Seodaemun Prison History Hall
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Seodaemun Prison History Hall

Seodaemun Prison History Hall
4.5
Educational sitesHistory Museums
Temporarily closedClosed until further notice
The area
Address
Neighbourhood: Seodaemun
Walk within this area, centered on what used to be the western gate of traditional Seoul, and you'll get a glimpse of Korea’s past through the beautiful and historic buildings that are scattered throughout. Whether wandering around Deoksugung’s palace walls or touring more historically somber sites such as Seodaemun Prison, this is one of the best places for culture, architecture, and history lovers. Jeongdong in particular is a beautiful place for a stroll in spring and autumn.
How to get there
  • Donon • 2 min walk
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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as waiting time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles390 reviews
Excellent
170
Very good
175
Average
39
Poor
3
Terrible
3

Matthew P
Greater London, UK145 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2013 • Friends
Truly a moving experience. This is a definite must see to witness the atrocities and capabilities of mankind. After this visit it certainly changed my perspective on the Japanese culture and treatment of Koreans. Would fully recommend visiting and paying homage to the souls that were taken during the occupation.
Written 6 August 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Julia P
Pine Springs, AZ26 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2016 • Solo
The prison and grounds are kept in good condition. The red brick buildings are somewhat unique here in Korea, so I enjoyed looking around them. The prison has been restored to the point that it's almost hard to imagine it as a place of torture and despair. They have recreations of various torture methods used. You can see the exercise grounds where prisoners were separated by walls while exercising, the execution room, and the secret tunnel used to carry bodies out.

I am not giving this a better review for two reasons: while many signs were in English and in Korean, there were enough signs that were only in Korean that I felt like I was missing out on some really interesting stories. The other, and more important reason, is that it is so one-sided that it feels like a nostalgic, naive look back on Korean patriots rather than an objective history museum. While that nostalgia doesn't need to be completely eliminated, it should have been much more balanced. I would have liked to have heard about the Japanese guards and their lives, during and after. I really think they should have talked more about the prison after the Japanese occupation more. Who were the prisoners under the newly formed Korean government and how were they treated then? Was it similar to how the Japanese treated prisoners? I know the new Korean government had a massive crackdown on dissidents, but they are barely mentioned.

If you are interested in prisons or the Japanese occupation, I would still recommend this because it is a unique look into an important part of Korean history.
Written 18 May 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Garfieldluvr
Denver, CO971 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2018 • Couples
I was really excited about seeing this. As we walked around, there were no less than 50 groups of children (likely on field trips from school). The children were running around, screaming, and in my opinion, being completely disrespectful in an area where many people died so that they could have freedom. Their teachers largely ignored the behavior, and used microphones with speakers to talk to the children creating such a loud a chaotic environment that we could not possibly concentrate on the tour. The reason why I give it one star is because even though there were signs all over asking for people to be quiet and there were staff members in every room, I didn't see single staff member as the children or teachers to abide by the signs and be quiet. We left with headaches, shame :(
Written 13 May 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ShayeL
15 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2013
So you have done the shopping in Myeongdong, that trip down to Gangnam (oppa, gangnam style! Though I know that is so "last year" right?). Taken pictures at Gyeongbokgung Palace, bought your breakfast pastries and rolls from Paris Baguetten or Tous le jour, bought souvenirs at Insadong, peered into North Korea from the demilitarised zone (DMZ) at Paju, what else is there to do in Seoul?

If you have time to spare, take a look at Dongnimmun Gate (independence gate) and visit the Seodaemun Prison History Hall.

Given years of Chinese hegemony, period of
Japanese Occupation and the experience of the Korean War, Koreans are extremely patriotic (or nationalistic). See this sprit of the Korean people represented in history at the Seodaemun Prison Hall, which was one prison that housed activists of the Korean Independence Movement against Japanese occupation.

Getting there:

It is located near Dongnimmun (独立门- which is independence gate in Engliah) subway station on Line 3. It's on the same line as Gyeongbokgung and Anguk (where you would alight if you were going to Insadong). We had lunch at Insadong first before heading to Seodaemun Prison.

1. Alight at Dongnimmun Station (subway line 3 - orange)
2. Get out from
exit 5.
3. As soon as you are at street level, look to your left. You should see a pathway leading to a brick complex.
4. Follow the pathway to the main entrance.

Ticket price:
1. 3000 won (1 adult)

Opening hours:
1. 0930-1800 (March to October)
2. 0930 - 1700 (November to February)

We spent about 2 hours at the museum. A friend lecturing at Seoul National University had brought his students there numerous times and he does not want to be there once the sun starts to set.....

Other information:

The Prison Hall consists of several complexes, some of which have been demolished. A good part of the original prison structures still remain and those have been converted to a museum honoring those who sacrificed during Korea's struggle for independence.

