Ringing the Bell of Friendship: Korean Friendship Bell Echoes Liberty in San Pedro

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Korean Friendship Bell at Angels Gate Park in San Pedro, CA

The Republic of Korea generously gifted the city of Los Angeles with a bronze bell in commemoration of the U.S. Independence Bicentennial.¹  In addition to commemorating the bicentennial, the Republic of Korea also acknowledged U.S. veterans service during the Korean War.  Paid for by the people of Korea, this million dollar gift is a grand gesture of friendship to the American people.

Affixed to a handcrafted and hand-painted pagoda, the bronze bell is seven and a half feet in diameter, twelve feet in height, and seventeen tons in weight.²  The metal alloy mostly consists of copper and tin.³  Modeled after the 771 A.D. King Seongdeok Bronze Bell in South Korea, each of the bronze bell’s four sides depicts the Goddess of Liberty and a Korean Spirit.  The Korean Spirit holds a different symbol on all four sides: the Korean Flag, the rose of Sharon branch, laurel branch, and a dove.  Sheltering the bronze bell, the pagoda’s green tiled roof is supported by twelve red columns.  Each of the twelve columns is specifically fashioned for the twelve zodiac animals.  With East Asian designs, the pagoda is ornately decorated with floral patterns in hues of green, orange, and blue.

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Korean Friendship Bell Pagoda Design

After nearly forty years of weathering, the bell and the pagoda were in poor condition, especially since a part of the chain that upheld the bell broke in 2010 during a ringing ceremony.⁴  The nonprofit organization, Korean Friendship Bell Preservation Committee, combined efforts in order to restore the bell and the pagoda.  Reaching out to the original firm that casted the bell, Beom Jong Sa, Chai Dong-hey lead the refurbishment of the Korean Bell of Friendship.⁵  Dong-hey is the apprentice of Kim Chul-oh, the original artist who casted the bell.  In order to cover the costs, the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism funded the Korean Bell of Friendship renovation with $300,000.⁶  An expensive investment, the South Korean government continues to recognize the valuable friendship between the two nations.

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Restoration of the Korean Friendship Bell by Chai Dong-hey

(Courtesy of LA Times)

Since this friendship bell memorialized the U.S. military service during the Korean War, it is fittingly perched atop the San Pedro cliffs with a vantage point overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  The Korean Bell Tower serves as a reminder of all the U.S. troops that crossed the Pacific Ocean to fight in the Korean War.  Matt Stevens describes the importance of the bells as, “… [not] well known in Los Angeles, but some Koreans consider it a West Coast Statue of Liberty — a symbol of the strong ties between the U.S. and Korea.”  Even though Los Angeles locals do not necessarily understand the importance of this monument, the city is able to appeal to people around the world who pilgrimage to this city of dreams.  Los Angeles serves the role of diplomatic affairs between the U.S. and other nations.  With a Korean Bell, Los Angeles proves its capability to be all things to all cultures and all peoples and all nations.  Ultimately as church bells peal to the city, the Korean Friendship Bell rings the sound of friendship between the Republic of Korea and the United States.

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I visited the Korean Friendship Bell on 2/2/16

¹ http://www.sanpedro.com/panoramas/korean_bell.htm (accessed February 4, 2016).

² Ibid.

³ Ibid.

⁴ Matt Stevens, “Traditional craftsmen restore Korean Friendship Bell,” Los Angeles Times, December 9, 2013, col. 1. http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-c1-korean-bell-20131209-dto-htmlstory.html (accessed February 4, 2016).

⁵ Ibid.

⁶ Ibid.

One Comment

  1. Jordan Friedman

    This is amazing! I’ve never seen this monument before but now I really want to visit it. I’m not really familiar with the U.S involvement in the Korean War but it really cool to see how, just like the the french gave us the gift of the statue of liberty for our freedom, the Koreans gave us this gift to commemorate our positive relations with them. It looks like a beautiful piece. I’ll have to take some time out of my weekend to go visit it over finals!

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