Mon, Nov 12, 2012 - Page 12 News List

Rising from the ashes

Master craftsmen used traditional construction techniques dating back centuries to reconstruct Namdaemun, South Korea’s top national treasure, which was destroyed by an arsonist in 2008

By Nam You-Sun  /  AFP, SEOUL

“And since some pillars remained intact even after the fire, we also took them into account,” Hong said.

Protecting for the future

The pagoda-style, two-story gate located in the center of downtown Seoul was first constructed in 1398, then rebuilt in 1447 and renovated several times after that.

The structure that burned down in 2008 had still contained some 600-year-old timber. The fire took out the entire roof, most of the upper floor and some of the lower floor.

Proposals to give the restored version a fire-resistant coat was rejected, Cho said, because it would have caused some discoloration of the paintwork.

“We did research and tests and came to conclusion that the best solution was to take every possible precautionary measure, such as installing thermal sensors around the building,” Cho said.

The destruction of Namdaemun sent shock waves through the country, with sorrowful Seoul residents swarming around the charred ruin, laying flowers and writing grieving messages.

The arsonist, Chae Jong-Gi, was eventually jailed for 10 years.

A court ruled he had “inflicted unbearable agony on the people and damaged national pride,” noting that the gate had been considered “the treasure among all treasures which had survived all kinds of historic disasters.”

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