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UNESCO World Heritage site
Sueojangdae (command post)
Location Gyeonggi Province, South Korea
Criteria Cultural: (ii), (iv)
Reference 1439
Inscription 2014 (38th Session)
Area 409.06 ha (1.5794 sq mi)
Buffer zone 853.71 ha (3.2962 sq mi)
Coordinates 37°28′44″N 127°10′52″E / 37.47889°N 127.18111°E / 37.47889; 127.18111Coordinates: 37°28′44″N 127°10′52″E / 37.47889°N 127.18111°E / 37.47889; 127.18111
Namhansanseong is located in South Korea
Location of Namhansanseong in South Korea.
Hangul 남한산성
Hanja 南漢山城
Revised Romanization Namhansanseong
McCune–Reischauer Namhansansŏng

Situated 25 km southeast from the center of the capital city of Seoul, the mountain fortress city of Namhansanseong sits approximately 480m above sea level aligning itself with the ridges of the mountain to maximize its defensive capacity. The fortress encompassing 12 km in length protects a vast area utilized as an emergency capital city of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea (1392~1910). With the basis of fortress architecture of East Asia, the fortress embodies the broad exchange between the four countries: Joseon of Korea, Azuchi-Momoyama Period of Japan, Ming and Qing China, especially in the 16th~18th centuries through the continuous wars. The technical development of weaponry and armaments during this period which saw the use of gunpowder in military warfare imported from Europe also greatly influenced the architecture and layout of the fortress. Namhansanseong portrays how the various theories of defense mechanisms in Korea were put to form by combining the everyday living environment with defense objectives, embodies the evidence of how Buddhism played an influential role in protecting the state and the fortress became a symbol of sovereignty in Korea.[1][2] It stands on the Namhansan (South Han Mountain), containing fortifications that date back to the 17th century, and a number of temples. It can be accessed easily from Seoul through Namhansanseong Station of Seoul Subway Line 8.


Namhansanseong North Gate

The most obvious characteristic of Namhansanseong lies in its topographical advantage; a spacious flat top called Gorobong, with a low center and high sides over 480m above sea level, as well as being a high mountain over flat lands to easily observe around. Due to such a topographical advantage, Namhansanseong served as a commanding post since the Unified Silla era in the 7th century. Unified Silla constructed Jujangseong fortress where Namhansanseong sits today, to raise men and to stock supplies when it was carrying out the war against the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century. In the 13th century during Goryeo Dynasty, Namhansanseong was a stronghold against the Mongol Invasion. Since the 17th century, Namhansanseong, near the capital city of Seoul, evolved greatly in its size as a mountain fortress, serving as an emergency capital for the King of Joseon to take refuge in emergencies. Consequently, it became a super-sized mountain fortress, the likeness of which is rarely found anywhere else in the world.

Furthermore, Namhansanseong had been systematically managed and operated for over 300 years since its construction in 1624. Specifically, it was the historical battlefield of the second Manchu Invasion to acquire hegemony in east Asia during the Ming-Qing dynasty transition in 1636. It was the spiritual symbol of the Joseon dynasty for sovereignty, as well as a place for military security until the 20th century. The rich history of Namhansanseong shows the exchange of Buddhist, confucian, folk religion and Christian values from the time the fortress was constructed to the present day.

Namhansanseong West Gate

The 17th century mountain fortress Namhansanseong was constructed as a planned city both to serve as an emergency capital city during wartimes and an administrative center in normal times. Common traditional villages are typically located on flat lands adjacent to mountain fortress built for shelter in emergencies. Namhansanseong was a self-sufficient defensive fortress where the local administrative town was placed within the fortress together with the Emergency Palace. Thus, it performed various functions such as defense, administration, business and royal ancestral rites. Unlike those seen in Europe and Japan that were intended to defend only the ruling class, Namhansanseong was a defensive structure within which both the ruling class and the commoners alike could take shelter.

Since the 17th century, Namhansanseong has been dominantly inhabited with over 4,000 in population and has been managed and preserved by the residents for generations. Most fortress towns in Korea underwent severe deformation and change from the Japanese colonial times and the period going through the process of industrialization and urbanization, resulting in losing their original layout and forms, but Namhansanseong retained its original layout because the Japanese colonial government relocated the administrative functions and demolished its military functions in the earlier stage of colonization, leaving it as an isolated mountain village thereafter.

