Three Years Needed for Restoration
Repair Work to Cost 20 Billion Won
By Chung Ah-young
It will take two to three years for the gutted Sungnyemun, or better known as Namdaemun (Southern Gate), to be restored to its original form, officials at the Cultural Heritage Administration said Monday.
The restoration of the gate to its original form will cost about 20 billion won, said Kim Sang-gu, a senior official of the administration.
``Reconstruction of the gate is possible because the administration made blueprints in 2006 in case of an emergency for the cultural heritage of wooden structures,'' he said.
The administration plans to rebuild the gate based on the 182-paged blueprints.
A committee will be launched to lead the restoration efforts, he added. The most difficult task will be the sourcing of home-grown pinewood for the reconstruction, he said.
The stone parts of the fire-ravaged structure will also have to be rebuilt, unless they are deemed strong enough to support the upper wooden parts.
Even if the structure would be technically restored, it will not be a perfect restoration from the original construction of the early Joseon period as the 610-year-old wooden structure and tile roofing were burnt down.
When the last major restoration took place in 1961, only a few parts of the structure were replaced, as most of the materials were reused and sustained.
Sungnyemun, which means ``gate of respecting propriety,'' constituted the southern gate of the original walls surrounding Seoul during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).
The gate was the oldest wooden structure still standing in Seoul. It was designated as National Treasure No. 1 in 1962. Construction of the gate started in 1395 during the reign of King Taejo, founder of the Joseon Kingdom and was completed in 1398.
The structure was then rebuilt in 1447 in accordance with the theory of divination, based on topography, and got major repairs in 1479. The gate underwent major restoration from 1961 through 1963 from the damage during the Korean War.
Since then, the gate has undergone minor repairs several times, but the basic frames have been sustained. The national treasure was open to the public in March in 2006 after they surrounded it with a grassy area in 2005.