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Namdaemun restoration to be completed this year

Namdaemun, Seoul’s historic gateway and National Treasure No. 1 which was severely damaged by arson in 2008, will be completely restored by December, according to the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea.

Friday marks the fourth anniversary of the arson.

Currently, the restoration is about 70 percent complete. The damaged gate site, which has been cordoned off with a set of fences and a curtain, will be unveiled in August, prior to the completion of restoration.

The administration said its restoration team will hold a special ceremony called “Sangryangsik” next month at the construction site, celebrating the amount of restoration work accomplished so far, and at the same time announcing that the completion is near at hand.
Experts work at the restoration site of Namdaemun. (Cultural Heritage Administration)
Experts work at the restoration site of Namdaemun. (Cultural Heritage Administration)

Starting April, the restoration team will begin placing “giwa,” Korea’s traditional roof tiles, on the gate’s roof. According to the cultural administration, the tiles for the roof are currently being made in Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province, by a group of traditional artists who specialize in giwa-making.

The arson damaged more than 90 percent of the original roof tiles. A total of 22,586 pieces of giwa will be used for the newly restored gate, the cultural administration said.

In May, the gate will be styled with “dancheong,” Korea’s traditional decorative coloring on wooden buildings. The dancheong of the roof will follow the style of the early Joseon (1392-1897) era.

On Friday, the administration is to hold a special fire-fighting demonstration session at Changgyeonggung in Seoul, along with Seoul’s major fire stations, including the Jongno and Hyehwa branches, marking the fourth anniversary of the arson.

By Claire Lee (