The characteristics of Namhansanseong have changed a lot throughout the course of history. The fortress served as a military and administrative center with the Emergency Palace and administrative office from 1627 to 1917. It was the center of the civil resistance movement (Uibyeong) centering on Buddhist monk soldiers temples (Seungyeong) when the Joseon Dynasty fell and the Japanese colonial period was approaching in the early 20th century. However, the fortress experienced demolition and the temples were forced into closure by the Japanese in 1907. The fortress lost its function as the town center due to the relocation of the Gwangju County Office in 1917, resulting in a downgrade to a remote mountain village. Then, the fortress suffered population loss and material loss during the Korean War. Nowadays, Namhansanseong has become a tourist attraction point in the vicinity of Seoul, after undergoing large-scale wall restorations and being designated as a provincial park since the 1970s. It has seen a dramatic increase in the number of restaurants and various visitor facilities since the 1980s. The Emergency Palace and the Royal Ancestral Shrine within the fortress have been actively restored based on various studies on Namhansanseong since the 1990s, and it was enlisted on the World Heritage tentative list in 2010. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2014.[2]

Conservation management[edit]

It is necessary to monitor the management system in Namhansanseong. For this evaluation indicators are prepared, which include the number of personnel in the management organizations such as council, and those active in disaster prevention, environmental management, budget, promotion and records of village events. The Namhansanseong World Heritage Centre regularly conducts monitoring of the activities, as well as establishing ordinance and determining ways to autonomously conduct monitoring. The Namhansanseong World Heritage Centre is responsible for managing and monitoring cultural heritage of Namhansanseong, while the Namhansanseong Provincial Park Office is responsible for managing and monitoring visitor facilities within Namhansanseong and the provincial park area, in accordance with the 2012 Basic Plan on Comprehensive Improvement of Namhansanseong.[2]

Protection and management requirements[edit]

The legal basis of protection of Namhansanseong lies on the Cultural Heritage Protection Act (CHP Act) and the Natural Park Act on the national level. There are also specific ordinances and regulations at the province and city levels. On the basis of the CHP Act the entire property is designated as a historic site and has a buffer zone surrounding the area that have limitations and regulations regarding development and construction. The entire heritage and buffer zone is protected once more as a Provincial Park on a wider area. Under these frameworks a Conservation Management Plan has been established to ensure the long term protection of the fortress and the town within. A special independent entity called the Namhansanseong World Heritage Centre has been set up to be responsible for the overall management of the heritage. This entity works together with the Namhansanseong Provincial Park Office, the residents, local governments, experts and the central government to protect the heritage.

Financial support comes from the national and provincial governments, and the projects are managed and operated by the Namhansanseong World Heritage Centre. A monitoring system is set up to control the appropriate use and execution of financial resources and proposed plans.

The current status of conservation can be evaluated in three components called the military component, the governing component, and the folk component. The military component includes the fortress walls and structures, outer walls, Chimgwaejeong Arsenal, and Buddhist temples. The governing component comprises Jwajeon Shrine, Usil Shrine site, the Emergency Palace, Jwaseungdang Hall and the site of Inhwagwan Guest house. The folk component includes steles, pavilions, and intangible heritage such as rituals and rites. All these subcomponents are recorded and are managed appropriately in compliance to the form and type of heritage.

Several factors affect the protection of the heritage and these are developmental pressures, environmental pressures, natural disasters, risk preparedness, visitor pressure and land use. Development pressures are relatively low for Namhansanseong as the property area and buffer zones are effectively controlled by the CHP Act and the Natural Park Act, and Urban Management Planning. Visitor pressure is perhaps the highest risk factor in Namhansanseong. For the sustainable conservation of the fortress areas, preventive measures are activated including studies on carrying capacity, regular estimation of expected visitors, and utilizing planning mechanisms with legal instruments.[2]

The tales of Namhansanseong[edit]


Tombstone of Seo Heun-nam[edit]

When the Second Manchu - Qing invasion of Korea broke out (1636), King Injo of Joseon Dynasty sought refuge at Namhansanseong. On his way to the fortress, almost all of his vassals ran away, leaving only a few. The vassals took turns carrying the king on their backs to Namhansanseong and they all became tired on a cold winter day. At that moment, a woodcutter appeared and carried the king on his back safely to Namhansanseong. Sometime after, King Injo called the woodcutter named Seo Heun-nam and asked what he desired. He answered that he wanted to wear the king’s full-dress uniform, and the king gave it to him as a gift. In times after, during war, Seo Heun-nam spied on the enemy’s movements and made many contributions. When he died, he was buried with the king’s full-dress, and all passers-by would bow down to his tomb.

