After years of projects, the Gwanghwamun area has been finally given back to citizens in the form of a square.
The area functioned as the government’s office during the Joseon Dynasty days and was called Sejongno in recent historical times. During those periods, political and economic logics used to be more prevalent than the concept of a place where ordinary people can come to mingle together and take a nice rest. Now, let’s take a trip to Gwanghwamun Square, reborn as a place of pleasant relaxation.
The Gwanghwamun gate is the main, south gate of Gyeongbok Palace. One can see that it is much grander than other entrances to the palace. This is because it was the front gate of the royal palace that kings of the Joseon Dynasty passed through.
When the royal residence was first built, the gate had no official appellation and was simply called Omun, meaning the ‘gate of noon’. The current name was given in 1426, the 8th year of King Sejong's reign.
The gate has been destroyed and restored several times. Recently, it was found to be slanted by approximately 3.5 degrees, with a correction project running from Dec. 2006 to Oct. 2010.
What is now Gwanghwamun Square used to be a road. The reconstruction project began in May, 2008 and was completed in July 2009, turning it into a downtown plaza measuring 555m in length and 34m in width.
The square is divided into five sections for five purposes: to restore the history of Gwanghwamun; to reproduce a scene from the Joseon Dynasty’s government office street; to show visitors a typical Korean square; to promote culture-oriented participation among citizens; and to provide a resting place for urban dwellers. Along the path called ‘Waterways of History’ in the square leading to the Cheonggye Stream, visitors can view stone tablets featuring descriptions of Korea’s historical occasions.
Restoration of the Cheonggye Stream, measuring 5.84km in length, was completed in September 2005 after the existing Cheonggye Overpass was torn down and the stream was restored back to what it was in the olden days.
The name Cheonggye signifies ‘clear stream.’ The stream boasts excellent water quality and the area has now become a popular place for people to gather all year round.
Walking Tour around Cheonggye Stream and Gwanghwamun Square
Do you want to look around Cheongg-yecheon Plaza and Gwanghwa-mun Square? Then, visit www.sisul.or.kr and check out the tour programs offered by the Seoul Metropolitan Facilities Management Corporation.
The program provides three courses: Gwanghwa-mun Square to Deoksu Palace; Gwanghwamun Square to Insa-dong; and Gwanghwamun Square to Hyoja-dong. All three walking tours are provided free of charge. However, visitors must pay the palace admission fee. Each tour takes approximately 2-2.5 hours. Travel guides on the walks will provide interpretation services in various languages, including Korean, English, and Japanese.
Visitors wishing to join one of the programs must apply at least five days in advance and must meet with the tour guide at the King Sejong Statue in Gwanghwa-mun Square.
Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty
Major palaces located in Seoul include Gyeongbokgung, Changgyeonggung, Changdeo-kgung, Deoksugung and Jongmyo, among which Gyeongbokgung Palace was used as the royal palace during the Joseon Dynasty.
Visitors can enter the palaces between 9:00 am and 7:00 pm. Gyeongbokgung and Jongmyo palaces are closed every Tuesday, while the other palaces are closed on Mondays.