Rail Hub Evokes Nostalgia and a Sense of History

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Rail Hub Evokes Nostalgia and a Sense of History

Seoul Station is the central railway hub in Seoul. The station was the gateway to the capital until the 1960s. Since then, its importance has diminished with the advent of air travel and expressways. Seoul Station also played an important historical role. The station was the point of departure for the train that carried copies of the 1919 Declaration of Independence that demanded freedom from Japan across the country. During the waning years of the Chosun Dynasty, Korea's titular ruler, Emperor Sunjong, used to pass through the station when he took his specially prepared train. Many officials from the Japanese governor-general's office often used the station as well.

During the '60s and '70s, the station was the destination for the thousands of young Koreans who came to Seoul to find a job ? and their mothers, who came from the countryside bearing heavy bags to visit their children. The station has also been a symbolic gathering point for both popular celebrations and popular protests. On Aug. 18, 1945, jubilant crowds assembled there, armed with the national flag ? the Taeguki ? to celebrate the nation's liberation from Japanese rule. But the station's square was also the location of huge demonstrations in the 80s against the military dictatorship.

On Sept. 30, 1925, the new station ? rebuilt by the Japanese ? was first seen by the public. The building comprises three stories, including a basement, and was built with red bricks. The pediment dome of the station's central hall, built in the Byzantine style, is magnificent even today. The designer of the station is unknown, but is thought to have been a Japanese architect who studied in Germany.

A few changes have been made in the station since 1945. A painting of the Japanese national flag which once covered the ceiling of the station during the colonial period has been replaced with the Taeguki and the Mugungh-wa ? the Korean national flower. The name of the station has also been changed from Kyeongseong Station ? after the former name of the Korean capital ? to Seoul Station.

The station has operated continuously since it opened, apart from a three-month period in the Korean War. The station is open 24 hours a day. It was renovated in the 80s but the exterior of the building remains almost entirely unchanged. Seoul Station was designated a Seoul City heritage site in 1981.

by Park So-young

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