Namdaemun (Sungnyemun) Gate is Korea’s National Treasure No. 1, and its unofficial name is Namdaemun Gate. Sungnyemun Gate is the largest castle gate stone structure with an arched entrance in the middle. There’s a column on top of a platform, raising the roof, distinguishing the upper stories and lower stories of the building. A passageway for traffic is located at the east and west ends of the gate.
Different from the other gates, Sungnyemun’s tablet has its name written vertically.
When the first king of Joseon Dynasty, Lee Seong-Gye (reign 1335-1408), had constructed the capital city, he believed that fire will reach to Gyeongbokgung Palace as well as the capital city as Mt. Gwanaksan of Seoul is shaped like fire according to feng-shui principles. Sungnyemun’s name means fire, which is from the harmony of the Five Elements and if written vertically, the Chinese character ‘fire’ looks as if it is providing protection. This was Taejong’s (1367-1422) first son, Yangnyeongdaegun’s (1394-1462) famous writing.
On February 10, 2008, Sungnyemun was destroyed by fire. After a 5-year reconstruction work, the gate has been re-opened to the public again as of May 4, 2013.
Namdaemun Market is the largest traditional market in Korea with over 10,000 stores that line the streets around Namdaemun (Gate), the main southern gate of the old city wall. Namdaemun Market first started under the reign of King Taejong (1367 – 1422, the third Joseon king) during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1910), when the government built shops around Namdaemun and rented out the shops to traders. It boasts one of the largest distribution structures in Korea, providing local products, daily living essentials, food products, medical supplies and more to retailers and consumers across the country.
Due to the wholesale nature of the market, shoppers can comparison shop for the lowest prices on all sorts of goods. Namdaemun Market is also packed with interesting things to see and eat, making it a popular destination for both locals and international visitors alike. So whether you’re looking for traditional oriental medicine or imported drugs, traditional Korean food or imported snacks, hanbok attire or a Halloween costume, Namdaemun Market is the place to go.
Namdaemun Market is renowned for its vast size and the variety of goods it offers. With the exception of construction materials, the market sells nearly every item under the sun including clothing, food, living essentials, etc. So it comes as no surprise that Namdaemun Market is always bustling day and night. Retailers from all over the nation flock to the market at night and local consumers flock to the market during the day. Many tourists come during the day as well to experience the charm of a traditional Korean market. The market's success is largely due to its independent distribution system. Although the shops are small, most of them produce the goods they offer themselves, allowing for customers to purchase goods directly from the manufacturers at wholesale prices.