Segeomjeong Pavilion is a pavilion located on Hongjecheon Stream at the base of Mount Bugaksan in northwest Seoul. Due to its location, surrounded by nature and built on a stream, the pavilion has been mentioned in many literary works, poems, and essays over the years.
While historians aren’t exactly sure when the pavilion was first built, its history dates back hundreds of years. For centuries, ordinary citizens, visiting Chinese officials, and warriors have stopped here to refresh, prepare for battle, or enjoy the surroundings views. It was considered one of the best places to refresh on a hot summer day.
Hongjecheon Stream, which runs for 13.92 kilometers (8.64 miles), is a tributary of the Hangang River. Hongjecheon flows through Jongno-gu, Seodaemun-gu and Mapo-gu. In the past, the stream was known as Hongjewoncheon due to its location near the Joseon-era Hongjewon rest area. Today, the stream is popular for its waterfall and bicycle path.
It is believed that during the Injo Coup of 1623, leaders of the coup passed through Changuimun Gate before stopping in front of the pavilion to wash their swords in the stream as they prepared for their attack on the palace. Their mission was to dethrone King Gwanghae, the fifteenth king of the Joseon dynasty. After the coup, people began to call the pavilion Segeomjeong, literally meaning “The Sword Washing Pavilion.”
In 1746, King Yeongjo ordered Chongyungcheong, one of five military bases, to be relocated to the north of Seoul near Hongjecheon Stream. It was also decided at this time that the pavilion would be completely rebuilt for a place of rest and leisure. After a year of construction, the pavilion was completed. From this point on, the pavilion was officially known as Segeomjeong.
Segeomjeong was well maintained from the 18th century into the early 20th century. By the 1930s, during the occupation of Korea by Japan, the area including the pavilion fell into despair.
In the 1940s, an oilpaper factory worker started a fire by throwing a cloth soaked in oil into a nearby garbage bin. The resulting fire spread throughout the neighborhood, eventually destroying the entire pavilion.
For the next 30 years, other than the two original stone fountains, all traces of the pavilion were forgotten.
In 1977, the government of Seoul decided to reconstruct the pavilion. Without any building plans, the government relied on an 18th century painting by Gyeomjae Jeong Seon (1676–1759) as a reference for rebuilding. The painting depicted Segeomjeong with a low wall erected behind it, a gate near a road, and a smaller gate near the stream.
After Segeomjeong was reconstructed, photographs of the pavilion from the early 20th century were discovered. It was realized at this point that the reconstruction was different from the original pavilion.
Just below the pavilion is a large, flat rock. This rock is known as canopy rock or chailam (차일암). A state ceremony known as the “Festival of Draft Erasing” or sechoyeon (세초연) was held on this rock. During this ceremony, paper drafts used during the creation of the Chronicles of the Feudal Joseon Dynasty were placed into the stream, erasing any writings. The paper was then sent to the Royal Paper Mill located just across from the river where it would be recycled. After the ceremony, the king would host a feast at the pavilion.
Today, the small pavilion is surrounded by residences, buildings, and roads. While much of the original atmosphere has disappeared with modernization, visitors who walk down to the stream and the pavilion might forget for just a moment that they are in a metropolis as big as Seoul.