Seodaemun Prison History Hall

Seodaemun Prison History Hall information

Seoul , South Korea
251 Tongil-ro, Seodaemun-gu
Getting there
Subway: Line 3 to Dongnimmun, Exit 5
More information
adult/youth/child ₩3000/1500/100
Opening hours
9.30am-6pm Tue-Sun Mar-Oct, to 5pm Tue-Sun Nov-Feb
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Built in 1908, this one-time prison is a symbol of Japanese cruelty and oppression during their colonial rule of Korea from 1910 until 1945. However, it was also used by Korea's various postwar dictators up until its closure in 1987. View the original cell blocks where independence fighters and democracy campaigners were held. Of the hundreds of prisoners who died here the most famous is Ryu Gwan-sun, an 18-year-old Ewha high school student, who was tortured to death in 1920.

With space for only 500 prisoners, up to 3500 were packed inside during the height of the anti-Japanese protests in 1919. There was no heating and the food was just rice, barley and beans.

Exhibitions including lifelike re-creations of torture scenes in the nightmarish interrogation cells in the basement. Photographs of the prison and prison conditions are on view along with video footage. Not everything is translated into English.

In another building you can experience what the prisoners suffered. Firstly the torture scenes – look at the spikes in the box which prisoners were put inside; next the court finds you guilty, and you sit down on the execution chair to be hanged – be warned: the chair drops down!

An outdoor memorial lists the names of 90 Koreans known to have died in the prison, but around 300 to 600 nameless others died here from torture, execution, malnutrition and disease.

The execution building (1923) is chilling. Behind it is a 200m tunnel to a hillside ­cemetery where the bodies were buried.