Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Namdaemun - Seoul

Namdaemun - Seoul, originally uploaded by San Nakji.

Namdaemun - Seoul, originally uploaded by San Nakji.

Namdaemun - Seoul, originally uploaded by San Nakji.

Namdaemun - Seoul, originally uploaded by San Nakji.

I had some devastating news yesterday when I found out that this amazing gate, Namdaemun or Sungnemun, in downtown Seoul had been burned to the ground. This place has a special importance to me and is somewhere I seek out each time I return to Korea. It was 600 years old and was one of the few monuments in Seoul to survive Japanese occupation. It turns out that some freak deliberately lit the fire as he was embroiled in a land dispute. Not sure why that gives him the right to destroy a national treasure? Anyway, the news has me very sad...

These ancient monuments are our connection with the past. We should cherish them and protect them. When America was bombing Japan during WWII, academics from across the world demanded that Kyoto and Nara be spared. Thankfully the US Military listened and many amazing buildings were spared.

Without these connections to the past, our cities, our nations, would be colourless and dull. This is why Egypt is such a huge tourist draw. People want to feel apart of the past. To be with history. It is truly one of the joys of life.

Back in 2001, the Taliban of Afghanistan decided with their less than sterling intelligence that they would destroy the Bamyan Buddhas. These huge statues of Buddha carved into cliff walls had stood unmolested for 1500 years. It took only a month for them to be destroyed. This was the last straw for me. To me, this was a crime against humanity. This UNESCO listed treasure was something owned by us all. Yet a small bunch of people decided that they could go ahead and destroy this treasure.

When the US supported the Northern Alliance later on that year in the war against the Taliban I was fully behind this. The total lack of respect the Taliban had shown the people of Bamyan, and the people of the world was too much. I continue to support what is going on in Afghanistan.

It's kind of sad that rather than the outrage of human rights abuses, it was the destruction of ancient structures got me really mad. The way I see it, our lives are but a moment, when we are gone this is what we leave. We need these things to prove our humanity.

RIP Namdaemun


Heather said...

I hope they punish that man to the fullest extent. To destroy such a lovely piece of the past if inexcusable.

I'm so sorry that you lost something that you treasured. It seems so many in this world just don't care about who we are and where we came from. It's a shame that they can't appreciate all that history has to offer us.


Friar Tuck said...

So sorry for your loss

Ashley said...

I am with you 100%. I travel around the world as much as I can and see as many sites of cultural and historic value because I know I can't trust other people to preserve the world's treasures. That's incredibly sad. I am so glad you got to see it before the idiots destroyed it. It is a terrible loss for the world.

Cergie said...

When I began to read your post I immediatly though at this episode of the Afganistan War. So many thinks can do us so sad.
And the lost of wild lives too.
So many species of fish in the Meditteranean sea, or tiger or elephant and so on. The world made all of that for such a long time, from the beginning of the times ! And human kind will destroy that so quickly

I must say that in Germany many towns were totally destroyed and at the same time a lot of people killed : Dresde, Berlin. Happily it was not the case of Paris. Germans respected Paris.

Don't be sad, San Nakji, it's not your falt. This door will be built again more strongly (it is not the same, I know but... )

rubyslipperlady said...

It was striking. I am so sorry that some people have little regard for other people and other things. It amazes me what people will do to one another over land issues. That is what is happening here in Kenya right now.