Tapgol Park information
Opened in 1897, Tapgol is a symbol of Korean resistance to Japanese rule. On 1 March 1919, Son Byeong-hui and 32 others signed and read aloud a Declaration of Independence (a copy in English can be read on the memorial plaque). Many of them were high-school teachers, 16 were Cheondogyo followers, 15 were Protestant Christians and two, including poet-monk Young-un, were Buddhists. All were arrested and locked up in the notorious Seodaemun Prison. A torrent of protest against Japan followed in Seoul and throughout Korea, but the samil (1 March) movement was ruthlessly suppressed. Hundreds of independence fighters were killed and thousands arrested. In the park, 10 murals depict scenes from the heroic but unsuccessful struggle.
The park’s other outstanding feature is the 10-tier, 12m-high stone pagoda, encased in a glass box. It once graced Wongak-sa, a nearby Buddhist temple destroyed in 1504 on the orders of the Confucian king. Buddhists were forced out of the cities into the mountains, where most of Korea’s great temples still stand today. The pagoda, a treasure of Buddhist art, has wonderful carvings all over it.