Saturday, December 12, 2009

Undesirable (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

At first glance and without knowing the complex's history, the upper-most photo of this Photo Hunt entry may seem somewhat innocuous and not have much about it that is undesirable. After all, the pictured place seems to be in a nicely quiet section of Seoul and the solid constructions in it that could be -- and were -- filled with hundreds of people at a time look like they may have been factory buildings dating back to the early 20th century.

But a tour of that which now is a museum shows that Seodaemun was built in 1908, at a time when Korea was under Japanese rule, as a prison and served as such through the period of Japanese colonialisation (to house captured Korean freedom fighters and other patriots, male and female -- something that is emphasized in the official literature) but also after through to 1987 (something that it much less noted by the official history of Seodaemun Prison).

If one were to read the linked pieces above, one will learn about a lot of undesirable activities taking place at Seodaemun Prison (and also with regards to the way its history is presented). And while the people incarcerated at this complex were seen as undesirables by the ruling powers of the day, the strong feeling I get after reading what I've read about the place as well as visiting it is that the more undesirable elements of society actually were those who often unjustly condemned women as well as men to miserable fates within the prison's walls and those officials who carried out some incredibly awful tortures and related acts in the name of the then prevailing law.

And for those who think this is all too abstract, look at the middle and bottom photos in this entry and realise that: the former gives one a look right into the dark tunnel officially known as the Corpse Removal Exit -- located next to the execution building and used to secretly remove bodies to the public cemetery outside the prison to conceal the existence and number of executions that took place at Seodaemun; while the latter is of underground solitary cells specially constructed to house some of Seodaemun's female prisoners and in such a way that part of the terrible torture treatment they received there was that they never could get any natural sun light -- and also in the case of the taller ones, could never stand up straight -- in them.


Carver said...

Very thought provoking post for the theme. It is terrible some of the things that humans do to each other. That is something that never seems to end. It seems like one unjust situation after another keeps happening which is definitely undesirable.

I hope you have a happy weekend.

Photo Cache said...

Very interesting post. It was truly undesirable at that time.

Unknown said...

oh, this place reminds me of Corregidor---many bad memories from the Japanese Occupation.

Anneke (Mudhooks) said...

Man's inhumanity to man... and we think ourselves above the animals....

Mine is up but the photos may be rather disturbing. The first I used in an earlier PhotoHunter but the second is one I haven’t dared put up publicly before. Just warning you…

magiceye said...

an apt post for the theme!

MaR said...

Undesirable injustice, among other undesirables... interesting post and pictures for the theme!!

Enjoy your weekend.


Gattina said...

That really is a horrible and ugly place ! Japanese had a real bad reputation just like the Russians here in Europe during wars !

Mirage said...

It is sad to look back at history stories in connection with war and torture. I am glad the one building here that was like that has been burned down...only a memorial stone stood there for those who lost their lives.

Anonymous said...

Good choice, and good photos. And thanks for the history lesson.

jams o donnell said...

Powerful post. I shudder to think how the inmates were treated under Japanese rule. Happy weekend

YTSL said...

Hi Carver --

Thanks for reading and thinking about what I wrote. And yes, humans' continuing inhumanity can be so... painful to discover. :(

Hi Photo Cache --

And what a long time -- decades -- it was... :S

Hi Luna Miranda --

Be grateful that the Japanese occupation of the Phillipines was "only" during World War II. The poor Koreans had so many more years under Japanese rule. :S

Hi Anneke --

In anthropology, we're taught that humans ARE animals. And yes, we can be much more cruel than many other animals, it can seem.

Hi Magiceye --

Thanks for thinking so. :)

Hi Mar --

Injustice is indeed most undesirable.

Hi Gattina --

The thing that particularly amazes me (and people like my aunt, who lived through the Japanese occupation of what was then Malaya) is how the Japanese of today seem as amazingly nice and civilised as the Japanese of years back were awful and horrible. What a turnabout -- and thank goodness for it!

Hi Mirage --

I rather have the horrible parts of history be remembered rather than forgotten -- though, of course, I wish they hadn't happened at all. As the saying goes: Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it...

