Symbol of Korea’s political resistance and its liberation, Seodaemun Prison History Hall is a captivating museum. Clearly not the usual ‘kids attraction’ but definitely worth a visit with older kids and for all those with an interest in Korea’s eventful history
Foreword: this museum is not “fun” or totally recommended with very small kids. The prison memorial depicts very rough times of Korea’s history and provides clues to understand it. You should expect to see prison’s cells, torture rooms and more. Still, it is open to all public subject to parents’ discretion. Our younger kids (6 and 5 years old) had a great time.
A little bit of history
Built in 1907, the Seodaemun Prison bears a special significance for all Koreans. During the Japanese annexation 1910-1945, the prison was used primarily to intern (and often eliminate) Korean political opponents to the Japanese authorities. After World War II and until 1987, the facilities continued to be used as a regular prison. Beside common-law criminals, political dissidents to the regime also contributed in high numbers to the prison’s population. The prison finally closed in 1987 before reopening in 1992 as a Memorial and Museum to celebrate all Korean patriots.
Start with the exhibition halls: walking through Korea’s tumultuous path towards Independence and Democracy
After entering the complex, you will start your visit with the Exhibition building. A lot of attention has been put to provide comprehensive yet synthetic information on the country’s history and main events related to Seodaemun prison. In the multiple rooms, you will learn about the end of Joseon Dynasty and the following Japanese occupation, the liberation and long quest to full democracy during the second half of 20th century. The history of the Prison and the in-prison life occupy each one room.
Additional exhibits await you in the basement floor with wax figures model showing life in prison cells, police investigation, tortures, etc.
A walk through Seodaemun Prison’s buildings
You will likely be very impressed with this part of the visit. This is where you get to walk through the carceral buildings themselves. Check out the guards rooms, the prison cells, the isolation/punishments cells (reserved for the toughest cases). This looks like in a movie… except this was for real.
Several corridors are dedicated to the memory of Korean dissidents who served time in the prison in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s. This helps greatly understand how South Korea became what it is today.
Continuing your visit, you may also check out the Execution building (or skip), the Women prison, outdoor exercise area and more.
Opening hours: 9:30 AM ~ 6:00 PM (Mar~Oct) or 5:00 PM (Nov~Feb)
Closed: all Mondays, Jan1, Seollal, Chuseok
Admission fees: 1,500 KRW Adults; 1,000 KRW 13~18-year-old; 500 KRW Children 7~12-year-old
How to get there:
251, Tongil-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
By subway, line 3 until Dongnim-mun Station, exit 5.
For more information, check Seodaemun Prison History hall website.
For localisation, check Seoul Map for Kids & Families