Cheongryangdang Shaman Shrine and Hawk Rock[edit]

When Namhansanseong was being constructed, General Yi Hoe took charge of the southeast section and head of the monk army Beokam took charge of the northwest of the fortress. The construction in the north could be completed within the deadline since geographical features had been gentle and mountains were rather flat, but the construction in the south could not be since topographical features were steep. Seeing that the construction was not completed, the king was going to punish General Yi Hoe, who said that he had done his best and that a hawk would fly into the sky at his execution, which would demonstrate that he was guiltless. Anyway, it was really unbelievable that a hawk came and hovered over the dead body of General Yi Hoe. So, a reconfirmation was made and found that the section of construction in question had been properly and strongly constructed. Cheongryangdang Shaman Shrine was constructed and sacrificial rites are performed to console General Yi Hoe who was unjustly killed.

King Onjo at Sungryeoljeon Shrine[edit]

As King Injo of Joseon Dynasty was sleeping, an old man appeared to him and warned him to be careful as enemies were approaching. Immediately, the king gave an order to investigate and found out that enemies were destroying the fortress walls. Later, it came to be known that the old man was King Onjo who was the founder of the Baekje Kingdom. In order to render thanks to King Onjo, with whose help a national crisis was overcome, King Injo constructed Sungryeoljeon Shrine in commemoration of the founder. Sometime after that, in a dream of King Injo, King Onjo appeared again and requested that one of the king’s vassals be sent to Sungryeoljeon Shrine, where King Onjo stayed alone. Next morning, King Injo awoke to find out that General Yi Seo who was in charge of the construction of Namhansanseong had died, and he perceived that King Onjo took away the general. This is why King Onjo and General Yi Seo are enshrined together at Sungryeoljeon Shrine, where sacrificial rites are held once a year.

Scholars enshrined at Hyeonjeolsa Shrine[edit]

Hyeonjeolsa Shrine was constructed to comfort the souls of the three patriotic scholars: Hong Ik-han, Yun Jip and Oh Dal-je and to praise their fidelity to the nation for their persistent objections to yielding to the enemy during the Second Manchu invasion of Korea. Later, Kim Sang-heon and Jeong On were enshrined together. The three scholars insisted not to give up but fight to the end against the enemies when Namhansanseong was completely besieged by China (the Qing Dynasty). In the end, they were taken prisoner to the Qing Dynasty as Joseon finally surrendered. Even when they were taken captive, they would not yield and they were beheaded. Hyeonjeolsa Shrine was constructed and sacrificial rites are held once a year so as to admire the loyalty of these three patriots.


South gate[edit]

Namhansanseong South gate

Jamsil → Bockjeong → Intersection(signboard: Namhansanseong) → Yakjin-ro → South gate → Sanseong Rotary

Suwon → Singal → Bundang → Moran → Taepyeong Intersection → City Hall → Sinheung Jugong Apartments → South gate → Sanseong Rotary

East gate[edit]

Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel → Cheonho Bridge → Gil-dong → Sangil-dong Interchange at the Central Expressway → Hwangsan Three-Way Intersection(Route 43) → Eommi-ri(Eungogae) → Gwangjiwon(signboard: Namhansanseong) East Gate Sanseong Rotary.

Gyeongan Interchange at the Central Expressway(Route 43 in Seoul and Hanam) → Gwangjiwon(signboard:Namhansanseong) → East Gate → Sanseong Rotary.

Public transportation[edit]

Subway Line 8 → Bus (9 or 52)

Walk two minutes from Sanseong subway station (exit 2), take a bus (9 or 52) at Sanseong & Sinheung Jugong Apt. and get off at Namhansanseong Rotary.

View of downtown Seoul from the fortress wall - you need to zoom in to see hundreds of office- and apartment blocks.

In media and literature[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UNESCO NEWS, Namhansanseong". Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d "UNESCO, Namhansanseong". Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Koh Young-aah "Musicals hope for seasonal bounce" Korea Herald. 30 March 2010. Retrieved 2012-03-30
  4. ^ "2 Super Junior members cast for musical" Asiae. 15 September 2009. Retrieved 2012-04-17

External links[edit]