Gadeokdo Lighthouse

IALA Heritage Lighthouse of the Year 2021 Nominee

Location: REPUBLIC OF KOREA - Busan. Gangseo-gu.

Lighthouse Operator: Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Korea

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Source: (photos as submitted to accompany nomination form submitted by the National Lighthouse Museum of Korea in 2020)

Lighthouse Description and History

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by the National Lighthouse Museum of Korea in 2020)

Gadeokdo Lighthouse is an active lighthouse located in a village called Dongdumal at southern end of Gadeok Island, in Busan, Korea. The current light is the second to be built on the headland, superseding the original which now forms part of the Gadeokdo Lighthouse complex.

The original light at Gadeokdo Lighthouse was established on 1 December 1909 at the end of the Korean Empire. A lantern was set 71.2m above the sea. It was reported to be visible from 20NM (37.04km).

The original light is no longer operational and is now preserved as Regional Tangible Cultural Property No. 50 of Busan Metropolitan City. A new lighthouse was established beside the original light in 2002. The lower section has the shape of a ship. The height of the lighthouse itself is 40.5m, and the light is 105m above sea level, making it the second highest coastal light in Korea.

The Gadeokdo Lighthouse shines light upon not only on the Busan New Port but also the battleships, cargo vessels and passenger ships heading toward Masan, Changwon and Jinhae. Light from Gadeokdo Lighthouse can be used for navigation as far as 21NM (38.89km) away. A sound signal is operational from 2002 giving a 5-second blast every 50 seconds.

Gadeokdo Lighthouse was significantly chosen as ‘Korean Lighthouse of the Year’ in 2019 in commemoration of the World Day of Marine Aids to Navigation 2019.

▪ Year first lit : 1909 (original), 2002 (current)

▪ Construction : bricks(original), concrete(current)

▪ Tower shape : octagonal tower with balcony and lantern (original), octagonal tower with balcony and lantern (current)

▪ Markings : white tower (original), white tower (current)

▪ Characteristic : FlW12s (current)

▪ Sound signal : electromagnetic horn (current)

Reason For Nomination

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by the National Lighthouse Museum of Korea in 2020)

Intrinsic Heritage Interest of the Lighthouse

The structure and interior decoration of the original light at Gadeokdo Lighthouse directly reflects the historical background of the lighthouse built in 1909 and a sense of values those who built the lighthouse. Gadeokdo Lighthouse is the one of the three 5th Order Fresnel Lens used lighthouses built during the late Korean Empire era.

It is valuable because of its integrated lighthouse of a light tower and attached facilities.

1909 April – The original lighthouse construction started

1909 December – The original lighthouse constructed and first lit

1954 March – The original lighthouse equipped with a generator room

1951, 1958, 1977, 1989 – Due to the progressing deterioration, the original light underwent frequent repairs

1964 – A major overhaul of the original light

2002 – A new lighthouse established beside the original light

2007-2008 – Top of the original lighthouse renovated

2010 – Gadeokdo Lighthouse Centennial Memorial Hall constructed

2013 – Restoration work for the original light

The original light at Gadeokdo Lighthouse has a light tower and attached facilities which are integrated, and it has an octagonal masonry structure. The planar structure is a ‘▣’-shape in which each facility is arranged around the light tower. It is divided into three spaces around the light tower, which are: the workspace and attached space on the left, and the lighthouse keeper’s living space on the right. The original light is still well intact. In particular, the pattern of the plum flower used on a wood gable roof over the entry door represents the status of the Korean Empire when the lighthouse was built. In addition, the characteristics of masonry building in modern age of Korea have been maintained well, such as the roof light window.

The original light at Gadeokdo Lighthouse satisfies the conditions of integrity in that the light tower and the attached facilities are integral. It is the only lighthouse in existence in the Republic of Korea with an integrated tower and attached facilities. While most lighthouses were built with a concrete structure at the time, the original light was built as a masonry building.

The original light at Gadeokdo Lighthouse has high academic value as it allows us to see the original form at the time of its construction. The steel spiral staircase inside the original light tower has been analyzed to be a ready-made product made in Scotland along with the steel stairs at Umashima Lighthouse (1898) and Mizunokojima Lighthouse (1904) in Japan. Based on this, it is possible to verify that there were international exchanges of technology for the lighthouse construction.


Gadeokdo Lighthouse preserves high levels of authenticity in multiple aspects, including form and design, materials and substance, traditions, techniques and management system, location and setting, and the surrounding environment. The lighthouse has maintained its original form of the site and surrounding landscape.

Currently, the exterior of the original light is the same as when it was first built in 1909, and the interior is the same as it was in the 1950s. The interior of original light was transformed into a Korean-style after Korea was liberated from Japan in 1945. For example, a Korean-style Ondol, which is a Korean form of underfloor heating that uses direct heat transfer from wood smoke to the underside of a thick masonry floor, was installed and part of the interior was changed in 1946. Since then, there has not been a significant change made in terms of exterior and interior. It was designated as Busan Regional Tangible Cultural Property No. 50 in 2003 in recognition of the historical value and restoration work was carried out on the original light in 2013.

In 2019, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries conducted a comprehensive research study on Gadeokdo Lighthouse to systematically preserve and manage. The researchers created a field book onsite at Gadeokdo Lighthouse, then measured and digitally archived it using a CAD programme. In this study, for the preservation and sustainable use of Gadeokdo Lighthouse, which has historical value, it was suggested firstly the Gadeokdo Lighthouse be promoted from being a local cultural property to a national cultural property, and make it marine tourism resources.

Since the lighthouse is located far from urban areas and protected in accordance with the Cultural Heritage Protection Act, there are no foreseeable issues in terms of development and environment. Various legal measurements prevent the lighthouse from any damage. Land utilization and development activities are strictly prohibited in accordance with the Act.

The lighthouse has been managed and protected in accordance with the mid-to-long term roadmap worked out by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. In addition, daily monitoring is being carried out by on-site lighthouse keepers, while regular monitoring is executed by every year.

Public Access and Education

Gadeokdo Lighthouse offers exciting and various experiential learning programmes in order to stimulate the public’s interests in lighthouses. For instance, ‘Gadeokdo Lighthouse Summer School’ goes on for kids and youth in the summer and ‘Gadeokdo Lighthouse Cottage Programme’ is run for the public all the year round.

The Gadeokdo Lighthouse Centennial Memorial Hall was built in 2010 to enable all of the public to understand the history of Gadeokdo Lighthouse. The Memorial Hall consists of a restaurant and shower room on the first floor, two dormitory rooms and a seminar room on the second floor, and a gallery on the third floor. Currently, lighthouse history, lighthouse heritage, and the history of Gadeokdo are on display at the gallery.