Gwanghwamun Plaza

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Gwanghwamun Plaza
Public square
Korean transcriptions
Revised RomanizationGwanghwamun Gwangjang
McCune–ReischauerKwanghwamun Kwangchang
Gwanghwamun Plaza in March 2014
Gwanghwamun Plaza in March 2014
FeaturesFountain, statues
Opening date1 August 2009
Cost₩44.5 billion.[1]
OwnerSeoul Metropolitan Government
LocationSejongno Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Coordinates: 37°34′22″N 126°58′36″E / 37.57278°N 126.97667°E / 37.57278; 126.97667Coordinates: 37°34′22″N 126°58′36″E / 37.57278°N 126.97667°E / 37.57278; 126.97667

Gwanghwamun Plaza (Korean광화문광장; Hanja光化門廣場, also known as Gwanghwamun Square) is a public open space on Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea.[2] The plaza was opened on 1 August 2009 by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and is part of the City's plans for environmentally friendly renovation projects such as the Cheonggye Stream and Seoul Plaza.[3] It is also historically significant as the location of royal administrative buildings, known as Yukjo-geori or Street of Six Ministries;[4] and features statues of Admiral Yi Sun-sin of Joseon Dynasty and King Sejong the Great of Joseon.[5] The goal of opening and reconstructing this plaza is to make it a historical and cultural place for the common citizen.[6]


The statue of the Admiral Yi Sun-sin

The area of the Gwanghwamun Plaza has a long history. It has been a public space and road for centuries of Korean history.[7] Sometime in the 20th century it was converted into a 16-lane roadway.[8][9]

A new pedestrian-friendly open downtown urban space was first announced in February 2004, along with projects for Namdaemun and Seoul Plaza.[10] In December 2006, further plans for the plaza was announced. The project in conjunction with the restoration of Gwanghwamun was carried out by the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea, and schedule for completion by August 2009.[11] Construction of the plaza was originally scheduled to begin in February 2008, however it was delayed because of opposition from the National Police Agency, who was concerned that the plaza could be abused as a venue for mass protests. Construction commenced on 23 April 2008, after the Government decreed it a demonstration-free zone.[12]

The plans included moving the statue of King Sejong from Deoksugung to the Plaza. However, after surveys of citizens and experts, it was decided to commission a new statue of King Sejong in a sitting position and chose the design in a competition between a shortlist of artists recommended by the Korean Fine Arts Association and universities.[13][14]

The plaza was opened on 1 August 2009 after a renovation period of 15-months, which downsized the 600-meter Sejongno, from 16-lanes to 10-lanes of traffic, at a cost of ₩44.5 billion.[1] It is in front of Gwanghwamun and stretches south from the three-way intersection, along the front of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts on the west side and Kyobo Book Centre on the east side, to the Sejong-ro intersection, where the statue of the Admiral Yi Sun-sin stands. At the opening the plaza was covered in a flower carpet, 162 m long and 17.5 m wide, with 224,537 flowers representing the number of days from when Seoul was declared the capital on 28 October 1394, to the opening of the plaza on 1 August 2009.[15]


Statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin with the 12.23 Fountain in front in 2012

The Plaza features a water fountain in honor of the achievements of Admiral Yi Sun-sin. It is named the 12.23 Fountain, to commemorates the 23 battles he fought with 12 warships, when he led Koreans to victory during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598). The water jets rises to a height of 18 meters along with 300 smaller jets, which symbolize the battles he fought on the sea.[16] It also has a waterway, two centimeters deep and one meter across, at 365 meters along the plaza's east side. The floor of it has 617 stones recording the major events from 1392 to 2008.[17]

The fountain is located next to the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-shin. This statue was erected on April 27, 1968.[18] On 9 October 2009, two months after the Plaza opening, a second statue, the 6.2-meter high, 20-ton bronze statue of King Sejong the Great of Joseon was unveiled to the public.[19] It is located 250 meters behind the statue of the Admiral Yi Sun-sin.[20] It was dedicated on Hangul Day in celebration of the 563rd anniversary of the invention of the Korean alphabet by King Sejong.[19]

