In San Pedro, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, you can visit a 17-ton metal bell that’s a symbol of the lasting friendship between the United States and South Korea.
Korean Friendship Bell
The Korean Bell of Friendship is a huge metal bell that’s been on display in San Pedro’s Angel’s Gate Park for the last 45 years. It was donated to Los Angeles as a gift to the citizens of the United States in 1976 by the people of the Republic of Korea. There are three reasons marking the significance of this gift:
- Celebrating the “American Bicentennial Jubilee”
- Honoring the veterans of the Korean War
- Cementing the friendship between South Korea and the U.S.
The bell is modeled on one of Korea’s national treasures (number 29 if you’re counting at home), the Bronze Bell of King Seongdok the Great, cast in the year 771. It can be seen today on display at the National Museum of Gyeongju. The original bell weighs more than 18 tons, but the Korean Bell of Friendship is just slightly lighter at 17 tons with a height of 12 feet and a diameter of 7.5 feet.
The surface of the Korean Friendship Bell is emblazoned with a series of intricate displays featuring the Statue of Liberty holding her torch aloft and linking arms with one of four Korean spirits that hold different symbols of Korea. Branches of the rose of Sharon (hibiscus, the national flower of Korea), cast in relief, decorate the shoulder and rim of the bell.
The bell was cast from an amalgam of metals carefully selected to enhance the quality of the bell’s tone, and at the time of its casting it cost Korea $500,000.
The Bell of Korean Friendship was listed as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument number 187 on May 3 1978 (as Korean Bell and Belfry of Friendship (Angel’s Gate Park)).
Belfry of Friendship (Bell Pavilion)
The Bell of Korean Friendship is housed inside a beautiful stone structure reminiscent of a Korean-style pagoda, referred to as the Belfry of Friendship in the original Historic-Cultural Monument listing. The open-air building is painted in the traditional Korean dancheong style, and the intricate, blue-tiled roof is supported by 12 columns, each guarded by one of the animals of the Korean Zodiac.
The structure is decorated on
The pieces of the structure were brought over from Korea and it was assembled on-site at the park by a team of 30 Korean craftsman.
Ringing the Korean Bell of Friendship
Although the bell was intended to be rung for the first time in Los Angeles on July 4, 1976 (in time for the Bicentennial), forces conspired against this plan. The first casting of the bell developed a crack, and the whole process had to be started over. The second casting was finished in June 1976, but this didn’t leave enough time to get the bell across the ocean and installed by the Fourth of July.
So the first ringing of the Korean Bell of Friendship took place in Busan. Then it made the journey across the Pacific to Los Angeles and was rung for the first time in the United States on October 3, 1976.
The bell is rung on the first Saturday of each month at 11:30 am, a ceremony that’s open to the public (when there’s not a pandemic). It’s also rung on January 13 (Korean-American Day), July 4, August 15 (National Independence Day of Korea), September 17 (Constitution Day), and a few times on New Year’s Eve.
You may recall seeing the bell and pavilion from its appearance in 1995’s The Usual Suspects. When the crew first comes to Los Angeles, they meet their contact on the steps.
Renewing the Friendship
On the path to the Korean Bell of Friendship from the parking lot, most people will walk by a meticulously groomed tree.
This tree was planted by Chun Doo-hwan, the fifth President of South Korea, on his first visit to the United States on January 29, 1981. The tree is dedicated to the everlasting friendship between the United States and the republic of Korea.
Korean Bell of Friendship
- 3601 S Gaffey St, San Pedro
- GPS Coordinates: 33.70985, -118.29379 [ Google Maps ]
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