Seodaemun Prison History Museum: A Touching Horror

Seodaemun Prison History Museum: A Touching Horror

Through interactive displays and video materials, sobering stories of torture and courage come alive.

The Rundown

  • The museum is designed to make you feel the pain brought upon by the Japanese to Korean Independence Movement followers.

  • Underground cells, torture chambers, and killing grounds await you on your visit.

  • Ideal length of tour: 1-1.5 hours

  • For your convenience, booking links are found below.

Also read: Discover Seoul Pass: Your Key to the City

Containing Korean Resistance

Seodaemun Prison was built to contain the Korean resistance against Japanese occupation. Originally known as Gyeongseong Gamok when it opened in 1908, this was where activists were brought in for detainment, torture, and execution.

The prison was notably large, with a maximum capacity of 500 inmates. It was more than what eight regular prisons could hold at that time, which was just around 300 in total. Despite its grandness, however, Seodaemun Prison fell short in 1919 when the Japanese packed 3,500 inmates inside during the peak of the protests.

Here is a historical timetable for Seodaemun Prison:

  • 1908: Opened under the name of Gyeongeong Gamok

  • 1912: Renamed to Seodaemun Gamok

  • 1923: Became Seodaemun Hyeongmuso

  • 1945: Became Seoul Hyeongmuso

  • 1961: Became Seoul Gyodoso

  • 1967: Became Seoul Guchiso

  • 1987: Seoul Guchiso transferred to Uiwang-si, Gyoenggi Province

In November 1998, the Seodaemun Prison History Hall was opened to honor the activists who have given their lives for independence.

Seodaemun Prison History Hall

Image credit:  Exj  /  CC BY-SA 4.0

Image credit: Exj / CC BY-SA 4.0

To capture the valiant spirit that formed Korea as we know it today, visitors can come to Seodaemun Prison History Hall and check out the following:

1/F A Place of Reverence 

There is a video room on the first floor where you can watch a 7-minute documentary film about the establishment of Seodaemun Prison. There is also a Special Exhibition Room where various displays are held. 

2/F A Place of History

To get an in-depth background of the anti-Japanese struggle in Korea, visit the National Resistance Room.  To see a layout of Seodaemun Hyeongmuso in 1934 and know more about the inhumane prison life, check out the Prison History Room and the In-Prison Life Room.

B1 A Place of Experience

For some eerie feels, visit Basement 1 to see the infamous Temporary Detention Room and Torture Rooms. Dioramas that depict the torture crimes will be available for your appreciation.
 

'Experience Building' of Seodaemun Prison

Image Credit:  Christian Senger  /  CC-BY-SA 2.0

The eerie feels won't stop when you visit the Experience Building. Not only will you learn about (and feel!) what the activists experienced, you will also find the following:

  • Live voice testimonies and photos of patriotic ancestors

  • Life inside the prison

  • Torture methods

Other sites you seriously should not miss:

  • Central Building for Prison Guards

  • Engineering Work Building (what I would call the 'pain' shop!)

  • Reverence Monument

  • Execution Building (tiny and terrifying!)

  • Corpse Removal Exit (brutal tunnel!)

  • Underground Cell

Aside from learning about the situation of the prison during the Japanese occupation, you will also get to know about the developments that come afterwards.


BOOK YOUR TOUR!

Get a Discover Seoul Pass

The Discover Seoul Pass will give you free and automatic admission to at least 30 attractions in Seoul, including Seodaemun Prison History Museum. Depending on availability, the pass could also give you discounts in partner sites, hotels, and restaurants.

  • PRICE:

    • ₱1,960 or $37.40 for the 24-hr Pass, if not discounted!

    • ₱2,701 or $51.50 for the 48-hr Pass, if not discounted!

    • ₱3,438 or $65.60 for the 72-hr Pass, if not discounted!

  • Discover Seoul Pass also works as a T-Money Card so you don't have to buy one.

  • For more information, read these articles about Discover Seoul Pass and T-Money.

TIPS!

  • On the 2/F, find out why Kang Ugyu, an independence fighter, bombed Namdaemun Station (now Seoul Station) and what a 'wall coffin' is.

  • In the Experience Building, know all about Gwan-sun Ryu, who was said to resemble Joan of Arc.

  • While the museum strives to convey Korea's struggle against the Japanese forces in a tourist-friendly manner, some materials are not fully translated yet in English.


Schedule, Location, & Fees

Location

251, Tongil-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul

  • By Subway: Take Orange Line and get off at Dongnimmun Station (Exit 5)

  • By Bus: Get off at Independence Park

    • Blue Bus: 471, 701, 702, 703, 704, 720, 752

    • Green Bus: 7019, 7021, 7023, 7025, 7712, 7737

    • Red Bus: 9701, 9703, 9705, 9709, 9710, 9711, 9712

Operating Hours

  • March to October: 9:30am-6pm

  • November to February: 9:30am-5pm

  • Last admission: 30 minutes before closing

  • CLOSED on Monday's (or Tuesday's, if Monday is a holiday), January 1, Lunar New Year, and Chuseok

Admission Fees

Here are the regular admission rates (offline or over-the-counter rates; subject to change):

  • Adults (19-64 years old): ₩3,000 (around ₱146 or $2.79)

  • Teenagers (13-18 years old): ₩1,500 (around ₱73 or $1.39)

  • Children (7-12 years old): ₩1,000 (around ₱48 or $0.92)

  • Seniors and Kids below 7: FREE

**Group rates available for 30 members or more.

Ideal Length of Tour

1-1.5 hours

Contact

For more information, visit the official website here.

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