Gate re-opens on South Korea's finest treasure

13th May 2013

South Korea's top-ranked national treasure has finally re-opened, bringing joy to locals and tourists alike.

More than 35,000 labourers, scientists, historians and artisans have worked on the five-year project to restore Sungnyemun, one of the Fortress Wall of Seoul's eight gates.

Also known as Namdaemun or the Great South Gate, Sungnyemun is South Korea's most important historical and cultural site.

This is as much for its symbolic role as protector of the king and capital as for its 600-year history, earning it the official status of the No.1 national treasure by the government's Cultural Heritage Administration.

Holidaymakers on group tours can view this wonder every Tuesday to Sunday from 9am-6pm, with hours extended to 7pm throughout May to mark the re-opening.

The original 1398 gate - the oldest in Seoul - resisted various Chinese and Japanese invasions, but it couldn't withstand an arson attack in February 2008.

The whole country pulled together, with individuals donating pine wood and others privately raising funds towards the £14.95 million (24.5 billion won) restoration.

The re-opening celebration was commemorated by a military band parade, music, dancing, prayer ceremonies and free admission to all four royal palaces in Seoul.

It followed a Buddhist ritual known as cheondo, which is meant to rid the building of bad luck.

Namdaemun, situated next to South Korea's biggest traditional market, originally served as an entrance to the walled capital city.

In recent decades it has become a favourite tourist attraction for holidaymakers on group tours.

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