Let's Try to Turn New Place Into National Symbol
Seoul opened a new plaza in the heart of the city Saturday, after 15 months of construction. Gwanghwamun Plaza lies in front of Gwanghwamun, a gate to Gyeongbok Palace of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). The opening was historically significant as the plaza is built on the boulevard where the kingdom's administrative buildings were once located.
It's as if the capital of South Korea has suddenly regained 600 years of history. And the 34-meter-wide, 557-meter-long plaza is also intended to present a new vision and hope for the nation. Before, it had just been a part of the 16-lane pavement. Now, the number of lanes has been reduced to 10 to create the plaza. There is no doubt that the plaza is aimed at reconnecting the fragmented history that occurred as a result of Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule.
On the plaza's eastern side, stones are engraved with the history of Seoul from 1392 through 2008 and a waterway streams along the edge for about 365 meters. The waterway meets the Cheonggye Stream that was restored in 2005. The statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, one of Korea's most respected figures, that has been standing on the boulevard for the last several decades, continues to serve as the symbol guarding the city and the nation. Yi has been exalted for his naval battles defeating Japanese invaders in the late 16th century. A large and beautiful fountain has been added around the statue.
The city plans to erect a monument of King Sejong (1397-1450), some 250 meters north of Yi's statue on Oct. 9, to mark the anniversary of the creation of the Korean alphabet, hangeul. The monarch was credited with inventing the alphabetical system.
In this regard, visitors can now appreciate Korea's historical and cultural flavor in the plaza. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said during the opening ceremony that he plans to help the plaza become the city's equivalent of Washington's National Mall, the Champ Elysees in Paris, Trafalgar Square in London, Red Square in Moscow, and Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Most of all, the plaza _ with all of its historic and cultural charms _ must be a place for the people. Therefore, how it is used is very important. City officials and citizens need to cooperate and turn the plaza into a place full of cultural events and performances. It should not be a place for such libertine acts as drinking, singing loudly and littering. In addition, we have to make efforts to prevent the plaza from becoming a venue for the violent demonstrations so often seen at Seoul Plaza and Cheonggye Plaza. Let's do our best to help promote the plaza as a place of comfort and charm.