Persistence of Korean Landscape Painting: House of Yi Sang-bom

Seochon was a center of refined tastes and literature for low-level government officials and people in the late Joseon dynasty. The house of Yi Sang-bom, one of the six major Oriental painters, is located at the end of the twisting alley in Seochon. From 1942, when the great painter bought a hanok next to his studio, three generations of his family lived there until 1972, when the painter passed away. Cheongjeon Yi Sang-bom used a room at the end of the haengrangchae (one of the buildings placed near the front gate where servants live) and used the two rooms next to his room as guest rooms: one room facing the front gate for male guests and the other facing the vestibule for female guests. This effectively separated the living space from the space for social activities. When he drew an illustration of Son Gi-jeong for the Donga Ilbo, he was jailed for erasing the Japanese national flag off the sportswear that Son Gi-jeong had been wearing. After this incident, which was unknown to the public, the painter devoted himself to painting in a quiet and cozy mountain village, later to be remembered by many people as a source of peace and relaxation.

A Place for Modern Industrial Education: The Historical Record Archives of Korea National Open University

In the northeast area of Gyeongseong (as Seoul was known during Japanese Colonial rule), the National Industrial Institute, the first public school in Korea, was established in 1907. Japan pushed ahead with its plan to set up a two-year industrial school that would be separate from the existing four-year agricultural-commercial-industrial school, after curbing higher education for Koreans and secured the land in the most underdeveloped region in Gyeongseong to build a school and train highly-skilled workers. In 1912, Japan constructed a new building to serve as the Central Research Laboratory, where studies and researches on various industries would be carried out, and even built the three-year Gyeongseong Industrial College in 1916. Later, the Korean peninsula was liberated from Japan and endured the Korean War, which resulted in the destruction of the buildings. Only one building, incorrectly identified as the National Industrial Institute, remains intact. The building was mistaken for the National Industrial Institute because it was built with the same wooden architecture method as the National Industrial Institute. However, Ju Sang-hun, PhD of Architecture at Seoul National University, through a review of the geostrophic drawing of the Central Research Laboratory area, written in 1912, discovered that this building had been the Central Research Laboratory. The Central Research Laboratory is now the only western-style wooden building that is still standing. Therefore, the discovery of its mistaken identity is one of the important discoveries in Korea’s modern architecture history.

Aspiring to Democratization: Former Yeongdeungpo Prison

It is expected that Yeongdeungpo Prison, which opened under the name Bucheon Prison in 1949, will soon be gone. The prison is planned to be demolished to make way for a large residential and commercial complex.
Many well-known people were incarcerated at Yeongdeungpo Prison, a 67,696-square-meter land with 14 prison sections with an 800-persons capacity and 42 detention houses with a total capacity of 1,500 detainees. Among the many incidents that occurred there, the torture and killing of the Park Jong-cheol particularly raised the profile of the prison. Lee Bu-yeong (then secretary general of the Democratic Unification Movement), who was imprisoned there for leading the Incheon Incident on May 3rd, 1986, disclosed via a prison guard that Park Jong-cheol had been tortured to death by the Daegong Investigation Group in Namyeong-dong, resulting in the outbreak of the June Pro-Democracy Movement, and ultimately the Democracy Movement of 1987. Today, Yeongdeungpo Prison, stand as a witness to democratization, modern Korean history and the cruel treatment of political prisoners of that time, and it is about to be demolished. The prison was open to the public for only one day in Aril.

The Center of Student’ Protests against Japan in Bukchon: Choong Ang High School

On the grounds of Choong Ang High School, located in corner of Gye-dong in Bukchon, there is an old antique-looking building that seems to have been frozen in time since Bukchon first established. The school was founded by patriots at the end of the Korean Empire, when Japan clearly expressed its intention to invade the nation. Giho Heunghakhoe (an enlightenment movement group formed by patriots in 1908 in Seoul), established mainly by Giho members in 1908, opened a private Giho school in Hwadong, Jongno-gu, the northern part of the area formerly known as Hanseong. The present-day campus of Choong Ang High School consists of the main building, eastern building, and western building, all of which are significant historical structures. All of the buildings were built based on a historical style influenced by the pursuit of independent advancement and development of the nation during the Japanese colonial period. This school is considered to be a landmark in Bukchon, and is deemed quite exotic by many. Inside the school, you can find the March 1st Memorial Hall, which was the sleeping quarters used by the school teachers, who planned the March 1 Pro-Independence Movement, making it an ideal place to commemorate the March 1 Pro-Independence Movement. The June 10th memorial monument pays tribute to students who distributed Korea’s national flag and shouted for independence on the funeral day of the last emperor, Sunjong, of the Korean Empire.