Underneath the statues there is a small exhibition hall and museum about the two historical figures depicted the statues.[21]


Rallies and demonstrations are illegal at the Plaza and the Seoul Metropolitan Government has decreed that it is to use for cultural exhibitions and a demonstration-free zone.[22]

As of 1 June 2011, the Plaza along with Seoul Plaza are designated as smoke-free zones by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Smokers are fined ₩100,000 in violation.[23]

On 23 September 2012, the Government started on a trial basis, a 550-m designated section of Sejong-ro as pedestrian-only but permitted for cyclists. The section includes the road from the Gwanghwamun three-way intersection, along the plaza in front of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts to the Sejong-ro intersection.[24]


The Plaza is the location for the start of the annual Seoul International Marathon, which finishes within the Olympic Stadium.[25][26]

In the first winter after its opening the Plaza hosted an open air ice-rink from 12 December 2009 to 15 February 2010. The public rink was 2,250 sq. m, which was larger than the one at Seoul Plaza at 2,100 sq. m.[27]

The plaza is one of the site of street cheering of the FIFA World Cup.

In popular culture[edit]

On 29 November 2009, parts of Sejong-ro were closed to traffic for twelve hours to film lengthy gunfight scenes for Korean Broadcasting System (KBS)'s 2009 spy action television drama series Iris, starring Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-hee, Jung Joon-ho, Kim Seung-woo and Kim So-yeon.[28] The five lanes along the plaza in front of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts were closed to traffic from 07:00 to 19:00, while the five lanes on the Kyobo Book Centre side remains open to traffic. This marks the first time the Seoul Metropolitan Government has granted permission to blocked traffic along the Plaza for filming and it is part of Government's plans to promote the city's major tourist attractions; including Cheonggye Stream and Han River.[29][30]

Entrance to Haechi Madang at exit 9 in Gwanghwamun Plaza

On 26 July 2012 at 23:00, boy band Beast held a guerilla concert at the Gwanghwamun end of the plaza, in front of an audience of 4,000 people. It was part of their promotion for their fifth mini album Midnight Sun, and the performance was broadcast on SBS's music show Inkigayo.[31][32]

In 2012, the plaza was used as a filming location for tvN drama Queen and I, where the two lead characters Kim Boong-do and Choi Hee-jin, played by Ji Hyun-woo and Yoo In-na, share a kiss dubbed the 'Gwanghwamun kiss' against the backdrop of Gwanghwamun.[33]

Kyuhyun, of boy band Super Junior, used the location as a theme for his 2014 chart-topping single, "At Gwanghwamun", and his label-mate Jo Sung-mo, of TRAX, recorded a live electric guitar cover of the song with Gwanghwamun Gate in the background.[34][35]

The plaza was a major site of the 2016-17 protests against Park Geun-hye's government[36]

