Thursday, February 24, 2011

Exploring the once forbidden Seoul Fortress Wall

Built in 1396 many are calling it Korea's Great Wall. The wall surrounds the entire vicinity of central Seoul.
Marie Webb at the Malbawi entrance of the wall.
    Now that spring is on its way, enjoy hiking around the Seoul Fortress Wall without the slippery snow covered hiking trail. A few weeks ago on a random Sunday, I decided to venture a quick ten minute bus ride from my apartment to get a glimpse of the wall. Without checking the weather, a full on snow storm met me and my friends on the mountain! But the snow didn't stop us as we were determined to explore this old yet newly popular historical icon of Seoul.
    None of my Korean friends, co-workers, or students have ever talked about vising the Fortress Wall. This is most likely because the area was off limits for so long. According to the Seoul Fortress Website the area around Mt. Bukaksan was closed for 38 years to the public, and was only a military security area. The military presence still remains, mostly because portions of the wall go back along the mountain directly behind Cheong Wa Dae (The Blue House) which is equivalent to America's White House.

The steps here are not as steep as China's wall.
    The wall is quite extensive and actually connects the four mountains surrounding Seoul: Namsan (남산) in the south, Inwangsan (인왕산) to the west, Naksan (낙산) to the east, and Bugaksan (북악산) in the North. Most people are familiar with Namsan because of the famous Seoul Tower, and Bugaksan which is a great hiking destination. Even though, many have not heard about the Seoul Fortress Wall, and its importance to Korean history.
    Seoul Magazine published an article stating that the wall was built in order to satisfy the old 9th century philosophy of Feng Shui.  With the mountains in the North, South, East, and West, the fortress wall truly is a perfectly balanced structure meant to protect the main city of the Joseon Dynasty as early as 1396.
    The physical structure of the wall varies throughout the mountains because of destruction from wars, rebuilding throughout the years, and current renovations being made. The Korea Tourism Org. has gone as far to say as it is a ruin comparable to The Great Wall of China. This can be debated at  later time, but the wall and trails around the mountains do offer great views of the downtown city of Seoul, and spectacular moss and ivy covered stones which make up the quite magnificent scenery of the wall itself.

Here the steps get steeper!
    There are several ways to view the wall up close. I recommend starting at the Malbawi section so that you can pass through the Sukjeongmun Gate. This is the Mt. Bugaksan section and it can be accessed via Anguk Station on Seoul Metro Line 3 (exit #2). Immediately outside the exit is a bus stop. Hop on the green bus #02, you will head up the mountain and get off at the Sungkyunkwan University rear gate. Walk up the hill about 5 minutes and you will see the Malbawi sign to your right. From here you can't miss the wall! If you want a more leisurley way to see the wall, try the Namsan path. But keep in mind the views and old history will be some what sacrificed on this newer section of the wall.
   Warning!!!!!: Be sure to bring your passport and a few bucks. There is a section of the wall that requires identification because it goes so close to Cheong Wa Dae. Without identification you will be forced to leave the trail!

Some of the military buildings present on the wall.
If you have any questions or comments about "Exploring the once forbidden Seoul Fortress Wall" please leave them in the comment box below or email

Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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Creative Commons License
Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
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