Jangchung Gym Reopens
“This monument is going to be built as a symbol.”
― Bill Russell, a retired U.S. National Basketball Association player

These days, nearly all schools have gyms for physical education classes for their students. Almost all cities or towns also have gyms for indoor events or recreational sports for their residents.

Jangchung Gymnasium, a landmark monument in eastern Seoul, made headlines on Jan. 17, as it was reopened after a facelift of two years and eight months and a cost of \32.6 billion. The renovation and reopening of Korea’s first domed gym carry special meanings in many respects.

Jangchung Gym is a historic monument with symbolic meanings, given that it was a mecca not only for indoor sports, but for other events, such as boxing and wrestling matches, cultural events, and even presidential elections and inaugurations.

“Good evening, I’m reporting from Jangchung Gym!” A radio or TV sportscaster used to shout into the microphone when reporting on a professional boxing or wrestling match.

After the monumental gym, with a seating capacity of some 8,000, opened on Feb. 1, 1963, a period ensued when the name “Jangchung” came to have a magic spell. At the time, people struggled to eke out a living and had nothing special to do during their leisure time. Radio and black-and-white TV were their only recreational materials, as they enjoyed basketball and volleyball games, and boxing, judo, table tennis, and taekwondo matches held at the gym, night and day, throughout all seasons.

All ears and eyes were riveted to clunky old radio or TV sets to listen to or watch the legendary Kim Il knock down big foreign wrestlers, one after another, on the canvas floor of the ring in the 1960s or Kim Ki-soo win Korea’s first world boxing championship after defeating Italy’s Nino Benvenuti, in 1966.

Jangchungdan Shrine once stood in honor of the fallen soldiers who were killed while resisting Japanese samurai assassins who murdered Joseon’s last emperor, Myeongseong. Japanese colonialists built a Buddhist temple in memory of Ito Hirobumi, their first prime minister, who was assassinated by Korean patriot Ahn Jung-geun, on the site of the shrine. The Army built a gym there in 1955, but handed it over to the Seoul City Government, in 1959. Hence the country’s first indoor sports arena came into being.

Jangchung Gym came into the spotlight also as a venue for unlikely events - presidential elections and inaugurations. In indirect presidential elections, an electoral college voted for Park Chung-hee (in his later years), Choi Kyu-hah, and Chun Doo-hwan, the first two being also inaugurated there.

The renovated gym has only 4,507 seats. But its total floor space has been expanded from 8,299 square meters to 11,429 square meters to give visitors a more comfortable experience. An underground pedestrian walkway connects the gym with Dongguk University Station on subway line No. 3. The gym will host a variety of sporting events and performances, officials said.
Chung Myung-je
World Times Editor
1. When was Jangchung Gymnasium reopened?
2. Why is Jangchung Gymnasium a historic monument with symbolic meanings?
3. What kind of activities will Jangchung Gymnasium host?
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3. Who would benefit from the reopening of the gym?