Today, Dongdaemun is considered as the fashion shopping capital of Korea. Clothes, bags, fashion accessories and everything else fashionistas would need to complete their look are all found in Dongdaemun.
If you're familiar with the place, there are multi-storey buildings devoted for clothes like Migliore or Doota (and a few more are sprouting up!), and huge markets selling bags, shoes and everything else that would fill your shopping bags. And they are open from midnight until the next morning!
(Beodeuldari Bridge or Jeon Tae-il Bridge)
If you have gone around the Dongdaemun shopping area, you must have noticed several small bridges that straddle the Cheonggye Stream.
And if you have crossed one, you must have noticed a half-body statue of an innocent-looking Korean man.
His name is Jeon Tae-il. And he is the hero industrial workers in Dongdaemun and around Korea are grateful to.
In 1970, he raised awareness about the horrible working conditions of industrial workers in Dongdaemun, and when his efforts were silenced, he set himself on fire and ran the streets of Seoul shouting, "We are not machines! Enforce the labor code!"
He was just 22 years old.
He was very young and yet so brave and heroic, and fought for what he believed was right.
Jeon Tae-il died from his burns. But his crusade continued on and eventually encouraged the workers to unite and fight for their rights.
November 13, 1970 was the day he died. And every year, on this day, many pay tribute Jeon Tae-il in front of his statue with songs, flower offerings and prayers.
So, if you're crossing a small bridge in Dongdaemun and see his statue, try to remember the hero and what he did for others.
Who knows? Without Jeon Tae-il, Dongdaemun might not be what it is today as industrial workers and their working conditions might not have improved without him raising awareness on their sad plight.
Here's to Jeon Tae-il, a hero.
(Locator map of Jeon Tae-il's bridge)