Cultural Heritage Administration Sungnyemun Management Office
One of the four main gates of the fortress built to protect the capital (present-day Seoul) of Joseon, this gatehouse is better known by its another name Namdaemun (“Great South Gate”), given since it is located on the south of the walled capital.
The gate began to be built in 1396, just two years after the foundation of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910); completed three years later, it had since remained the oldest wooden building in Seoul until 2008.
The gate was renovated in 1448 and later between 1961 and 1963.
The building became the subject of an arson attack on February 10, 2008, which resulted in severe damage to its entire structure and destruction of the entire second-floor roof and part of the first-floor roof.
The incident was promptly followed by restoration efforts that took five years and two months to complete and reopened the gate building to the public.
As a work of architecture, the gate features a double-story pavilion building, five kan (a unit of measurement referring to the distance between two columns) on the front and back, and two kan on the sides, set up on a wall built by piling up granite blocks with an arched entrance at the center and a long-hipped roof.
Under the eaves is a row of decorative support brackets placed on not just columns but between them, exhibiting the early Joseon style marked by solid frameworks of gently curved parts.
According to a 17th century book, Jibong yuseol (Topical Discourses of Jibong), the name of the gate on its name plate was written by Prince Yangnyeong (1394~1462).
Today, Sungnyemun Gate is regarded as the oldest among the existing wooden buildings set up in the fortified city of Seoul whose date of construction is clearly known.
Sungnyemun Fire (February 10, 2008)
- The Sungnyemun Fire was an arson attack that destroyed the historic building in February 2008.
The fire started at 20:40 on February 10, 2008 and continued the following day, destroying the second-floor roof at about 00:40 and the entire structure except the stone base at about 01:55.