The Kimchi-ite: Iconic Landmark In Seoul Re-Opens 5 Years After Arson Attack


In early 2008, Sungnye-mun (commonly referred to as Namdae-mun), one of Korea’s most important cultural landmarks, was destroyed in a devastating arson attack. The shocking event was a national tragedy and has been engraved into the collective Korean consciousness. Today, people are able to immediately remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that the gate, which is very much linked to Korea’s identity, had been destroyed. The attack ultimately destroyed much of the gate’s wooden roof, which at the time was the oldest wooden structure in Korea.Now, after more than 5 years of extensive restoration, the iconic Sungnye-mun, meaning “Gate of Exalted Ceremonies,” has reopened to great fanfare with a visit from South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye. During much of its restoration, the gate remained behind scaffolding, which intentionally obscured it from view, making its return to the Seoul landscape all the more welcome.

Originally built in 1398, its intended purpose was to control access to the capital, welcome foreign diplomats and protect the city from Siberian Tigers. During Japanese occupation, from which the gate received its controversial “Dongdae-mun” name, the surrounding walls were destroyed as the Crown Prince of Japan saw himself as too honorable to pass under the gate. Today, it sits in the middle of a grand intersection in the heart of the metropolis, dwarfed by surrounding skyscrapers, symbolic of South Korea’s constant struggle between its modern aspirations and ties to tradition.

Getting to Singnye-mun is incredibly easy, just get to either City Hall subway station and go straight out exit 8 or to Seoul Station and go straight out of exit 3 or 4. The gate is roughly a 10 – 15 minute walk from any of those locations.

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[Image Credits: Jonathan Kramer, Najonpyohyeon and WatchWants via WikiMedia]

Russia plans Las Vegas clone in Siberia

Siberia Las Vegas Siberia is known for many things. Long train rides that cover almost 6000 miles, massive tigers that hunt wild boar in snowy enclaves, and a lake whose depths reach deeper than any other lake in the world. Oh and cold. Wintry, unrelenting, freezing cold weather drapes Siberia in snow and below freezing temperatures for roughly half of the year. It is a place so remote and foreboding that if you look up “Siberian” on dictionary.com, you will be greeted with this definition:

“any undesirable or isolated locale, job, etc., to which one is assigned as punishment, a mark of disfavor, or the like.”

Despite this damning etymological association, Russia plans to build its version of Las Vegas in the wintry depths of Siberia. This Las Vegas East has been given the moniker “Siberian Coin,” which sounds more like a local band from Moscow than a mecca of gambling. The Altai region of Siberia will host the ambitious project located near the boarder of Kazakhstan and China. Russian developers have budgeted about $1 billion for the cause which includes the construction of 15 casinos and 30 hotels. According to Businessweek, outside experts expect the project costs to total $50 billion.So why Siberia? Several years ago, “President” Vladimir Putin banned casinos in all major Russian cities, restricting gambling to the far flung reaches of the Russian Federation. Overnight, successful Moscow gaming parlors shuttered their doors forever, and it is estimated that the edict cost Russia about half a million jobs. So far, casinos have been built in three faraway locations: Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, Azov City, and Primorsky in the Far East. None have been very successful. While hopes for the “Siberian Coin” are high, its fate may follow a familiar trend due to the sheer remoteness of its geographical location. Siberia is known for many things, but it will be a long uphill battle before gambling is added to that list of associations.

Chinese tourists watch in horror as Siberian tiger kills their bus driver

A bus full of tourists visiting a Siberian tiger breeding base in Harbin, China got a more impressive display of what the tigers are capable of than they had bargained for.

When their bus got stuck in the snow, their driver got up and went outside to check how bad the damage was – something that violated park safety rules. As he tried to enter his bus, one of the parks Siberian Tigers attacked him and dragged him into the forest, as the bus passengers watched in horror.

When park officials arrived at the scene, the set off firecrackers to scare the tigers away, but by then it was too late – bus driver Jin Shijun was found dead in the woods.

The attack took place at the Dong Bei Hu Siberian Tiger park in Harbin, China. The park is home to over 1000 tigers, many of which were bred in captivity. Back in 2009, the park called in local police to kill two of its tigers when they pounced on a zoo worker.

Still, one can hardly blame the tigers for this incident – you’d expect most tiger park bus drivers to understand the dangers of the animals, and stay inside their bus when things go wrong.