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.