The structure in the center of this photograph stands a little over thirty feet high. This steeple or pinnacle at one time used to sit atop a magnificent building in downtown Seoul, Korea.

However, that building was the symbol of Japan’s domination over Korea. After the Japanese annexed Korea in 1910, the Japanese erected a massive edifice for government administration directly in front of the great royal palace known as Kyongbok and inside the Gwanghwamun Gate at the end of Sejong Boulevard. Not only did the new building block the view of the royal palace, but it was also said to disrupt the “chi” 氣 emanating from the mountains and streams behind the palace.

And it also broke the spirit of the Korean people.

After the Japanese were ousted in 1945, the building was used by the Korean government for several years as the capital. In September 1950, Supreme Commander, General Douglas MacArthur stood on the steps of the building and turned the city back over to South Korean President Syngman Rhee following the liberation of Seoul. During the ceremony, glass and masonry fell down from the top.

Later the building was used as South Korea’s National Museum. In March 1991, just a few months after I arrived in Korea, I visited the museum for the first time.

Finally, after many years of debate on whether to demolish, preserve, or move the building, the building was demolished in the mid 1990s. Only the crown was preserved, which you can see nestled amidst some simulated ancient Greek ruins, in a bucolic setting.

The symbolism here is rich.

The crown/pinnacle was removed during a ceremony on August 15, 1995. In the months after, this building which once broke the spirit of the Korean people was demolished.

 

My first reaction when I saw the remains of the Japanese administrative building was that it reminded me of the ruins someone would see if they were visiting the ruins of ancient Greece. One could ponder the symbolism for hours while staring at these ruins.