So the Gyeongseong Gamok was built in 1908, adding 500 cells to a penal infrastructure that consisted of only 300 cells across the whole country. Here, the Japanese colonization forces which ruled Korea from 1910 to 1945 used "enhanced interrogation techniques" on members of the resistance movement. Often, the cruel treatment of prisoners (usally referred to on the interpretive plaques as "patriotic ancestors") only strenghtened their resolve and recruited new members to the cause.
I took a trip to see it, now called Seodaemun Prison History Hall, on Saturday afternoon, planning to meet up with a couple of friends. This is the remaining watchtower and part of the perimeter wall, located at the main entrance. Built in 1923, it originally had a length of 1,161 m, but today only 287 m remains. Designed for 500, it held over 3000 at the height of the resistance movement.
Here is the main building; in the background, you can see apartments and the peak of Inwangsan. The main dioramas and displays are in this building.
Many of the facilities are currently receiving a facelift:
Below are some artifacts, shackles on the left, face masks, warder's batons and ID papers on the right.
Here are two mock-up solitary cells--one with a mannekin, the other available for photo ops by visitors. Below that are full-size mock-ups depicting water torture and brutal beating, in the rooms where they actually occured:
Some of the dioramas are animated, and include sound. Watch carefully, and you can see the bamboo shoots being shoved under the victims fingernails.
WARNING: incredibly squeamish persons might find this video mildly unsettling.
Below are photos from Prison Building No. 12, depicting detention cells.
There is a mock execution room, where you can sit on a wooden stool facing your judges and listen while they sentence you to death. Then, the stool drops about three inches and you scream. At least, this small boy did:
This is the entrance to the execution building; some 400 independence fighters were killed or otherwise died at Seodaemun. Photos were not permitted inside.
This is a cave with a secret exit which was used to carry corpses after execution to the public cemetery outside the prison.