Hi Azahar --

You're welcome -- and thanks for being open to learning. :)

Hi Jams --

The scary thing about that prison museum is that there are "re-enactments of torture scenes", complete with sound effects in it. Truly chilling.

Hootin Anni said...

The undesirable injustice of it all is perfect.

Mine's HERE come on over...I'd love your visit. Happy Hunting.

Pat said...

Very interesting photos and post.

Happy Weekend.

YTSL said...

Hi Hootin' Anni --

Errrrr. perfect for the theme... but not the world!!! ;D

Hi Pat --

Thanks, and happy weekend to you too. :)

annie said...

It's so sad to think about, but definitely perfect for this theme. I hope for the end of such undesirable treatment of each other.

Sorry to hear about your jelly fish sting. :)

Happy weekend.

Rebecca Mecomber said...

Such places leave me unutterably depressed. I cannot wait until thw swords be turned to plowshares... war, prisons, torture-- what a blight on humankind!

Very good post for this week.

My Photo Hunt: Undesirable is up. I hope you have time to visit. Have a good weekend.

Lisa said...

Excellent contribution -- not just of the photos but the thoughts that prompted them.

Mine's up . . . and resonates with yours (but 1000s of years previously)

Scott Law said...

Beautiful job to remind us of terrible things in the past.

A. @ A Changing Life said...

That was such a sobering post. Incredible.

Bengbeng said...

ytsl.. a terrible terrible fate for those prisoners.. the last pic is the worst

YTSL said...

Hi Annie --

Ya, (other) animals are already capable of doing bad things to people - we don't need other people doing bad things to people!

Hi "Mrs Mecomber" --

I hope my post didn't leave you depressed. The good thing about Seodaemun Prison is it's no longer in use as a prison and, instead, is serving to show people the evil that humans are capable of but also the bravery too.

Hi Lisa --

Thanks for reading as well as looking.

Hi Bull Rhino --

Thank you -- for the compliment but also for taking the time to take in my contribution to this week's Photo Hunt.

Hi A. --

As you probably will surmise, I visited and took photos of Seodaemun on my recent trip to South Korea. It never fitted in terms of my other accounts of my travels though -- but its tale was worth telling... and figured this week's Photo Hunt was a good opportunity to do so.

Hi Bengbeng --

More re that underground prison area: they're also known as the Ryu Gwan-sun Cells after a former occupant (AKA Yu Kwan-sun) who was harshly tortured to death at the age of 18 at Seodaemun.

kim said...

It is truly awful and depressing what people do to each other in the name of "justice" These were powerful pictures. Thanks!

Marta said...

Very enlightening post. It is always so sad to see how we have treated our fellow man in the past. So much injustice and cruelty. Excellent selection for this week's theme.

YTSL said...

Hi Kim --

It is truly awful and depressing what some people can do to others. Period. :S

Hi Martha --

Thanks. I was a bit hesitant to get so serious for Photo Hunt this week but visitors like you have responded very appreciatively -- so think I made the right decision. :)

Cats~Goats~Quotes said...

Humans can be so inhumane.
Very good photos and post for PH theme this week.

YTSL said...

Hi Cat~Goats~Quotes --

Oh, the inhumanity that humanity is capable of. :S

ewaffle said...

A horrifying story which you tell very will with just a few words and pictures. One of the worst (most undesirable, perhaps) of the issues with Seodaemun and places like it is that they seem ubiquitous although usually either hidden or ignored. Or both.

We are always surprised by the level of depravity and outright malevolence toward individuals shown by totalitarian regimes and those who serve them and must be reminded of it again by stories like this.

Perhaps it is speaks well of us that we can't imagine such torture without seeing its artefacts but we are also too quick to forget.

Thank you for a very moving post.

YTSL said...

Hi ewaffle --

I so agree with your comments re (places like) Seodaemun. And to add to it: the gap really can be so wide between what we tend to assume human(e) behavior is and what evil some of our fellow humans seem too easily capable of.