Center of Korean history,Gwanghwamun Square

The road in front of Gwanghwamun Gate was the way leading into Gyeongbokgung Palace and
the largest road in the country. Even when Gwanghwamun Gate was burned down during the Japanese Invasion of Korea of 1592, the road in front of Gwanghwamun Gate, Yukjo Geori (Street of Six Ministries) still functioned as the civic center with various offices of the government outside the palace. King Gojong restored Gwanghwamun Gate when rebuilding Gyeongbokgung Palace, and the road in front of it became the central hub of the nation.

However, the scenery of the road in front of Gwanghwamun Gate changed drastically
after Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910. Gwanghwamun Gate was relocated to the east of Gyeongbokgung Palace when Imperial Japan constructed the Japanese Government-General of Korea building inside the palace.

National Liberation. The cries of joy did not last long. The Gwanghwamun area was caught in the turbulence of the times such as the United States Military Government, founding of the Korean government, war and restoration, dictatorship and civil revolution. Gwanghwamun Gate was once again completely incinerated during the Korean War.

Gwanghwamun Gate was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt as if flowers bloom and wither,
but the road in front of it has always been crowded with people. From the People’s Assembly to the March 1 Independence Movement, civil revolutions, and the candlelight culture festival, the history of the square continued,
and our square finally became the symbol of democracy and a space of harmony.

1392
~ 1910

1392 ~ 1910 Heart of Joseon,
Yukjo Geori
(Street of Six Ministries)
The road in front of Gwanghwamun Gate was the central and main road connected
to the path inside the palace and lined with government agencies of the Joseon Dynasty.
From the front gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Gwanghwamun Gate, to Hwangto Maru (today’s Sejong-daero Intersection), major institutions of the country from Uijeongbu (State Council) to the Ministries of Personnel, Taxation, Rites, Military Affairs, Law Enforcement, and Public Works stood on both sides of the road.
  • 1392 Founding of the Joseon Dynasty
  • 1394  Transfer of capital to Hanyang
    (former name of Seoul)
  • 1395 Development of Yukjo Geori
    (Street of Six Ministries) Construction
    of Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • 1592 Japanese Invasion of Korea
  • 1865 Rebuilding of Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • 1896 Korea royal refuge at the Russian legation
  • 1902 Construction of the Monument
    for the 40th Anniversary of the Inauguration
    of King Gojong

1910
~ 1945

1910 ~ 1945 Gwanghwamun under
the Shadow of
Imperial Japan’s Ambition
After Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910, Imperial Japan reorganized the Seoul area
with the plans to turn Korea into a strategic base for colonial rule. Imperial Japan constructed the building of the Japanese Government-General of Korea inside Gyeongbokgung Palace and used the palace as a venue for various exhibitions held to justify their colonial rule and promote a false hypothesis that the Korean and Japanese people shared the same ancestors. ‘Yukjo Geori (Street of Six Ministries),’ which symbolized the royal government that lasted over 500 years, was labeled as “Gwanghwamuntong (Gwanghwamun Street)” to rule Korea as its colony.
  • 1910 Japan’s annexation of Korea
  • 1912 Gyeongseong
    (former name of Seoul) Reorganization Project
  • 1914 Installation of zero kilometer marker at Gwanghwamun
    Renamed Yukjo Geori
    (Street of Six Ministries) → Gwanghwamuntong (Gwanghwamun Street)
  • 1918 Began operation of the Gwanghwamun Line tram
  • 1923 Removal of Seosipjagak Pavilion and palace walls
     Relocation of the Statue of Haetae
  • 1926 Construction of the Japanese Government-General of Korea inside Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • 1927 Relocation of Geonchunmun Gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace in the east of Gwanghwamun Gate to the north
  • 1929 Joseon Expo commemorating
    the 20th year of the colonization of Korea
    Removal of palace walls attached to the Dongsipjagak Pavilion
    (One of the watchtowers of Gyeongbokgung Palace)