119-Year-Old Love for Korea: Underwood Memorial Hall

Horace Grant Underwood (Korean name: Won Doo-woo) was the first Underwood to form a relationship with Korea. He entered Korea through Jemulpo on April 5th, 1885. After arriving in Korea as a missionary, he established the Underwood Hakdang (meaning “school” in Korean) through an orphanage project, as well as the Gyeongsin School, providing a remarkable level of education. Horace Grand Underwood contributed to Korea’s national development through his commitment to missionary, educational, and voluntary activities and by establishing churches and educational institutions in Korea with his strong determination and faith. To commemorate the Underwood and the spirit of his family, the family’s house in Yeonhui-dong home was turned into the Underwood Memorial Hall as tribute to the spirit of the founder and the dedicated efforts that the family made. Although the building originally consisted of two stories, only the first floor was restored, some of the building was destroyed during the Korean War. Inside the memorial hall, Underwood’s office has been restored to its original state based on the historical research of Dr. Won Il-han. Underwood’s actions showed his love for Korea, and that love for Korea, and Yonsei University, still live on today.

The Hub of One-day Trips Anywhere: Seoul Express Bus Terminal

After the opening of the Gyeongin Expressway, the first highway in Korea, in April 1969, the 1970s witnessed the beginning of the “express bus era.” Of particular importance is the Express Bus Terminal in Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, in Seoul. This place is the main terminal for buses bound for, or coming from cities on the Gyeongbu, Guma, and Yeongdong expressways. This was a time when people could go anywhere in Korea within seven hours, which led to increasing traffic volume as well as new trends. The express bus drivers and their female assistants, dressed in nice uniforms, were regarded as the pilots and flight attendants of ground-based travel, consequently, these jobs became some of the most popular jobs. Although this was a great innovation in transportation, many passengers endured great inconvenience as each bus company used a different terminal. However, since most of the population of Seoul was concentrated in Gangbuk (the northern part of Seoul), the terminal in Gangnam (the southern part of Seoul) caused even more inconveniences for express bus companies as well as for passengers. In 1981, on the previous location of a temporary bus terminal, a new eleven-story building was opened the Seoul Express Bus Terminal. It was the largest bus terminal in Asia, was designed separate departure and arrival areas on the third floor.

Arriving with Middle East Boom: Seoul Central Mosque

Itaewon is the first special tourist district in Seoul. Originally serving as a place for only US soldiers, it has been transformed into a symbol of multiculturalism in the 2000s. Even in a place as exotic as this, there is one particularly exotic alley on the top of a hill. On the hill, you can find a unique three-story building with a large Islamic arch leading up to a large dome with a sharp edge and arabesque decorations. This building is the Seoul Central Mosque, the center of Islam in Korea. The two spires serve to clearly identify the structure to new comers, and the large dome on the roof, a sign of peace, allows worshippers to enjoy the bright sunlight and hear the Imam’s words better. Seoul Central Mosque is the birthplace of Islam in Korea and serves as a popular tourist destination in Itaewon. However, this place also tells the story of the Korean workers who worked so hard in the scorching hot desert 38 years ago.

Plan to Enrich Gimpo Plain: Drainage Pump Station of the Yangcheon Irrigation Association

In 1923, the Japanese Governor-general of Korea established the Yangcheon Irrigation Association in the fertile Gimpo Plain as part of the plan to build more irrigation facilities across the country to secure Joseon’s land and increase the agricultural yield in line with the Rice Products Proliferation Plan. The Drainage Pump Station of the Yangcheon Irrigation Association was built to move water to the plain and is the only agricultural facility still existing that was established by both Koreans and Japanese, who owned a land area of 595-jeongbo (1 jeongbo = 0.99174 hectares) in Magok, Gayang, and Yeonchang. The Drainage Pump Station is made up of an external wall, consisting of a water gate and a concrete foundation, and a wooden shed, where a double roof was built at the open space on the second floor. The exterior of this structure was built with a wooden feather board wall that is black because of the wood preservation treatment, and the roof was made with lozenge-shaped cement slate roofing. The ceiling was based on the large-size king post truss method in an effort to reflect the features of modern wooden buildings of the time. The maximum interior height between floors is 12.6 meters, indicating that the building was constructed in a substantially large size for the time. It is presumed that the pumping station was used until the early 1980s, before the development of a new town in Mok-dong. In 1991, a comprehensive renovation was carried out, following the discontinuance of its original use, so that it could be used as office space.

