Korean Bell and Belfry of Friendship
1976 – Kim Se-jung
Angels Gate Park, Gaffey and 37th Streets, San Pedro – map
Weighing nearly 18 ¾ tons, this twelve-foot tall bell was a gift of the South Korean government to commemorate the United States’ bicentennial. And not only did South Korea give us the bell, the country also sent over about three dozen workers to build the striking pavilion in which the bell rests today. First, Taekwondo, then this.
Kim Se-jung designed the San Pedro landmark, known as the Friendship Bell, as a replica of the Divine Bell of King Songdok the Great (the 33rd king of Shilla, remember?). (That big bell, also known as the Emilie Bell or the Pongdoksa Bell, was built in A.D.771 and is today situated on the grounds of the Kyongju National Museum.)
“Bell of Friendship”Our Los Angeles bell is an alloy of tin, copper, gold, and silver, with a pinch of phosphorous, but, unlike the 1,237-year-old Korean version, our bell lacks baby. The bell’s rim, almost twenty-four-feet in circumference, is banded by Korea’s national flower, the Rose of Sharon, which really isn’t even a rose if you want to know the truth. To mark the friendship of the two countries, four sets of two figures – the Goddess of Liberty and a Korean spirit – are also engraved on the bell. While the four goddesses are holding torches, the spirits are bearing the Korean flag, the Rose of Sharon, a laurel branch, and a dove of peace.
When the thirty-five Korean stonemasons (suk kongs), tile-setters (wha kongs), and carpenters came over from Seoul to work on the belfry, they brought with them 435 tons of stone, traditional blue tile, and other materials. Living in a pair of Fort MacArthur army barracks, the crew wound up working twelve to fourteen hours a day to finish up by dedication day.
The tanch’ong-styled bell pavilion is supported by a dozen columns, representing the twelve signs of the Oriental zodiac.
Located in Angels Gate Park on Fort MacArthur’s old Upper Reservation, the Friendship Bell is rung four times a year: July 4th; August 15th (Korean Independence Day); New Year's Eve; and sometime in September to celebrate Constitution week. Rather than being struck with a clapper, the Friendship Bell is rung with this wooden log:
The bell and belfry have got to be one of the youngest – if not the youngest – L.A. Historic-Cultural Monuments, having been declared an official landmark just nineteen months after its dedication on October 3, 1976.
The Korean Friendship Bell Information Center
When you visit HCM No. 187, right next to the Pacific Ocean, make sure you pop in the Korean Friendship Bell Information Center (above), also in Angels Gate Park.
Finally, the IMDb.com says you can see the Friendship Bell in 1995’s The Usual Suspects. I haven’t seen the movie since it came out, probably, so I don’t remember.
Hillinger, Charles “West Coast ‘Liberty Bell’” The Los Angeles Times Sep 16, 1976, p. C1
Up next: U.S.S. Los Angeles Naval Monument