The old official documents are written in Hanja (Chinese characters), Japanese or Korean. Hence for visitors whose first language is English, you might not be able to read the documents.

The exhibits are introduced in English, Korean, Japanese and sometimes Chinese so one should not have much problems reading about the history of the museum, the experience of the prisoners, the torture methods, etc.

TLDR: A very enriching experience that offers a glimpses into Korea's tumultuous past and a representation of the spirit of struggle in Korean's independence movement.

Written 3 December 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Beatrice K
21 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2013 • Family
Having visited Seoul 4 times over the past few years, and visiting only the beautiful touristy places, this trip we decided to visit the Seodaemun Prison History Hall to learn more about Korea's history. Most of the things are rather self explanatory and there are English explanations at some places to tell you more about the story behind. Its an eye opening experience for the family and myself. We got to see the cell where the Korean activist were kept in, the torture chambers, the clothing the prisons wore, execution hall, etc.

At the end of the visit, you may leave the place feeling quite disturbed due to the sound effects played and the things you see. Nevertheless, i would still recommend to everyone who visits Seoul to pay a visit to this place.
Written 30 August 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

fishermanbill
Rock Hall, MD9 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2012 • Family
I almost did not go to this prison since it was a little out of the way for me. But I had already seen all the wonderful palaces in Seoul and decided to take my family here. Wow! Glad I did. The prison was built in 1908 and is a vivid reminder of Japanese cruelty to the Koreans by the Japanese during their many years of occupation and subjugation of Korea. There are photographs documenting the cruelty and you can even go into cells where the Koreans were held. My kids learned an important lesson about war, torture and cruelty of one people by another and hopefully they will remember this when they grow up and become leaders in their own lives. My son opined, "it's hard to believe how low humans can go." he is right. This prison is a good learning experience and should be on your list of places to visit just as the European concentration camps are a terrible reminders.
Written 8 February 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

kjmagnuson
Los Angeles, CA668 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2012 • Solo
Seodaemun Prison is a sad and brutal reminder of the 35 year long colonial rule of Korea by Japan. This issue still resonates today becase Japan and Korea often cannot carry out basic diplomacy between each other.

Japan has apologized on multiple occassions, but many Koreans feel the sincerity is lacking. While Japanese right-ring politicians (and sometimes Prime Ministers) flame the fires in Korea by claiming the "comfort women" issue is not true, or by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine which honors some Imperial era war criminals.

I will not delve into the current politics, but Seodamun Prison does reflect a thorn in relations that even today is not easily resolved. Most Japanese buildings in Korea were torched or demolished the days following Japan's defeat in World War II. Indeed, nearly 1,000 Shinto shrines in Korea became bonfires as celebrations swept the country. Korean's feeling resentment for the years of bowing to shinto shrines, being banned from speaking Korean, and the forced adoption of Japanese names were finally free to unleash their rage. In 1996, with much fanfare one of the last symbols of Japan's colonial rule (the Government General Building) was destroyed on live television. Japan had offered to pay for the buildings restoration or removal cost and transportation to Japan, Korea refused and the demolition began. Seodaemun survived in large part, because its use as a prison continued all the way until 1987! There are few places left in Korea where you can see and explore Japanese colonial buildings, the Gunsan port area perhaps being the best preserved district.

Seodamun Prison Hall is worth visiting, but I must warn there are gruesome diplays of torture. In Korea some school groups visit the site, but I must disagree wholeheartedly that young children be allowed here. Children below middle school cannot understand how or why this happened. For those who think the displays do not reflect the real history, please feel free to research.
Written 9 December 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

xwxwxw
22 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2019
there is so much to learn about what happened during the japanese occupation. this is a prison where koreans supporting the resistance movement were imprisoned and tortured. you can walk through the prison halls where artists, poets, clergy were housed with artifacts from those times. there are recordings (almost couldn't bear listening to the cries that i cried myself) of those that survived the prison. the exhibits show recreations of interrogation rooms. there's lots to read and take in so i would allot at least 2 hours. powerful.
Written 6 August 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Zolike78
New Westminster, Canada313 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2019 • Solo
I was very lucky to have a free tour guide for this. A very intelligent and well spoken kid ( he was only 14! ) was offering free guide for foreigners. Now everything became more meaningful as he went over the entire history of the prison and of Korea during those days. I do understand even better now why Japanese are not well-liked in Korea. Lots of kids with their teachers, which is great. Respect for all the martyrs. Do yourself a favor and visit this place.
Written 15 June 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Crystle2015
Brisbane, Australia49 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2017
Very close to the station - worth a visit. Unfortunately not everything in English, only really the sections about the torture/horrendous acts undertaken there. If you like to read everything at museums you may be a little disappointed. If you only have time for one museum I would go to the war museum but if you have time then definitely come here.
Written 27 August 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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