donors for the restoration as well as members of multicultural families, and North Korean defectors have been invited to the celebration.

At Sejongno, a traditional music and dance performance called “Nanjang” will be held from 2 p.m. through 4 p.m. Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung and Deoksugung palaces and the royal Jongmyo shrine will be open to the public free of charge.

Prior to Saturday’s events, another ceremony will be held at the Jongmyo Shrine on Wednesday, reporting the reopening of Sungnyemun to Joseon kings.

Acclaimed dramatist Lee Youn-taek, who is to lead the celebration, said the events will heal the sense of loss and sorrow caused by the Sungnyemun fire and unite all Koreans under the slogan of “Sungnyemun, a new door of culture wide open.”

Sungnyemun will open to the public Sunday through Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors will be able to go to the second story of the gate at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays as well as 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. on Sundays.

By Bae Ji-sook (