Restoration of nation’s ‘front gate’ feted today

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Restoration of nation’s ‘front gate’ feted today

The government will throw a big celebration today in the downtown area to mark the reopening of Sungnyemun, Korea’s National Treasure No. 1, which was burned down in an arson attack five years ago.

The five-year restoration of the 600-year-old wooden gate was completed late last year and it has brought the stately gate closer in appearance to its original shape from the early years of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

The celebrations will start at 1:50 p.m. at the square in front of the gate with pre-ceremony events. They include a performance by a children’s choir and a Buddhist ritual called cheondo that is believed to get rid of bad luck.

At 2 p.m., the main ceremony attended by government dignitaries, traditional artisans and others will start. The program includes the unveiling of the new signboard and a musical performance by the National Gugak Center dubbed gocheon, which literally means “proclamation to heaven.” Gugak means traditional Korean music.

The festivities will then move through Sejong-no (Sejong Road) to Gwanghwamun Square led by a traditional military parade in which some 500 people are expected to take part. They will carry the “Hope Exemplar” made of postcards written by Koreans about the future of the gate between April 22 and May 2.

The day’s celebrations will wrap up with a traditional show entitled “Pangut, Binari and Arirang.”

Pangut is a traditional Korean percussion performance, binari is a song sung in a traditional ritual to wish for good fortune and Arirang is the traditional Korean folk song that was added to the Unesco World Cultural Heritage list in December.

“It is so rewarding to put up the nation’s front gate again and show the strength of our culture,” Lee Youn-taek, a veteran theater producer who is supervising the ceremonies, told reporters.

By Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

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