Stage of Back-door Politics, that Became Part of Traditional Culture: “Samcheonggak”

Under the orders of Korea Central Intelligence Agency, an engineer corps was sent halfway up Bukhansan, the main mountain in Seoul, to build a large-scale hanok (traditional Korean house). This building was named Samcheonggak. The Park Chung-hee regime, which had been negotiating with North Korea to conclude the South-North Joint Communique, built Samcheonggak to host closed-door negotiations with the North, but failed to do so because of the failure to meet the construction deadline. Samcheonggak consists of six structures, including four hanok, built by Korea’s best carpenters and with the highest-quality wood, and Ilhwadang and Yuhwajeong, both notable for their delicate and attractive hanok features. It has been used as a place to host dinners for North Korean representatives, and confidential meetings between high-ranking officials during the military dictatorship, serving as a place symbolizing the closed-door politics of the past. Samcheonggak, which had previously been off-limits to general citizens, was opened as a restaurant in the 1990s, but closed down in 1999 due to financial difficulties. After the restaurant closed down, a luxury villa was planned to be built there, but the plan was never materialized. Later, the building escaped demolition after being designated as a Cultural Heritage Site by Seoul City. After renovations, Samcheonggak was reopened as a traditional cultural performance hall in 2001 to give citizens a place to relax, enjoying Korean culture.

Seoul Children’s Grand Park: Revival of Kkummaru

The Gunjari Golf Course built in 1927 in Neung-dong, Gwangjin-gu, was the first golf course built in Korea. It was established by Youngchin, the last prince of the Korean Empire and the founder of Korea’s first golf club, Gyeongseong Golf Gurakbu (Club), after relocating the royal tomb of Empress Sunmyeong, wife of King Sunjong, to make way for the golf course. Seoul Children’s Grand Park now stands where the golf course once was. In 1970, the former golf course became the Seoul Country Club, after an architect built a modern club house on the site. Shortly after the construction was completed, the club house was named Gyoyanggwan and was used for several purposes, such as an administration office and exhibition hall for Seoul Children’s Grand Park. Over time, the building was changed so much that it became unrecognizable from its previous form, and faced demolition in 2010 to make way for the construction of a new building. This work of a modern architect during the transition from the modern era to the contemporary period remained relatively unknown to many until it was renovated by an architect of the next generation. After the restoration, the building became known to many as Jaesaeng. After serving several roles, from a golf course club house to a place of education in an amusement park and displaying no cultural identity, now this building has been restored and renamed Kkummaru. This name was chosen through a naming contest.

Home of Korea’s First Western Painting Artist Chungok Goh Hui-dong House

At 16, Wonseo-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, stands the house of Korea’s first western painting artist, Goh Hui-dong. He lived here for forty years from 1918. He was born to a father who was a translator-turned government official in favor of enlightenment, majored in French at Hanseong Language Government School and started his career as a government official to pursue the enlightenment of the public. Goh went to Japan to study western painting at Tokyo Art School in 1915 and returned to Korea to become the first Korean western painting artist. He pioneered the formation and development of modern painting circles as a leader of the new art movement. Goh designed a wooden hanok, a traditional Korean house, by himself in 1918, the year he returned to Korea from his study overseas. His design combined with the strengths of the western and Japanese home architecture, displaying the characteristics of Korean houses of the time. After he had moved out of the house in 1959, it changed ownership several times, leading to several repair and reconstruction projects, which cause it to lose some of its originality. When the house was planned to be demolished, many people started to speak out and expressed that house is meaningful as the foundation of Korean modern art as well as an excellent example of the residential housing during Japanese colonial rule. For this reason, in 2004, this structure became a registered cultural property under the name ‘Wonseo-dong Go Hui-dong House’, and after it was restored, the house was opened as an exhibition venue in November, 2012.

Restoration of Former Belgium Consulate: SeMA Living Arts Museum

Nestled in the corner of an intersection in Sadang-dong, where Namtaeryeong Road, leading to Gwacheon City in Gyeonggi Province and Nambusunhwan-ro cross, there is an old building with the designation of Historic Site No. 254. The former Belgium Consulate, this building now houses the SeMA Living Arts Museum. At the time of its construction, most overseas government offices and hakdang schools, established by missionaries, had already been concentrated around Deoksugung Palace in Jeong-dong, previously Gyeongungung Palace, the main palace of King Gojong. However, Belgium arrived to Joseon relatively late, leaving them no choice but to build their consulate in Hoihyeong-dong around Namsan (Mountain). However, when Japan took control of Korea’s diplomatic affairs upon the conclusion of the Eulsa Treaty, all diplomatic relations with other countries were automatically severed, forcing them, including Belgium, to close down their offices. In March, 1980, the project was initiated to dismantle, relocate, and restore the old Belgium Consulate building. The entire building was broken down into pieces and reassembled in a new location. In addition, the restoration of the old Belgium Consulate is the first case where a cultural asset was both relocated and restored at the same time. In the 2004, after much hardship had having overcome challenges that mirror Korea’s own history, the consulate building was reborn in 2004 as an art gallery across the Han River from where the original building stood.