“Please head towards Gwanghwamun, where the brilliant light will shine. I hope you will join us as the eternal light. Three! Two! One! Light up!”
On a holiday evening when darkness began to fall, people gathered in the square in front of Gwanghwamun in Seoul took out their cell phones and turned on the lights, and the area around Gwanghwamun became brightly lit.
Where the lights gathered, there was a 50m road that disappeared during the Japanese colonial period.
At Gwanghwamun, the main gate of the palace considered the best of the Joseon Dynasty, the golden Chinese characters ‘Gwanghwamun’ on a black background (Gwanghwamun, written in Chinese characters from right to left) shined brightly.
The woldae (wide platform installed in front of important buildings) and the new signboard in front of Gwanghwamun were unveiled on the 15th after lengthy restoration work.
This is the final journey and completion of ‘Finding Myself in Gwanghwamun’, which started in 2006.
Woldae, which regained its original form after about 100 years, stretched long between Gwanghwamun and the square.
At the front of the road where the king would have walked in the past, a pair of animal statues donated to the nation by the family of the late Lee Kun-hee, the late chairman of Samsung Group, exuded auspicious energy.
The railing stones (stone structures that surround a building like a fence) at Donggureung in Guri, Gyeonggi Province, after a long wait, found their proper place on the woldae and were placed neatly.
At around 6:45 p.m., the sound of ‘open the door’ was heard and the applause in the square grew louder.
The 13 members of the Saegil Welcoming Group, including Choi Eung-cheon, Commissioner of the Cultural Heritage Administration, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yoo In-chon, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, National Intangible Cultural Heritage Gayageum Sanjo and Byeongchang holder Lee Young-hee, Gyeonggi-do Intangible Cultural Heritage Seok holder Lim Dong-jo, and children’s representatives, marched toward Woldae.
They passed between the gate guards lined up and made their way to Geunjeongjeon, the central building of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
In the front yard of Geunjeongjeon, as if recreating the state ceremonies of the past, civil and military officials (all civil servants and unaffiliated officials) gathered to greet the Saegil greeting group and citizens.
Commissioner Choi Eung-cheon emphasized the meaning in his commemorative speech that day, saying, “It looks quite different from the Gwanghwamun we have seen for a long time, but this is the complete appearance of Gwanghwamun.”
Commissioner Choi referred to Gwanghwamun as “the first face of Gyeongbokgung Palace” and said, “I hope that the symbolism and meaning of the restoration of Gwanghwamun, as well as the efforts made so far, will be well conveyed to the people.”
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yoo In-chon emphasized, “Woldae is not only the ‘King’s Road’, but it is also a space for communication with the people,” and added, “I hope that it will play a role in opening up the Republic of Korea through communication.”
Citizens hoped that the newly renovated Gwanghwamun would become a space that everyone could enjoy.
When the appearance of Woldae was revealed before the main event began, everyone in the waiting line said ‘Wow!’ A voice came out. There were also many people who took ‘proof shots’ with their mobile phones while raising their toes.
After traffic around Gwanghwamun안전놀이터 was controlled around 5 p.m., citizens lined up behind the control line and waited for the banner and signboard to appear. In some cases, people brought hand warmers and scarves in the chilly weather.
The Cultural Heritage Administration estimated that about 10,000 people participated in the event to unveil the banner and plaque on this day.
Lim Se-hwak, who looked at Woldae with his 5-year-old son, said, “I think the children will like it if the guard changing ceremony is held in the newly opened space,” and added, “I hope it will serve as a plaza for communication with the people in the future.”
Ms. Jang Mi-hyang, who had been waiting an hour before the event, smiled brightly and said, “I wanted to do this even while driving (Sajik-ro) while changing roads, but seeing the finished product is truly amazing. I feel proud.”
Master Im Dong-jo, who led the restoration of Woldae, said, “The new Gwanghwamun will become a meeting place in the future,” and added, “Please remember the meaning of restoring our precious cultural heritage and leaving it to future generations.”
Meanwhile, Hangul-related organizations expressed their opposition to the fact that the new signboard at Gwanghwamun, the first in about 13 years since 2010, was made with Chinese characters.
The new plaque is written in Chinese characters written by Lim Tae-yeong, who was a training commander at the time of the reconstruction of Gyeongbokgung Palace and also a Yeonggeondogam manufacturer (a position of a temporary government official in charge of construction of palaces and other palaces during the Joseon Dynasty). The text is the same as the existing signboard, but the colors are different.
About 10 organizations, including the Korea Bareun Speech Institute, held a press conference at Gwanghwamun Square on this day and claimed, “Gwanghwamun is the history of the Republic of Korea and a symbol of Seoul,” and “We oppose the Chinese character signboard.”