The Gandhi of Korea, “Ham Seok-heon Memorial Hall”

Ham Seok-heon’s House in Ssangmun-dong, Dobong-gu, will open its doors in September to serve as a memorial hall. After a year of remodeling, the old house where Ham once lived has been modified into an exhibition room and various spaces for citizens, while preserving as much of its original form as possible.

The memorial hall contains 400 relics, including books Ham read, books he wrote, his daily supplies, and video reels and audio recordings of his lectures. Also, it features a greenhouse, where the plants and flowers that he planted and tended still grow, as well as guest rooms where visitors can stay overnight, a feature which distinguishes it from other such memorial houses.

Known as the “Gandhi of Korea” and “a man who shouts into the wilderness,” Ham is still remembered by many people, who pay tribute to him as such. In the memorial hall, the story of Ham Seok-heon is reborn as the voice of seeds.”

The first private school in Suwon, “Adams Memorial Hall”

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, with a total length of 5.7 kilometers and spanning an area of 1.2 square meters, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the masterpiece of King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty and features dozens of facilities, including four gates, especially Paldalmun Gate.

Near Hwahongmun Gate, north of Hwaseong, there remain the vestiges of Suwon’s vivid history of modern education. In the middle of the campus of the old Samil School, which has been expanded into a middle school, commercial high school, and industrial high school, stands Adams Memorial Hall, which was a school building during Korea’s modernization period.

This school building was constructed in 1923, the year of the 17th anniversary of the opening of the Samil School, which made its start by holding classes in just a few rooms in a church. Minister Nobel, who managed churches in Suwon at the time, began construction of the school with the support of the Adams Church, after which the Adams Memorial Hall was named.

Operating out of church buildings, Samil School started teaching dozens of students, and with the assistance of western missionaries, a new school building (now Adams Memorial Hall) was built to accommodate hundreds of students.

During the Japanese colonial period, the founders of Samil School were dedicated to saving their homeland through education, and their noble ideal has been cherished here for 100 years.

The cradle of secondary education, “Jeongdok Public Library”

Trekkers down from Inwangsan Mountain or tourists to Bukchon often visit this famous spot in Hwa-dong, Jongno-gu.

It was the location of Kyunggi High School, the most renowned school for elite students in the 1980s, and became Jeongdok Public Library when the school moved to Gangnam.

It is also the scene depicted in Inwangjesaekdo (“After Rain at Inwangsan Mountain”) painted by the famous Jeong Seon of the late Joseon Dynasty, Korea’s 216th national treasure. At the time of its construction, the school building was equipped with modern facilities, such as steam heating, and was later designated as a registered cultural property.

In 1976, when Kyunggi High School moved to Gangnam, the school was renovated to serve as a public library for citizens. The school held its last commencement ceremony on the 75th year since its foundation.

Now, the old school yard serves as a place for students and citizens to reminisce and remains a place infused with youth and love, especially for those who spent their youth here in the 1970s and 80s.

Bank buildings of the Incheon Treaty-Port era, “18th and 58th Bank Buildings”

During Korea’s modernization period, the street in front of Incheon’s Jung-gu Office was the center of Japanese leased territory. Shaped like a grid, the street was also the center of Japanese finance in Incheon.

In front of the old Japanese consulate (presently Jung-gu Office), there were three private banks. The numbers attached to the banks were their license numbers according to the ordinance of the national bank of Japan.

After Korea’s liberation, the 18th Bank building housed banks and commercial offices, but is now used to exhibit modern architecture from the Incheon Treaty-Port era and houses miniatures of modern architectural structures that have been lost or preserved. Just next to it stands a two-stry stone building that was once the 58th Bank, with its head office in Osaka.

The interior of these buildings have been changed somewhat due to repairs and renovations carried out so they could be used as banks and offices, but the exterior walls and pillars and left and right vertical windows still retain their original shapes and styles. These Japanese financial institutions were regarded as forward bases for exploitation; however, during Incheon Treaty-Port era, and even now, they attract the attention of citizens and tourists as cultural properties reminiscent of Korea’s past.

Site of the Student Independence Movement, “Seungdong Church”

If you walk from Tapgol Park through the small alleys toward the entrance of Insa-dong, you will find Seungdong Church, which was a main building in the area before the street became known as Insa-dong. Though it is now overshadowed by skyscrapers, it was once a magnificent monument erected against the backdrop of Bukhansan Mountain. Through an expansion project to increase the number of seats near the main gate, the round and arched windows at the facade of the church were removed, and the two entrances were combined into one. Though it has lost much of its original form through such modifications, the main building has been designated as a Tangible Cultural Property of Seoul Metropolitan City for its historical value as the starting place of the March 1st Independence Movement in 1919. At a time when there was strict discrimination between the nobles and commoners, Seungdong Church appointed a butcher, then the lowest social class, to the position of church elder, according to the spirit of Christianity, and such idealism was translated into the birth of the independence movement. Now, the church stands silently tall in Insa-dong, the street of Korean culture.

