Seoul City Wall Museum
The Seoul City Wall Museum which was opened on July 31, 2014, was reopened on September 6, 2016 after undergoing a period of remodeling. The Seoul City Wall was constructed in 1396 and has been protecting Seoul for the past 600 years.
The city wall was constructed by using natural topography, so even though it was partly damaged in the process of modernizing Seoul, this cultural heritage has been able to retain its original shape, enjoying a state of coexistence with the city.
The museum situated in Dongdaemun City Wall Park exhibits the history and culture of the Seoul City Wall, spanning from the Joseon Dynasty to the present time. It is a cultural space equipped with a permanent exhibition hall, special exhibition hall, city wall information center and a study room. At the museum, visitors can experience the 600 years of history and the future value of the city wall as a cultural heritage.
First Floor Lobby
The City Wall Embraces Seoul
The media art of the Seoul City Wall in the large multi-vision display on the wall of the lobby on the first floor of the museum introduces memories that linger about the city wall, including the present and past imagery of the city wall itself.
Permanent Exhibition Hall
- Permanent Exhibition Hall 1 – Seoul City Wall
- Through the miniature model and video which show the entire Seoul City Wall in one view, visitors can see the significance and value of the city wall that is gaining attention as Seoul's representative cultural heritage of today. In addition, at the Digital City Wall Tour corner, visitors can tour the 18.627㎞-long wall and can receive useful information while touring.
Seoul and the Seoul City Wall
Seoul is a giant city with an area of 605㎢ where a population of 10 million people live, and it is a continuum of newness that changes on a daily basis. When a day starts in Seoul after a sunrise, many people move about busily and the city changes fast. However, that is not all about Seoul. It is a historical city where 600 years of the past coexist with the present and the Seoul City Wall, which has witnessed the historical footsteps of the city, proves it.
The Seoul City Wall which was constructed in Hanyang (present-day Seoul), the capital city of the Joseon Dynasty, in 1396, was a boundary of the city and operated like a fence that protected the lives of people living within the wall. The intended function of the city wall has long-disappeared in the process of modernization and the majority of the city wall has been lost to history, but the city wall still functionally occupies the center of Seoul. The wall is being revived for modern times through excavation and restoration, and it is still embracing people living inside the wall boundaries as going through the changes of season and day and night.
- Permanent Exhibition Hall 2 - The Construction and Management of the Seoul City Wall
- The exhibition hall reveals the Seoul City Wall during the Joseon Dynasty: the movement of Hanyang, construction of the capital and the city wall. In addition to the construction of the city wall, it introduces the opening and closing of the city wall gates, management of the wall and the appearance of Seoul citizens during the Joseon Dynasty who lived inside and outside the city wall.
The Construction of the Seoul City Wall
The walled city is a space and accumulative structure that reveals the status and ruling ideology of a nation through its location, size, shape and style. Overall government ordinances stem from the insides of the city wall, important rituals of the nation are performed inside the walls, and excellent talent and resources gather in the city wall. The Joseon Dynasty, which was founded in 1392, decided upon Hanyang as being its capital. Even though Hanyang was the Southern capital of Goryeo, it did not have a city wall. The Joseon Dynasty built a city wall according to the natural shape of its land and filled all within the walls according to the ideology of Confucianism. The roads inside the wall were connected across the nation through city wall gates, while the Hangang River which flows from east to west on the south side of the wall was used as a goods transporting route. The wall was once conquered and destroyed by the invasion of Japan and Qing Dynasty in the late 16th century and the mid-17th century, but whenever it was damaged, it was restacked again and when the city wall gate became dilapidated, it was then repaired, so the basic structure of the wall has been preserved without great change during the 500 years of the Joseon Dynasty.
