Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The time I went to prison in Korea

Last weekend we had a little bit of a long weekend so I met some friends in Seoul for the night.  My friends from Cheongju and Wonju came into town, as well as a new friend from Busan.  We decided to rent a private room in Itaewon so that we could have a great night out and not have to worry about traveling home in the middle of the night.

Micah had the great idea to visit Seodaemun Prison and play tourists for the afternoon before the recklessness commenced.  By far one of the most enjoyable aspects of being in Korea has been learning about the country's long and painful history.  It gives you an understanding of how hard the people of this country have worked to make it to the point where they are today.  USA's history is at best about 500 years.  Korea is close to 5,000 years.  Quite a bit of that time has been spent trying to get the invading Japanese the hell out of here.  In 1908, while occupied by Japan, the Japanese built Seodaemun (at that time called Gyeongseong Gamok) to house Korean independence fighters.  And when I say house, I really mean brainwash, torture and kill.

Modern-day Seoul built up outside the prison walls

Korean Independence Fighters

During the tour of the prison, there were examples of how the Korean prisoners were tortured.  Some of it was crazy to think about.  Water torture, mental torture, sticks under your fingernails, unspeakable things done to the female prisoners, and a crazy box filled with inward-pointing spikes that Japanese guards would shake while prisoners were kept inside.  

I was already aware of the purpose of the prison, and understood some of the things that took place there, but as soon as we walked in the doors I was overcome with a somber feeling.  It was eye-opening and considering this prison was used less than 70 years ago, it's simply amazing to see where this country is today.  

We were really lucky to meet our new friend, Lana, who was volunteering at the prison as a guide.  Her English was terrific and she really helped us understand the magnitude of what we were experiencing.  I had a great time learning even more about my new home away from home, and I look forward to being able to continue to learn more.

Our gang and our awesome guide, Lana

Awesome tribute to former prisoners