Defender of Korea’s national cultural heritage, “Gansong Jeon Hyeong-pil’s House”

On a desolate mountain road in Banghak-dong, Dobong-gu, where the Bukhansan Mountain trail begins, there sits Gansong Jeon Hyeong-pil House, the restoration of which has been underway since it was designated as a registered cultural property in 2012. After his uncle, who had raised him, died, Gansong built a tomb near the house and continued the family business, and now he is buried here as well. Built around 1900, the traditional Korean house served as the base from which his father, a major landowner, controlled crops in Hwanghae-do and Chungcheong-do. After the death of Gansong, the main house in Jongno-gu was demolished and repair work was carried out on Jeon Hyeong-pil House using the materials collected from the main house. However, the house became abandoned and suffered severe damage since the 1970s. Gansong was a collector of cultural relics, and although the scale of his collection, gathered over several decades, is not known exactly, they include many national treasures. During the Japanese colonization period, when Japanese collectors aggressively acquired cultural properties of the Joseon Dynasty from all across Korea, leveraging their money and power, Gansong practiced the generosity and nobility befitting his class. Inside the restored house, one can sense his ideal and the passion with which he tried to preserve the essence of Korean culture.

The first Catholic medical center in Korea, “Catholic Center”

The Catholic Medical Center was opened in 1936 with 25 beds in a wooden two-story building, and three years later, it was renamed “Myeongdong St. Mary’s Hospital.” It is now called the Catholic Center and is located at the intersection of Samil-ro and Myeongdong-gil, a street bustling with 1.5 million people every day.

The initial purpose of the center, which had long been the façade of Myeong-dong along with Myeong-dong Cathedral, was to serve as Myeongdong St. Mary’s Hospital, the nation’s first catholic hospital. It was also the first building to use aluminum curtain walls in Korea. The curtain walls were made by folding aluminum plates (for the inner walls of the partitions) by hand on the construction site. In 1961, a new hospital, featuring 75 curtain wall units and 300 beds, was completed. And in 1966, an annex building was built next to the main building, but later on, the hospital was relocated to Yeouido, after having stood in Myeong-dong for 50 years. Since then, the building has been transformed into a catholic center filled with offices and other facilities. The modern design of the old St. Mary’s Hospital contrasts with Myeong-dong Cathedral, and its original architecture has been relatively well preserved, symbolizing the experimentalism of an architect who tried to modernize architectural technology in Korea’s past.

The birth of Jajangmyeon, “Incheon Gonghwachun”

When Incheon became the leased territory of Qing China in 1884, the first Chinatown in Korea was built. This Chinatown is the symbol of the Incheon Treaty-Port era, when the area became filled with Chinese foods and culture. jajangmyeon, the first food Koreans regularly went out to eat, was originally noodles mixed with the soybean paste of Shandong Province and was a quick meal eaten by Chinese laborers working on the piers of Incheon Port.

The old Gonghwachun building was designated as a registered cultural property in 2006 and became a museum of jajangmyeon in 2012. Known as the birthplace of jajangmyeon, Gonghwachun has been revived as a popular destination in Incheon Chinatown. The museum preserves the history of jajangmyeon and the overseas Chinese who, at the time of the opening of the port, emigrated to Incheon to seek out the “Korean Dream.” The museum building, erected around 1908, is a two-story house with a courtyard built in a Chinese style, featuring brick walls and a wooden-trussed roof (10.18 meters high). The founder, Woo Hee Gwang, moved to Incheon from Shandong in 1907 and built the Shandong Center, an accommodation facility for Chinese merchants that was later renamed to “Gonghwachun” in 1913. At that time, jajangmyeon was a common food for laborers working on the piers, but has now become a beloved localized Chinese dish with about seven million serving consumed daily at 24,000 Chinese restaurants nationwide. From the Treaty-Port era to the mid-1980s, when the port was closed, Gonghwachun prospered and became a popular destination in Incheon. Now, it is a special museum that preserves the old memories of Incheon Port.

