Tapgol Park or Pagoda Park may not seem much to the average tourist passing by due to its size, but there is so much history to it. It is Seoul’s first ever modern park, the original site where the Korean Independence Movement Day first gathered on March 1, 1919, and the venue where the Korean Declaration of Independence was held. As the place where the National Constitution was read in public for the first time, this park must be of national significance.
Tapgol is mostly visited by the elderly and other tourists who do not want to walk around too much. Located just east to Jongmyo Shrine, the park contains the 10-storey Wongaksa Pagoda, Palgakjung Pavilion, and Declaration of Independence Monument. The most important attraction here is the Wongaksa Pagoda (National Treasure #2), from which the park got its name. The name “Tapgol” came from the word “tap”, which means pagoda, pertaining to Wongaksa. (This is also why the place is also known as Pagoda Park.) The park’s complete Korean name literally means “ten-storey stone pagoda of Wongaksa Temple site.” The 12-meter-high marble pagoda is more or less 500 years old and used to be located inside the Gyeongbok-gung palace grounds. It now proudly stands in Tapgol inside a protective glass case.
Wongaksa Pagoda is the only surviving stone pagoda from the Joseon Dynasty. According to art historians, it is one of the finest examples of the arts and architecture during that period. It is also one of the very few marble pagodas in all of Korea. According to an inscription on the pagoda itself, it was built in 1467 during the 13th year reign of King Sejo. In 1471, a 4.9-meter Monument of Wongaksa Temple was built to represent the construction of the actual Wongaksa Pagoda. The monument has a turtle-shaped base made from granite, while the rest is cut from marble. On top of the monument are two elaborately carved dragons holding a Buddhist gem. The Monument of Wongaksa is Treasure #3.
Seoul is home to many of Korea’s most important treasures and landmarks, from the small parks as Pagoda Park to the really big ones. What’s really amazing about the capital city of South Korea is that while it continues to develop as a major mega-modern city in Asia, its ancient landmarks and national heritage remain intact within and around the metropolis. In other words, it is a place for the old and new, traditional and modern, cultural and high-tech. Tourists to Seoul may enjoy the comforts of modern living while visiting centuries-old palaces, temples, pagodas, gardens and parks. National parks in Seoul and around South Korea offer stunning natural attractions such as rugged peaks, lush forests, white water rivers, ancient temples, landmarks, treasures and parks.