Now, it has been used for many festivals and events. Recently, a festival called "public art festival- publicXpublic, book bench, chalk art", was held on September 16 and 17, 2017. Public artists and citizen participated in this festival.[37]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kwon, Mee-yoo (26 July 2009). "Gwanghwamun Plaza to Open Saturday". Korea Times. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  2. ^ "Popular plaza". Joongang Daily. 3 August 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  3. ^ Hoh, Kui-Seek (3 August 2009). "The road less travelled, by cars". Joongang Daily. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  4. ^ Chung, Min-uck (23 March 2012). "Gyeongbokgung: main royal palace to Korea's last dynasty". Korea Times. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  5. ^ "Gwanghwamun Plaza: Let's Try to Turn New Place Into National Symbol". Korea Times. 2 August 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  6. ^ "광화문광장" (in Korean). Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  7. ^ "Ever-evolving Gwanghwamun to be altered anew". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  8. ^ "Gwanghwamun Plaza". koreatimes. 6 August 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Visit Seoul - Gwanghwamun Square". Archived from the original on 22 December 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Three New Citizen Squares to Be Built in Downtown Seoul". Chosun Ilbo. 16 February 2004. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  11. ^ "Traffic Artery to Make Way for Public Plaza". Chosun Ilbo. 28 December 2006. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  12. ^ Kim, Tae-jong (23 April 2008). "Construction of Plaza at Gwanghwamun Begins". Korea Times. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  13. ^ "Both Admiral Yi, King Sejong to Stand in Gwanghwamun". Chosun Ilbo. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  14. ^ "King Sejong to Be Seated in Gwanghwamun Monument". Chosun Ilbo. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  15. ^ "New Gwanghwamun Plaza Opens Saturday". Chosun Ilbo. 31 July 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  16. ^ Lee, Ji-young (9 September 2009). "Fountains spring to life as city centerpieces". Joongang Daily. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  17. ^ Shim, Hyun-chul (6 August 2009). "Gwanghwamun Plaza". Korea Times. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  18. ^ "Statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin (충무공 이순신 동상) | Official Korea Tourism Organization". Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  19. ^ a b "Statue of King Sejong is unveiled". Joongang Daily. 10 October 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  20. ^ "Seoul's New Landmark: Gwanghwamun Plaza Now Open | Official Korea Tourism Organization". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Two Free Museums in Seoul's Gwanghwamun Square - Bobo and ChiChi". Bobo and ChiChi (in American English). 15 October 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  22. ^ Kwon, Mee-yoo (3 August 2009). "Demonstrations Banned at Gwanghwamun Plaza". Korea Times. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  23. ^ Lee, Ji-yoon (3 June 2011). "Smoking ban at Seoul squares effective". Korea Herald. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  24. ^ "Pedestrian Zone Planned for Central Seoul". Chosun Ilbo. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  25. ^ 2011 Seoul International Marathon Information. Dong-A Marathon. Retrieved on 2011-03-19.
  26. ^ "World-class runners to compete in Sunday's Seoul Int'l Marathon". Korea Herald. 14 March 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  27. ^ "Seoul Ice Rink to Move to Gwanghwamun This Winter". Chosun Ilbo. 16 October 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  28. ^ Kim, Jessica (30 November 2009). "Iris shoots in Gwanghwamun". 10 Asia. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  29. ^ Kim Mi-ju; Kim Gyeong-jin (28 November 2009). "Spy drama shoots in central Seoul". Joongang daily. Retrieved 4 March 2013.[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ Kim, Hannah (3 December 2009). "Iris will be back for a second season, sans Lee Byung-hun". Joongang Daily. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  31. ^ Hong, Lucia (26 July 2012). "BEAST to light up Seoul at guerilla concert tonight". 10 Asia. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  32. ^ Ho, Stewart (27 July 2012). "B2ST Successfully Holds Surprise Concert in Gwanghwamun Square With 4,000 Fans". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Archived from the original on 13 April 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  33. ^ Lee, JinHo (11 April 2012). "Ji Hyun Woo and Yoo In Na Lock Lips in Front of Gwanghwamun". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  34. ^ timmydee (12 November 2014). "Super Junior's Kyuhyun Kills Charts with "At Gwanghwamun" Debut". Soompi. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  35. ^ Kim, I. (10 December 2014). "TRAX Jung Mo Covers Kyuhyun's "At Gwanghwamun" with Electric Guitar". Soompi. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  36. ^ Herald (26 November 2016). "[Live] 1.9 million take to streets, but no violence". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  37. ^ "광화문광장 캔버스가 되다! 공공미술축제". 내 손안에 서울 (in Korean). Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  38. ^ Murthy, Rishika (22 September 2011). "Seoul's 6 coolest subway stops". CNN Travel. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  39. ^ "Don't abuse our new plaza". Joongang Daily. 1 August 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2013.

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