Innovation of the distribution of agricultural and fisheries products, “Garak Market”

To modernize Korea’s dilapidated agricultural and fisheries distribution facilities and improve the distribution system, Korea’s rule of “one market per city” was abolished in 1976, and the Act on Distribution and Price Stabilization of Agricultural and Fishery Products was enacted to transform the existing distribution structure, which had become bogged down by trade on consignment, into an auction-based system. As a result, Garak Market, which sells fruit, vegetables, and fisheries products, was opened in June 1985 as the first public wholesale market in Korea.

A project to modernize the market was launched in 2011 and its first phase has already been completed. In August, merchants will move into the new space, called Garak Mall. Trading volume has reached 1.7 times the volume initially planned, with a surplus of 7,000 tons a day, and thus the market had to be expanded. However, when it was built 30 years ago as the nation’s first public market, Garak Market was the largest in Asia.

Songpa District, an area favorable for logistics as it is located adjacent to an expressway, was chosen as the site for the market, and the Wholesale Market Corporation (now the Seoul Agro-Fisheries and Food Corporation) began operations in 1984 with 47 buildings featuring a total floor area of 261,787 square meters (79,190 pyeong) on a lot of 542,920 square meters (164,232 pyeong).
Since it brought the first auctions and large-scale parking lots to Korea, Garak Market has grown rapidly into the most famous marketplace in Gangnam. With a current daily trading volume of 7,300 tons, trading amount of about KRW 10.4 billion, and 130,000 visitors, Garak Market is now the largest public wholesale market in Korea.

Seoul Metropolitan City and the Seoul Agro-Fisheries and Food Corporation plan to renovate the old, narrow facilities by 2024, expecting to reduce transportation and loading costs by about KRW 80 billion annually. At 2 a.m. in the morning, when most people are asleep, the market is crowded with merchants buying and selling vegetables, fruit, and fisheries products brought in from across the nation. By achieving major innovations of the distribution structure, Garak Market has raised the value of the sweat and hard work of producers and provided consumers with an abundance of food for 30 years.

Relic of poet Yun Dong-ju, “Yonsei University’s Pinson Hall”

Standing in front of Underwood Hall, Stimson Hall, and Appenzeller Hall on the campus of Yonsei University in Sinchon is a British residential-style dormitory building. The building was named after, and in honor of, Dr. Pinson of America’s Southern Methodist Church, who made a major contribution to the fundraising effort for the construction of the campus in 1917.

Pinson Hall was built in the same architectural style—British Gothic Tudor—and at around the same time as Underwood Hall, Stimson Hall, and Appenzeller Hall. However, as it was built to be used as a residential dormitory, it does not have the typical Gothic Tudor characteristics, such as a Tudor arch or bay windows.

Built with bricks of mica schist and topped with a roof of western-style woven wooden trusses, Pinson Hall also features a row of rectangular windows. It was built in 1922 as a dormitory and is also the place where Yun Dong-Ju resided and wrote poems during his time at the university in 1938. Below the attic on the third floor, where he stayed at the time, a memorial hall was created for him. His manuscripts and the other written works on his desk transport visitors back to the time when he wrote his poems. He stayed at Pinson Hall, meditating, anguishing, and writing poems for three years. Yonsei University plans to renovate the entire Pinson Hall building to create a space to commemorate the 100th birthday of Yun Dong-ju in 2017, hoping to encourage more people to come and reflect on the poet’s life and work.


Seoul National Cemetery: Sacred Ground for Korean Patriots and Martyrs for Over 60 Years

210 Hyeonchung-ro, Dongjak-gu, Seoul. Seoul National Cemetery, the first national cemetery in Korea, is nestled among the ridges of Gwanaksan Mountain alongside the meandering Han River, with Gongjakbong (Peak) at its center.
The site of the cemetery was selected after an 11-month survey that was carried out during the Korean War, when the number of casualties was surging. Constructed in the first spring after the end of the Korean War, this 14-million-square-foot cemetery is now the eternal resting place for countless patriots, martyrs, and soldiers of the Korean Empire who sacrificed their lives in times of national crises.
Now, it has been more than 60 years since the ceremonial gun salute was first performed for the burial of the remains of the first anonymous soldier. Years after its establishment, this military cemetery was promoted to the status of a national cemetery, with nine graveyards and various memorial facilities. However, Seoul National Cemetery eventually became completely full, and separate enshrinement facilities were constructed in 2005.
Innumerable remains and memorial tablets have filled the cemetery, but there are many more named and nameless soldiers who have not been interred there. Seoul National Cemetery serves as a space that is open to everyone to remember and pay tribute to them all.