Thursday, January 04, 2007

Korean Independence Fighters at Sodaemun Prison

As yesterday happened to be my last day in Seoul, I decided to go to Sodaemun Prison in Seoul. Originally a notorious prison build by the Japanese to hold rebels against the Japanese occupiers, Sodaemun is now a museum that tells the story of the insurgents and other prominent figures of the Korean Independence movement.

As the museum pointed out on several occasions, from 1906 until the end of World War II, Korea suffered under a brutal occupation by the Japanese. And like many places where foreign powers aren't wanted, they promptly rose up to fight their oppressors. The ones who lived and got caught, found themselves in Sodaemun prison and dozens of others built by the Japanese following the war.

The museum had several interesting exhibits. They had one particular torture device something like a standing closet. In the shape of a V, prisoners stood in the closet while guards shut the door. Ergonomically designed to prevent all movement, the prisoner could only stand up straight, and might soon suffer from paralysis (according to the description at least). I got in and had some folks take a picture of me (coming soon).

In the torture chamber the Japanese used is now filled with animatronic dolls covered with blood. Every time you walk by a "torture room" the gory dolls start writhing in mechanical movements. A overdramatic voice recording starts screaming as well.

The Japanese also had an execution chamber where they hung prisoners. With false floorboards, the prisoners sitting on a bench would soon find the floor falling out beneath them, after the rope was already fixed around their neck. Guards could then discreetly dispose of the bodies from the basement. They had a bench where you could sit and "simulate" such a feeling. When you sat down in it, the thing lurched down and forward without warning.

After wandering through the exhibits, I found myself wishing they had added more English to the explanations. Some things were in English, but they often sounded very repetitive. The videos they had were also in Korean only. This time they used The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack. Numerous other descriptions were only in Korean. Odd for such a popular tourist destination. Every other place I went has at least English (and usually Japanese and Chinese as well) Other than that it was great fun. I took some relatively promising pictures as well.


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