Tapgol Park

Gwanghwamun & Jongno-gu

Seoul's first modern-style park, opened in 1897, stands on the precincts of Wongak-sa, a Buddhist temple destroyed in 1504. Left behind was its remarkable 10-tier, 12m-high marble pagoda, which today is encased in a glass box at the rear of the park. Decorated with highly detailed carvings it's a beautiful and rare piece of art.

The park is also a symbol of Korean resistance to Japanese rule. Ten murals on the wall behind the pagoda depict scenes from the heroic but unsuccessful struggle of the Samil (1 March) Movement against Japanese colonisation in the early 20th century.

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). 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 Movement was ruthlessly suppressed. Hundreds of independence fighters were killed and thousands arrested.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Gwanghwamun & Jongno-gu attractions

1. Stone Pagoda of Wongak-sa

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This 10-tier, 12m-high monument in Tapgol Park once graced Wongak-sa, a Buddhist temple that stood here but was destroyed in 1504 on the orders of the…

2. Sun Art Center

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One of Seoul's longest running commercial-art galleries, in business since 1977, Sun Art specialises in early-20th-century Korean art and awards an annual…

3. Hwabong Gallery

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Cutting-edge Korean art is usually on show in this basement space alongside permanent displays of the smallest book in the world (no more than a dot), and…

4. Jongno Tower

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Designed by Rafael Viñoly, this striking 33-storey office building with a floating oval lords it over low-rise Insa-dong and has a fancy restaurant and…

5. Bosingak

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Contrasting with the modern Jongno Tower opposite, this ornate pavilion houses a recent copy of the city bell – the original, forged in 1468, is in the…

6. Cheondogyo Temple


Cheondogyo means 'Religion of the Heavenly Way', and this temple is the hall of worship for a home-grown faith containing Buddhist, Confucian and…

7. Mokin Museum

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Mokin are carved and painted wooden figures and decorative motifs that were used to decorate sangyeo (funeral carriages). Carved by village craftsmen,…

8. Tteok & Kitchen Utensil Museum

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For those interested in the local sweet culture, this two-room museum at the Institute of Traditional Korean Food offers displays of rice cakes in…