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South Koreans flock through Namdaemun Gate for the first time in 99 years on Friday. The central passage through the gate was closed during the Japanese colonial period when gate walls were knocked down to make room for railroads and buildings.
South Koreans flock through Namdaemun Gate for the first time in 99 years on Friday. The central passage through the gate was closed during the Japanese colonial period when gate walls were knocked down to make room for railroads and buildings. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

SEOUL — Lee Sang-tae, 73, took the long subway ride from Seoul’s eastern edge to witness a historic moment for the city’s greatest treasure on Friday.

Namdaemun Gate, the 14th century edifice that marked the city’s entrance during the Chosun Dynasty, opened its passageway for the first time in 99 years.

In that time, Seoul residents have seen Namdaemun’s surrounding thatched-roof homes and pastoral atmosphere replaced by today’s concrete and skyscrapers.

“To walk through the gate of Namdaemun today is deeply emotional to me,” Lee said.

The gate’s passageway was closed in 1907 during the Japanese colonial period, when planners knocked down the walls to make room for a railway running through the gate.

Anyone can now walk through the arch and examine the ceiling’s painted designs. Pictures of the gate’s history are being displayed along the walkway through the gate. At one end, an English language sign explains the gate’s history.

To visit Namdaemun Gate, take the Number 4 subway line to Hoeyheon Station. Take Exit 4 out of the station and walk for 5 minutes toward the gate.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

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