Sunday, September 13, 2009


On Sunday afternoon Krista and I took a trip to Gwanghwamun 광화문 in Seoul to see the newly renovated plaza. We had read in the September issue of Seoul Magazine that this 3rd plaza had opened up August 1st and thought it would be nice to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather in downtown Seoul.

This is now one of three large plazas Seoul has to offer, after Seoul Plaza and Cheonggyecheon. It was named after the main gate of nearby Gyeongbokgung Palace and is located outside of Gwanghwamun Station, Line 5 and the gate (which is still currently under construction). It is also located in the middle of what was 16 lanes of traffic. The plaza is 30m wide by 550 meters long.

This plaza along with numerous other construction projects occurring in Seoul are part of a large marketing strategy to portray a new vibrant, but stylish image for Seoul and the country.

During the first week after construction approx 1 million people had visited the plaza. If you want a more detailed history, click here.

Aside from the plaza’s beauty, there is a bit of controversy surrounding the plaza. All of the plazas have space available for public demonstrations, but with all of the floral decorations, there is no room for such things, and many Seoulites are quite upset by this fact. Krista and I however really enjoyed our afternoon there.

“Haechi” – Symbol of Seoul

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Haechi, the symbol of Seoul, is an animal of “justice and integrity” that discerns good and evil. Haechi is an imaginary animal with divine power that protects by repelling disaster and brining “fortune and luck.”

Haechi has a horn on its head and a bell on its neck. It’s body is covered in scales, and it has wing-like feathers under its arms. It is the gaurdian animal of Seoul and can fly in the sky. It lives close to water in the summer and in the pine forest in winter. It is known to live mainly around Gwanghamun and Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul.

Currently, the logo and slogan of “Hi Seoul” has been used to promote the city. what do you think of the new branding?? You can post your comments at the bottom of this blog post!

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Below is a statue of Yi Sun-sin 이순신 (April 28, 1545 – December 16, 1598) was a Korean naval commander noted for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598) during the Joseon Dynasty.

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Along each side of the plaza are flower benches with flower displays built in and even speakers playing classical music.

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We snapped a picture of the plaza staff’s flower cart as well as them planting. A lot of work went in to planting the 200,000+ flowers!

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There is a light stream on each side of the plaza with engravings of each year from about the 1400’s, and here you can see two men scrubbing the tiles clean.

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Green Haechi lawn statue, you can see the US Embassy in the background.

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A little bit of extra history for you: One of the major benefits of the new plaza is that it helps correct the damage done to the downtown area’s basic orientation under Japanese colonial rule. When Seoul was made the capital of the Joseon kingdom, the main axis of the city ran from Mt. Bugaksan to the Shinto shrine they built on Mt. Namsan. When the restoration work on Gwanghwamun is completed, the traditional axis will be restored. –Robert Koehler, Seoul Tour and Culture

The 2009 Seoul International Drama awards had a display at the plaza as well. SBS had a few TV sets there to promote the various dramas they have running.

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One drama they have is a horror, we took this pic inside one of their sets.

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We left Gwanghwamun and walked a few blocks towards city hall and came across some kind of H.O.T pepper festival. There were various different kinds of peppers in all shapes, sizes and colours.

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Two arches covered designed with red peppers

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Aren’t we HOT?

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We wrote on a red pepper in Korean, it translates to Jon + Krista Forever. Yes, cheesy, but our Korean vocabulary is not that extensive!

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