The Management and Life of the City Wall
The city wall symbolized the prestige of the king and the authority of the nation, and it was a an embodiment of national protection, so it needed to exude proper authority. By drastically reducing the size of the city wall during the reign of King Sejong (r. 1418-1450), a parapet walk (sunsimno) was paved along the city wall. Soldiers inspected the condition of the wall on a daily basis by walking along the city wall and if they found any abnormalities, they reported it to the government office in charge to repair it. In particular, Sungnyemun and Heunginjimun Gates, which received foreign envoys frequently, were built splendidly and majestically, and the gate tower had a function of acting as a watch tower in case of fire outbreaks. The city wall directly influenced the daily life of Seoul residents and it also had a symbolic and literal influence over people around the nation. Seoul residents led their lives according to the time of opening and closing the city wall gates. Since the establishment of the Defence Regulation (Suseongjeolmok) during the reign of King Yeongjo (r. 1724-1776), each segment of the wall was assigned to residents of the walled city so that they could defend the city wall in case of emergency. People who visit the capital from local areas could identify the capital by looking at the wall and gates.
- Permanent Exhibition Hall 3 - Damage and Rebirth of the Seoul City Wall
- This exhibition hall shows the turbulent period of the city wall which was damaged during the Japanese occupation of Korea and during the modernization period after freedom from Japan but returned to citizens after excavation and restoration. Visitors can see the modern history of the wall which went through difficulties and revival in a single view.
Damage of the Seoul City Wall
For old walled cities, due to a population increase and the expansion of the city space outside the city walls, and the new construction and expansion of roads upon the advent of a new transportation mode, in addition to the development of new weapons, the military value of the city wall was reduced. In the process of modernization, many city walls around the world were demolished, and Seoul City Wall could not avoid a similar fate. Furthermore, the urbanization of Seoul was closely related to external invasions. During the Japanese occupation of Korea, Japan systematically demolished the walls on flat land, and they dismantled or neglected the city wall gates which performed a symbolic role in Seoul over several hundreds of years. When they built Joseon Shrine, which was looked upon as being Japan's Shinto, they damaged the city walls around Namsan. When they built Gyeongseong Stadium, they dismantled the city walls around Dongdaemun. Seoul City Wall, which used to be a symbol demarking respectful land, was changed to rubble that reveals the pain of a ruined nation.
Revival of the Seoul City Wall
Medieval cities which are surrounded by their city walls could not enjoy modern industrialization and urbanization. In the process of modernization, the city wall was generally perceived as an lingering vestige that hampers the development of a city. Accordingly, the walls of many historical cities around the world have been dismantled and the Seoul City Wall could not avoid the same fate of Medieval walls as well. However, unlike other capital walls which were built on flat land, Seoul City Wall was built in harmony with local topography, allowing for most parts of the city wall to be preserved. After some turbulence in modern times, Korean people began to feel that the remains of the past exhibiting the tradition of Korea should be preserved and restored. The Seoul City Wall has been recovered as a monumental legacy that expresses the history of Korea and the identity of Seoul, so it has been revived into architecture that takes on a different meaning from the past. An attempt to restore the original appearance of the wall sometimes ended up compromising authenticity, but the Seoul City Wall has been born again as a symbol of the new era that seeks harmony between nature and humanity and between the past and present.
- Museum Hours
Viewing times March-October November-February Sat, Sun, Holidays 09:00-19:00 09:00-18:00 Tue - Fri 09:00-19:00 Closed Jan. 1, Mondays
- Admission Fee
- Seoul Design Support Center, Floor 1~3, 283 Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea(Postal code:03098)
- Tel. 02-724-0243 / Fax. 02-747-9986 / Website www.museum.seoul.kr/scwm/NR_index.do
- Line 1 Dongdaemun Station, Exit 1
- Line 4 Dongdaemun Station, Exit 10
- Dongdaemun (01-214) Station, 102, 107, 108, 301, 7025
- Dongdaemun (Heunginjimun) (01-037, 01-233) Station, 101, 103, 105, 144, 152, 201, 260, 261, 262, 270, 271, 370, 420, 720, 721, 2112, 2233, 6002, 9301