Perhaps off-topic for this blog, but of great importance for historians: the Namdaemun, the ancient gate to the city of Seoul, has burned.

I saw this gate on my trip to South Korea; we went to the traditional market (open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year) near it, the Namdaemun Market.

As much as I love books and texts, there’s nothing quite as powerful as seeing and touching the past. Namdaemun, Hadrian’s Wall, the bits of Roman pavement in London…standing there, looking at them, touching them, is as close to time travel as we’re ever likely to get. I’m fortunate to have had that experience.


(Great Britain)

(South Korea)

This is a sad day.

Showing 15 comments
  • Oak Knoll Mom

    How sad. I’m glad you were able to see it before it burned.

    Is the bottom picture you at the Namdaemun?

  • Lori

    That stinks. What caused the fire?

  • Susan

    I don’t think anyone knows as of yet. Hard to imagine how it could have happened accidentally, though.

  • A Circle of Quiet

    Sigh…how sad.


  • joanna

    I studied Korean (and LOTS of Korean history) in the Air Force, then spent 15 months there on a hardship tour; we shopped at Namdaemun whenever we were in Seoul. I was shocked to see that it had burned down. It’s a sad day in Korean history.

  • Stacey

    Wow. We lived in Korea for 4 years as missionaries to the US Army at Camp Humphreys. There’s a lot of Korean pride that burned down w/ that gate. sad…

  • Kerri Rogers

    CNN’s website said, “A 69-year-old who was previously convicted of torching a palace has been arrested in connection with a fire that destroyed Namdaemun.” He’s obviously not well. How selfish and thoughtless to do something like this just to make a statement.

  • James

    I saw an image of it in Time.
    The gate looks quite beautiful.
    Since I have no real connection with this building (i don’t understand its historical signifance… I’m Korean history illiterate), when I saw the image I thought … wow, it looks so beautiful (on fire as the firefighter was trying to put out the flames.)

    Yes, I probably need to get my head checked.
    BTW, thanks for replying to my email! I never expected a reply! (because you’re busy and famous).

  • Terry

    I live about 1 mile from Namdaemun right now. My family as seen it so often, we neglected to take our on photo of it; that is, until it burned down.

    It is very interesting to see the differences in our cultures in the response to this arson. There’s a sense of collective responsibility, manifested by citizens leaving flowers and notes at the base of Namdaemun asking for it to forgive them. Even children have left notes saying, “We are sorry that we did this to you. Please forgive us.”

    As for the arsonist, some call for his execution. Some go so far as to suggest that his entire family should be put to death. I have never seen such an outpouring of grief and anger for a monument. Then again, it was built before Columbus arrived in the New World.

    Oh, and it seems that the arsonist is a 70 year-old man who is angry because he believes the government did not provide just compensation when it seized his private property as part of a large construction project. His last arson was just last year when he attempted to burn down an historic palace. His apologetic pleas and advanced age got him him a light sentence from the judge.

  • Under the Sky

    What a horrible public robbery. I am so sorry to read of the arsonist’s incredible selfishness.

    I loved your comments about standing on (or around) history. I felt that same way in London and the various ancient places I visited. There is an aching longing I feel when in those kinds of places – a connection of sorts to the past I wish I could experience. It is a lovely yet painful kind of feeling. I have often said to my children that I hope God gives us His “home videos” of history so we can see it all from the beginning.


  • Occidental Girl

    Absolutely! These things are irreplaceable. When they’re gone, they’re gone. Very sad.

  • Jan P.

    I just saw this! I was in South Korea in 1983. I remember this famous gate very well! I’m very sad to hear that such a historical monument has burned. It is very sad! 🙁

  • A Scot

    Hadrian’s Wall isn’t in Scotland, it is in Northumbria…(England)

  • Tricia

    We lived in Korea for two years and we always visited the gate when we were in Seoul. How tragic.

  • shiny(south korean ha)

    hello,i am very disappointed namdaemun getting burned.
    disappointment…:(anyway i am reading your book ‘ancient times’ transfered into korean.i am living in korea now and i heard from the news.they said:

    news:it’s burned by a drunkard.


    news:this is disappointing


    news:the man is unknown since he doesn’t want to show
    himself.the judge gave him a terrible sin.(ex.staying
    at jail alone without food forever etc.)

    me:He should have more terrible sin than that!

    news:thank you

    me……i am disappointed……:(

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