Tapgol Park

Nature in the middle of the city at Tapgol Park in Seoul
Nature in the middle of the city at Tapgol Park in Seoul

Tapgol Park is a public park that lies at the center of Seoul, near Insadong. It was here in 1919 where the March 1st Korean Independence Movement began. This movement called for the independence of Korea from Japanese rule.

The highlight of the park is the famous enclosed marble Wongaksa Pagoda that was constructed in 1467. The park was named after this beautiful ten-tier stone pagoda.

During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), a temple known as Heungboksa was located here.

In 1465 the old temple was expanded and renamed as Wongaksa, which became the focal point of the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism. The temple was built by King Sejo, during the 11th year of his reign. He was a devout believer of Buddhism and the incarnation of Buddhist relics known as sarira.

During the reigns of Yeonsangun (1494-1506) and Jungjong (1506-1544), Buddhism was suppressed by the government. All of the temple, except for the Wongaksa Pagoda, was destroyed.

Quiet walking path through Tapgol Park in Seoul
Quiet walking path through the park

Around 1900, the financial advisor of King Gojong, an Irishman known as John McLeavy Brown, turned the area into Seoul’s first Western style public park. At the time, it was known as Pagoda Park or Tapdong Park. It was renamed Tapgol Park in 1991.

Tapgol Park park is best known as a symbol of resistance against the Japanese and their occupation of Korea.

The Korean Declaration of Independence was first read publicly at this location under the eight sided Palgakjeong Pavilion. It was one of the first public displays of resistance against the Japanese occupation of Korea. This movement sparked the historic March 1st Movement in 1919. Thousands were killed and many more were injured by Japanese forces during these demonstrations. A memorial service is held here every March 1st.

Today, the park is a place where people come to meet up, people watch, play board games, go for walks, listen to music, or just relax.

Front gate of Tapgol Park in Seoul
Front gate