5 Best Historical Places in Gwangju, South Korea

1. 5.18 Democracy Square (5.18 민주광장)

41, Geumnam-ro 1-ga, Dong-gu, Gwangju, South Korea

The old Jeonnam Provincial Office, the final battleground of the Gwangju Uprising, now showcases art that blends the May 18th Democratization Movement with modern media. Democracy Square, featuring a fountain used as a podium, stands as a testament to the fervent spirit of the struggle.

2. May 18th National Cemetery (국립 5.18 민주묘지)

200, Minju-ro, Buk-gu, Gwangju, South Korea

The Cemetery stands as a historic symbol that defended democracy in South Korea. Since the May 18th Democratization Movement Records were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2011, this site has become a beacon of hope and dedication to a brighter future, transcending the sorrow of the tragic events. The May 18th People’s Uprising Memorial Tower, symbolizing “hope” and the resurgence of the Gwangju uprising, is located here.

3. Jeonil Building 245 (전일빌딩 245)

245, Geumnam-ro, Dong-gu, Gwangju, South Korea

It is one of the few places in the Geumnam-ro area that has preserved its original appearance. The discovery of 245 bullet marks has once again brought global attention to the tragic events of the May 18th Democratization Movement.

In February 2020, remodeling was completed, and on May 11 of the same year, it reopened under the name “Jeonil Building 245.” The significance of the number 245 comes from its address according to the road address system. Coincidentally, the number 245 also matches the number of bullet marks found in this building. The newly remodeled Jeonil Building retains 99% of its former exterior appearance, but the interior has been transformed from office use to a civic cultural facility.

The basement to the 4th floor serves as a civic cultural space, the 5th to 7th floors are dedicated to cultural content creation, and the 9th and 10th floors commemorate the May 18th movement. The 8th floor and rooftop are used as rest areas. Especially from the rooftop park, “Jeonil Maru,” you can get a clear view of one of Gwangju’s landmarks, the Chosun University main building, and Mudeungsan Mountain. Movies can also be watched here.

4. 5.18 Archives (5.18 민주화운동기록관)

221, Geumnam-ro, Dong-gu, Gwangju, South Korea

Situated in the former Gwangju Catholic Center, the archives house and preserve the May 18th Democratization Movement Records, which are listed as a UNESCO Memory of the World. The main exhibition halls are located on the 1st to 3rd floors, and a restored classroom of Archbishop Yun Gong-hee can be found on the 6th floor. This location is close to the Memorial Hall, Democracy Plaza, and the Asia Culture Center, making it convenient to visit all these significant sites together.

5. Yangnim History and Culture Village

7, Seosopyeong-gil, Nam-gu, Gwangju, South Korea

This area is where Korea and the West, Confucianism and Christianity, and tradition and modernity coexist. It is said that people have been living in this area since the Joseon Dynasty, with Yangrim Mountain as their backdrop. Due to its proximity to Gwangju Eupseong Fortress, it was one of the neighborhoods where the nobility resided. From 1904, during the Korean Empire period, American Presbyterian missionaries began to settle here. It was also a wealthy neighborhood where rich people from the Gwangju area lived, and it seems that many intellectuals dedicated to the independence movement also moved here.

This village, which symbolizes the beginning of modern Gwangju history, had gradually faded from people’s memories. However, the lack of tourist attractions in Gwangju prompted renewed attention to this village. Plans to develop it into a tourist destination began in 2008, leveraging its historical significance spanning from the Joseon Dynasty to the 2000s. However, criticism arose during this process, as some peopel thought it led to the unintentional destruction and disappearance of the village’s historical appearance.

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