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Seoul City Hall
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSeoul City Hall is actually made up of four parts: Seoul Metropolitan Library, Seoul Plaza, Citizen’s Hall, and City Hall itself. Completed in 2012, Seoul City Hall replaced the previous city hall which was built nearly a century earlier while Korea was under Japanese occupation. The construction took four years and included the addition of new basement levels which would later become the Citizen’s Hall.
A Controversial HistoryThe Seoul Metropolitan Library was built in 1926 and, until 2008, it served as Seoul’s city hall. From 1926 until 1945, it served as the office of the Governor-General of Korea during Japanese occupation and was taken over after Korea gained its independence. During its history, it was expanded six times as Seoul grew to the city-state it is today.
Like many structures of its era, the Seoul Metropolitan Library was built according to European architectural styles. These structures were characterized by domed roofs, framed windows and a style of stonework that was foreign to Korea at the time as they were meant to evoke a sense of foreign encroachment symbolizing an oppressive, overruling, imperial power.
During the early 2000s, plans started to form regarding the demolition and subsequent construction of a new city hall building. The original plans called for a new modern design in place of the previous structure, which many saw as a holdover of Japanese occupation. Surprisingly, a large population requested that the building be conserved due to its place in Korean history while opponents saw the structure as a symbol of imperial Japan. Eventually, the plans were changed and the interior was renovated to make way for a new public library.
The Seoul Metropolitan Library, along with a few other structures like Culture Station Seoul 284 at Seoul Station and the National Palace Museum of Korea in Gyeongbokgung Palace, were preserved and designated as national treasures; other structures like the Japanese General Government Building, which used to sit in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace, weren’t so lucky.
A New Lease on LifeConstruction on Seoul City Hall started in 2008 and was completed in 2012. The new city hall was designed to contrast sharply with the older design while at the same time promoting eco-friendly themes.
Based on the design of eaves on traditional Korean houses, the entire façade of the structure is made from glass. More than a quarter of the energy used in the building is from eco-friendly sources, and inside there is a vertical garden spanning 1,516 square meters, the size of a soccer field. The over 70,000 plants help regulate the temperature and humidity while simultaneously filtering out dusts and contaminants from the air.
There are also rotating exhibitions which feature work by local talents and the artists of Seoul.
What to DoSeoul Plaza and the Citizens Hall both host a variety of events throughout the year. During the World Cup, the entire plaza is converted into an outdoor viewing stadium complete with large screens for viewing matches. During the winter, Seoul Plaza is converted into an outdoor ice-skating rink complete with lockers, stadium lighting, and pop-up restaurants and cafes. Underground, Citizen’s Hall has performance stages, interactive exhibits and small theaters where events are often organized.
On the off days when there aren’t any events or if that just isn’t your thing, the Korea Tourism Office offers a ‘Tong-Tong’ tour of city hall. The tour lasts about an hour and weaves a path through the Seoul Metropolitan Library, Citizen’s Hall, and Seoul City Hall. It all ends with a visit to the current mayor’s office where, if he’s available, visitors can take a picture with the man himself.
A Million Things to DoIf exploring city hall isn’t your thing, you can visit one of four palaces, two palace gates, three shopping districts, or the Blue House where the president of South Korea is based. There’s more than enough to do but let’s just hit the highlights for now.
Let’s start with the closest attraction, Deoksugung Palace. Deoksugung is one of the smallest palaces in Seoul and also one of the newest. Built after a Japanese invasion in the late 16th century, the palace was a temporary home to the king at the time. Most visitors walk through the gates and make their way to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art which houses multiple exhibitions at any given time.
For anyone looking to get some shopping done, Myeongdong and the Namdaemun Market are only a fifteen-minute walk away to the southeast and south. Myeongdong offers a neighborhood packed to the brim with international brands and shopping malls whereas Namdaemun is more of a low-key market offering traditional Korean clothing and cuisine.
To the north of city hall is Gwanghwamun , Gyeongbokgung Palace, and, beyond that, the Blue House. All three attractions are accessible by foot but visitors to the Blue House might be better off taking a taxi. Gwanghwamun Square in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace is a historic boulevard with statues, festivals, and, these days, protests for social issues. Whether or not you keep up with social issues in Seoul, it’s worth the view of the palace from afar.
How to Get ThereThe quickest way to city hall is through the subway system which delivers visitors to the area. Visitors can get off at City Hall Station (line no. 1 and no. 2) through exit No. 5 which exits out to Seoul Plaza. The streets around city hall are the most congested in the city so a taxi to city hall might not be best option.
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Author: bludreamers. Last updated: May 20, 2015