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
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.
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.
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.
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.
World Times Editor