The new Gwanghwamun Square at the heart of Seoul opens today(Aug 1) with a variety of exhibits and monuments showcasing the capital`s six-century history. The landmark square was established after a 15-month facelift of Sejongno, Seoul`s main thoroughfare. The square is located in front of Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbok Palace, the key royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910)..
The public plaza, which is 34 meters wide and 557 meters long, was created as part of plans to refurbish Seoul`s main streets with cultural charms, green landscape and historic symbols. At the hall, a number of sculptures, models and pictures of Haechi are on display to familiarize citizens and visitors with the symbolic icon of Seoul. Haechi is a lion-like horned creature appearing in Korean myths as a guardian against fire and disasters. The stratigraphic layers of the Street of the Six Ministries, which were excavated in September last year, are also on display in the hall, offering a glimpse of the architectural skills and techniques of the Joseon Dynasty. The street was where key government agencies were located during the dynasty. Various facilities for the disabled, such as an elevator, escalators and disabled toilets are set at the hall. For easy wheelchair access, the path leading to the square from the underground hall has a gentle wide ramp.
On the way out of Haechi Madang, “Haechi Board,” a wide screen measuring 2 meters in length and 5 meters in width, is set on the right side of the wall.
Major sports events will be shown on the high-resolution screen, which will bring citizens together and make the square another gathering ground for enthusiastic supporters, officials said. The screen will also be used by couples who want to publicly express their love.
Right outside Haechi Madang, visitors can enjoy a wide view of Mount Bukak, which stands behind Gyeongbok Palace whose main gate is Gwanghwamun. The landmark gate is currently undergoing restoration work, which is scheduled to be completed by October next year.
Right above Haechi Madang, there is a statue of Yi Sun-shin (1545-1598), considered to be Korea`s greatest admiral. In front of the statue, 364 water jets are installed to demonstrate naval battles Yi successfully led against foreign invaders. LED lighting will illuminate fountains in front of the statue.
On the eastern and western edges of the square, there are “Waterways of History.” Each measures 2 centimeters in depth, 1 meter in width and 365 meters in length.
Key historical events that have happened since 1392, when the Joseon Dynasty was established, are engraved on the stone floor of the waterway on the eastern edge of the square. The floor of the waterway on the western edge is left empty so it can be updated in the future.
About 250 meters north of the statue of Admiral Yi, there will stand a statue of King Sejong (1397-1450), the inventor of the Korean alphabet, Hangeul. Professor Kim Young-won of Hongik University has been working on the statue, which will be unveiled on Hangeul Day (Oct. 9.)
In front of the statue, a water clock, a sundial, a rainfall gauge and a celestial globe are set. In the underground passage right under the statue, there will be an exhibition hall, which will enable visitors to take a closer look at the life and achievements of King Sejong. The hall will also be unveiled on Hangeul Day.
There will also stand a statue of Haechi near the northern end of the square. In front of Gwanghwamun, a large-scale “flower carpet” will be put in to celebrate the opening of the square.
The carpet, which is 17.5 meters wide and 165 meters long, is made of 224,537 flowers. The number matches the number of the days between Oct. 28 1394, when the capital of the Joseon Dynasty was transferred to Seoul from Gaeseong, the capital of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), and today.
The beautiful flower arrangements can be enjoyed all year round, officials said.
With the opening of the square, concerns have been raised that the square could turn into a staging ground for massive anti-government protests. As the square is located near the presidential office, some say rules strictly governing the use of the square should be established.
(firstname.lastname@example.org) By Song Sang-ho