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Independence Hall of Korea

Recent Posts, Posted by Matt in Chungcheong,Historic Korea, 3 Comments

Independence Hall of Korea


20090815_independencehallAugust 15th is Gwangbokjeol (광복절) or Korean Independence Day, which celebrates the defeat of the Japanese during WWII and Korea’s liberation after 35 years of oppressive colonial rule. In honor of the day, let’s head to Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province to visit the Independence Hall of Korea (독립기념관). The extensive complex was opened to the public in 1982, and serves to collect, preserve and display a wealth of data about the Korean civilization, with a special focus on the nation’s early 20th century independence movement against Japan.

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Photo courtesy of the Independence Hall of Korea.

Located about 25 minutes by bus from the Cheonan train station, the Independence Hall of Korea complex is situated at the base of a mountain surrounded by forests with buildings and grounds built on a massive scale. The Grand Hall of the Nation serves as the focal point for the entire complex. The 45-meter tall building is said to be the largest tile-roofed house in Asia, its physical plant being comparable to a soccer/football field. This symbol of independence and a memorial to the nation’s martyrs is accessed by a massive Plaza of the Nation. This 40,000 square meter open area includes two large bridges and a wrap-around White Lotus Pond with water fountains.

The main draws of the Independence Hall of Korea are seven exhibition halls that form a semi-circle behind the Grand Hall. Combined, the 23,424 square meters represent the largest exhibition facility in Korea. Here are brief descriptions of each hall:

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The first exhibition hall, titled “The National Heritage,” shows artifacts from the 4,000+ years of Korean civilization from prehistoric times through to the 19th century. In my opinion, highlights include a massive replica of the Monument to King Gwanggaeto the Great, which describes the history of the Goguryeo Kingdom. Another favorite is a model of a restored Hwangryongsa temple (황룡사), which included a famed 9-story wooden pagoda. Sadly, it was destroyed by Mongol invaders during the Goryeo era.

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In “The Ordeal of the Nation,” the second exhibition hall displays items representing the Korean independence and nationalist movements starting in the 1860s, when Korea was officially sovereign, but under increasing threat from regional powers – China, Japan, Russia, Great Britain and the U.S. – who all sought control over the strategic peninsula.

Exhibition Hall #3 of the Independence Hall of Korea is called “The Security and Protection of the Nation.” It describes independence movements such as the Uibyeong Movement, the Enlightenment Movement and the National Debt Repayment Movement.

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“The Cry of the Nation” is the name of Exhibition Hall 4. Focusing on the March 1st Independence Movement (삼일운동), the moving exhibits describe the nationwide series of protests against Japanese colonial rule, that began on March 1, 1919. Over the next two years, some two million Koreans participated in marches that were brutally repressed by Japanese police forces. An estimated 23,000 dead and wounded, with another 46,000 imprisoned. The nonviolent struggle would inspire similar movements in China, Egypt and the Philippines.

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The Independence Hall of Korea‘s Exhibition Hall 5 is organized around the theme, “The Restoration of National Sovereignty.” As the name suggests, the exhibit chronicles the armed resistance movements by Korean fighters in Manchuria and elsewhere that were organized by the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai in 1940.

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The theme of the 6th Exhibition Hall is “The Construction of the New Nation.” Displays describe independence movement activities and the Gwangju Student Independence Movement. This display was recently renovated and just opened to the public this month (August 2009).

And finally, the 7th Exhibition Hall focuses on “The Korean Provisional Government,” where independence activists in Shanghai and elsewhere fought to regain Korea’s independence before the nation was liberated at the end of World War II.

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In addition to the seven main exhibits are several ancillary features. The Circle Vision Theater is a 500-seat venue that plays “Korea, My Beautiful Land” on a 360-degree screen every half-hour from 10:30 until 17:30. The extensive grounds are divided into four additional outdoor sites:

The House of the Korean People displays various items of cultural and historic significance. The Reunification Monument features rainbow-shaped arches set atop a mound. And another site is a memorial for martyrs, veterans and others who perished during Korea’s independence struggle.

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But my favorite part of the whole Independence Hall of Korea complex is a somewhat eerie outdoor exhibit located on the far west side of the complex. Designed to teach lessons of humility, giant pieces of concrete rubble are strewn about in concentric circles, where dirt paths and stone stairs lead down into a recessed area where the centerpiece of the Japanese Government General building stands. The building once stood inside Gyeongbokgung palace (경복궁)  as the seat of the Japanese Government in Seoul. As a reminder of the painful and humiliating Japanese colonial period, the building was demolished between 1995-96.

The Independence Hall of Korea offers many educational programs. Translation services can be pre-arranged for groups, in English, Japanese and Chinese. There are also extensive campgrounds, as well as pine and bamboo groves for relaxation..
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For your information…

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09:30-18:00 (Mar-Oct), 09:30-17:00 (Nov-Feb), Ticket sales end one hour before close, Closed MondaysFree Admission041-560-0114
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South Chungcheong Province Cheonan-si Dongnam-gu Mokcheon-eup Namhwa-riCheonan Station (#P168) on Line 1. Take bus 400 to the Independence Hall. website
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3 Comments

20 March 2010 21:39

Discovering Korea – Happy Chuseok 2009!

[...] popular venues are also staying open for Chuseok, and they include the Independence Hall of Korea, the War Memorial of Korea, the Namsan Cable Car, Hangang River Cruise, and COEX [...]

27 June 2010 03:42

kaye

Hi Matt! Thanks so much for your blog on the Independence Hall. It’s very informative. If we take the bus from Namsan, how long will the travel time be? May I ask how much is the entrance fee? Do you have their website?

Thanks so much. If you have the time though, do visit my blog at kayelangit-luistro.blogspot.com for some travel anecdotes involving my travels in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau and of course around the Philippines.

More power!

July 08 2010 09:16 am

Matt

Hi Kaye,

Thanks for your note and the link to your travel blog. I look forward to reading about your travel adventures.

RE: your travel questions about the Independence Hall, I'm not familiar with the Namsan bus you mentioned. I took the standard train to the Cheonan Station (not the KTX Cheonan/Asan station) and then hopped on a local bus. From what I can recall, the train there took around an hour and the bus was about another 30 minutes. It's very possible that there's a direct bus from downtown Seoul, but I'm not aware of it. The Hall's official website is listed at the end of the post and access is free.

I hope you enjoy your trip! Best, Matt

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