OWL Magazine Korea

Jongno, Seoul – Bosingak Pavilion (普信閣)

Bosingak Pavilion, also known as Jonggak, is a pavilion located in Jongno, Seoul. It is situated very close to Jonggak Station on Seoul Subway Line 1. The name “Jonggak” was adopted for the Jonggak Station, which was constructed at Jongno 1-ga intersection when Subway Line 1 opened, inspired by this pavilion.

Notably, Bosingak is well-known for the “Jeya’s Bell Ringing” event held every December 31st.

“The Evolving History of Bosingak”

The building itself has undergone several changes. The initial Jongru (bell pavilion) had a two-story structure, but after both the Jongru and bell were lost during the Japanese invasions of Korea (Imjin War), it was reconstructed into a one-story Jonggak during the reign of King Gwanghae until the liberation. However, this second Jonggak was destroyed, leaving only the bell, during the Korean War in 1950. In 1979, a new two-story pavilion, the current Bosingak building, was constructed using reinforced concrete structure adjacent to the original Bosingak site.

On June 18, 1990, the Seoul Metropolitan Government designated the “Bosingak Site” as the Seoul Monument No. 10. As the current Bosingak building is entirely newly constructed, it couldn’t be designated as a cultural heritage, and only the original site of Bosingak was recognized.

“History of Bosingak”

In the 5th year of King Taejo’s reign (1396), a bell produced in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, was installed in a Jongru west of Cheongun Bridge. Later, in the 13th year of King Taejong (1413), a new two-story Jongru was built, and its location was moved to the current Jongno intersection. Then, in the 22nd year of King Sejong (1440), the existing Jongru was demolished and rebuilt into a two-story structure with five rooms in the east-west direction and four rooms in the north-south direction. In the 7th year of King Sejo (1458), a new Daejong (large bell) was made and installed, but during the Japanese invasions of Korea in the 25th year of King Sejo (1592), the Jongru was lost, and the Daejong was destroyed.

In the 11th year of King Gwanghae’s reign (1619), Jonggak was reconstructed, and a new bell was hung. Originally, this bell was located in Jonggak at the Myeongrye-dong Pass but was moved to its current location. It was initially kept at WonGaksa (圓覺寺), but it was moved to the palace in the 31st year of King Jungjong (1536). Due to the Japanese invasions in the 30th year of King Seonjo (1597), it was relocated back to Myeongrye-dong Pass. During the reconstruction of Jonggak, it was downsized to a one-story structure.

Subsequently, Bosingak went through various changes. The first change occurred on April 19, 1864, when a fire broke out in the area but was quickly suppressed, and Bosingak was rebuilt to a functional state by May 24. Then, in the 6th year of King Gojong (1869), on September 4, a second fire broke out nearby, leading to further changes in Bosingak’s appearance around October 29. Later, during the Japanese occupation and the colonial period, there were additional changes, including the shifting of its location.

Bosingak was completely destroyed during the Korean War in 1950 but was reconstructed in 1953 after the armistice. In 1971, during the construction of Seoul Subway Line 1, the foundation stones of the original Jongru built during the reign of King Sejong were excavated. Based on this discovery, a new Jongru was constructed in 1979 using a reinforced concrete structure. The unearthed foundation stones were relocated to the Seoul History Museum.

In 1985, the original Bosingak bell, which had aged, was recast and replaced. The new bell at Bosingak was replicated after the Sinjong (Emille Bell) of King Seongdeok. However, despite replicating the real Emille Bell using modern technology, it was criticized for producing a sound far less resonant than the authentic bell. As for the Jongru, as mentioned earlier, it is a modern construction with a concrete two-story building featuring a frontage of five rooms and a side of four rooms. In other words, today’s Bosingak, including the bell, is a modern architectural structure borrowing from traditional forms. Unfortunately, the building was pushed back even further, and it was constructed in the direction it faced during the Japanese colonial period. The plaque was also not from the Joseon era but was engraved with the handwriting of President Syngman Rhee.

“Jongno, Seoul – Bosingak”