1945
~ 1960

1945 ~ 1960 Gwanghwamun, Swept by
War and Cataclysms
The 15 years from national liberation to the 1960’s, the period of the First Republic, was a period of historical turmoil. Not so long after the joy of liberation, the tragic Korean War broke out in the midst of extremely chaotic political, economic and social circumstances. The national flags of South and North Korea were raised in turn, a part of the Capitol building and the wooden structure of Gwanghwamun Gate was demolished due to fierce battles.
  • 1945 National Liberation,
    changed the capital’s name from Gyeongseong to Seoul
  • 1946 Renamed Gwanghwamuntong→Sejongno
     Anti-trusteeship Movement
  • 1948 Declaration of the Establishment
    of the Government of the Republic of Korea
  • 1949 Renamed
    Seoul Independent City → The Seoul Special City
  • 1950 Outbreak of the Korean War
     Loss of the wooden structure of Gwanghwamun Gate
  • 1953 Official declaration of the return
    of the government to Seoul

1960
~ 1980

1960 ~ 1980 Gwanghwamun Gate,
Restored with Concrete,
Becomes the Center for
National Events
The dictatorship and authoritarianism that seemed to have ended with the April 19 Revolution continued for over two decades following the May 16 Coup.
The military government shut down the freedom and rights of citizens harder under the pretext of eradicating poverty, economic development, and the successful hosting of the Olympic Games. National events were held in front of Gwanghwamun Gate was
after being restored using concrete in 1968.
  • 1960 March 15 Electoral Fraud
     April 19 Revolution
  • 1966 Opening of underpass of
    Sejongno
     Expansion of Sejongno
  • 1968 Restoration of Gwanghwamun Gate with concrete
     Installation of the Statue of General Yi Sun-sin at Gwanghwamun
  • 1970 Expansion of Sejongno’s width to 100m
     Completion of Government Complex (today’s Government Complex in Seoul)
  • 1975 Designation of Gwanghwamun area
    as a redevelopment area
  • 1978 Opening of Sejong Center
    for the Performing Arts

1980
~ 2000

1980 ~ 2000 Restoration of History,
Transforming into a Space
for Citizens
Gwanghwamun repeatedly underwent changes after Korea hosted the Olympic Games
in 1988 and the civilian government was constituted in 1992. In 1995, the building of the Japanese Government-General of Korea was demolished in over 70 years
since it was built as part of the ‘Correct the History Project.’ With such changes, Sejongno became open to citizens through the Earth Day event and crosswalks were installed to walk across Sejongno Intersection directly.
  • 1983 Government Agencies inside the Capitol building were relocated to the government complex
  • 1986 National Museum of Korea,
    was relocated to the renovated capitol building
  • 1987 June Democracy Movement
  • 1990 Commencement of Gyeongbokgung Palace Restoration Project 
  • 1995 Removal of the building of the Japanese Government-General of Korea
  • 1996 Opening of Gwanghwamun Station
  • 1999 Opening of the Open Garden
    for Citizens at Gwanghwamun

2000
~ Present

2000 ~ Present Voice of Citizens Echo
around Gwanghwamun
Citizens participated in unforgettable scenes of festivals through the Grand National Festival for the New Millennium and the 2002 World Cup cheers held at Gwanghwamun
in the 2000’s. Gwanghwamun Square, which opened in 2009, became a ‘Citizen-centered Square’ where the popular will was expressed through democratic rallies.
However, the disgraceful description of Gwanghwamun Square, an island locked inside roads left a lot to be desired.
  • 2000 Grand National Festival
    for the New Millennium
  • 2002 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup,
    citizens cheered for the national team
    at Gwanghwamun
    Candlelight rally in memory
    of Mi-seon and Hyo-sun
  • 2008 Candlelight rally in opposition
    to the import of US beef
  • 2009 Development of Gwanghwamun Square Installation
     of the statue of King Sejong the Great
  • 2010 Restoration of Gwanghwamun Gate
    Notification on the expansion
    of Sejong-daero
  • 2011 Candlelight rally
    for halving university tuition
  • 2012 First implementation
    of pedestrian street on Sejong-daero
  • 2016 Candlelight Culture Festival
    Excavation of Uijeongbu site
    Initiation of Gwanghwamun Forum
  • 2018 Commencement of Gwanghwamun Citizen’s Council
  • 2019 Final Confirmation of redesigning a new version of Gwanghwamun signboard
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