Sunday, February 10, 2008

Seoul & London Lose Historic Landmarks

For six centuries in South Korea, the Great South Gate protected an ancient city, Namdaemun. Re-opening the two tiered structure in 2006 after extensive renovations was a joyous national occasion now marred by suspicions that arson destroyed a hallowed place. Previously 1907 marked the last time the gate opened to the Korean public. A saddened President-elect Lee Myung-bak toured the torched gate, officially called Sungnyemun or Gate of Exalted Ceremonies Monday. Hundreds of firefighters made a heroic effort to save the historic gate and major tourist attraction. Lines of grieving people watched the firefighting efforts come to naught but charred remains, part of a nation's glory.

The South Korean government opened the landmark gate, officially named Sungnyemun, to public in 2006 for first time in nearly a century.

The gate had been off-limits to the public since Japanese colonial authorities built an electric tramway nearby in 1907. Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula in 1910-45.

Losses worth 20 billion won, 14.5 million euros or $21 million USD put a monetary value on the physical loss in the South Korean tragedy. A prior prestigious World Cultural Heritage Site, the 18th Century Hwaseong Fortress, located in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, was lost to fire in 2006 due to drunken behavior. Cameras may have caught sight of what is believed to be suspicious activity. Nothing prepared the South Korean population to lose the treasure dubbed number one.

Thousands of miles away in a twisted solidarity, London mourned the loss of their world famous trendy Camden Market. A unique North London market filled with almost 300 stalls went up in smoke as the London Fire Brigade tried valiantly to save books, antiques and livelihoods for hundreds of people. The market is popular with tourists, Britain's young glitterati like Kate Moss or out of the mainstream consciousness folks featuring a great place to get one of a kind cool clothes. Four time Grammy winner tonight, Amy Winehouse gave a heartfelt shout out to Camden town acknowledging the tragedy after her satellite performance during her award thank you.

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: "We are concerned about the structural safety of all of the buildings that have been damaged and the risk of collapse and that includes the Hawley Arms."

Large sections of Camden High Street were cordoned off yesterday.

Mehran Rezae, 43, a trader at the 203 Shop on Camden High Street, said: "The reason that everyone comes here is for these markets. It is famous throughout the world.

"Losing trade like this is very bad news for everyone. If things are closed off for too long it could have a really bad effect in the long term."

Nearby buildings and homes were surrounded and at least two pubs, one being the famed Hawley Arms burned during the blaze that destroyed the over thirty year old Canal Market. There are assurances form the Holding company that work on replacing the market will begin as soon as the investigation into the fire's origins is completed. Replacement costs and insurance claims are expected to cost million of pounds. That does not include the costs of shuttered businesses on Camden High Street that remain roped off and inaccessible to tourist foot traffic.

Beset and beseeched by troubles and drama, Londoner, Amy Winehouse, regularly frequents the area where fashion intersects with music. Amy's unique hip sound can be heard in her Grammy nominated and Award CD, Back to Black.

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