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.

The Foundation of Public Health: The National Medical Center


During the Korean War, local medical doctors were able to treat injured soldiers and civilians with the help of medical aid from the US and European countries. Later, upon the conclusion of the armistice agreement between the two Koreas, three Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, prepared to withdraw their medical staff, but the Korean government, which was unable to handle the large number of injured and sick due to a shortage of local medical facilities, asked the three countries to continue to offer medical assistance. The National Medical Center, run by both Korea and these three Scandinavian countries, was originally a training hospital that provided education for medical professionals, such as doctors and nurses. A year after its foundation, a nursing school was also established. At that time, although the number of poor patients receiving free medical treatment exceeded the number of patients paying for their medical care, foreign residents in Korea had strong trust in the institution as it had new advanced facilities and skilled medical professionals. Foreigners in Korea set up a booth exclusive to foreigners. Later, in 1968, the Korean government acquired the right to operate the institution and turned it into the current medical institution by expanding the existing facilities and adding new ones. With these new and expanded facilities, the National Medical Center was officially established in 2010.

54. The old Yongsan Railroad Hospital, an Old Japanese Military Logistics Facility


Following Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), Japanese imperialists concretized their plan to annex Joseon. During the war, the Japanese military started taking steps to turn Yongsan into a railroad base. As many workers were injured, temporary clinics were installed at the worksites. Yongsan Station was completed in 1906. In 1913, Yongsan Dongin Hospital, which was opened through the refurbishment of the official residences of the railroad employees, was renamed Yongsan Railroad Hospital. The current Yongsan Railroad Hospital was built in 1929. The two-story building made of bricks and concrete is said to exhibit the features of the transition period from the western classical style to the modern style, displaying a moderate curve.

With the cancellation of the Yongsan Development Project, which would have been the largest construction project ever attempted in the country’s history, with an estimated project expense of 30 trillion won, KORAIL proposed a plan to sell its real estate, including Yongsan Railroad Hospital, in January 2014.

53. Gwangwonggwan, the Country’s Oldest Bank Building


The country’s oldest bank building, located in Namdaemun-ro, Jung-gu, was named Gwangtonggwan, as it was located close to Gwangtongyo Bridge. Built in 1909, it is still used as a bank branch.

The building was restored after its destruction by fire in 1914, but its appearance has changed considerably in parts. The two-story building (total floor space: 773 ㎡) was made of bricks. The first floor was used by Cheonil Bank and Suhyeong Cooperative, while the second floor was used as a meeting room. The façade of the building was decorated with granite Ionic columns. Granite stones were also used in the pediments of the upper central section of the building and the parapet above the eaves. The baroque-style twin domes in both wings add to its gorgeousness and grandeur.

The exquisite beauty of the building is emphasized by the meticulousness displayed by the round and arch-topped windows and the ornamental parapet of the roof. Letters that indicate that it used to be the Jongro Branch of Joseon Commercial Bank can still be seen on the upper part of the entrance.

52. Seoul Library


Following the completion of the new Seoul City Hall in October 2012, it was decided that the old Seoul City Hall should be used as Seoul Library.

Upon the annexation of Joseon as a Japanese colony in 1910, the colonists changed the name Hanseong-bu (present-day Seoul) to Gyeongseong-bu, making it part of Gyeonggi-do. To build the Gyeongseong-bu building, along with the Japanese Governor-General’s Office in Korea, Japanese colonists demolished part of a royal palace and spent 6.75 million yen, mobilizing Korean workers for two million man-days over a work period of more than ten years. The building was designed by the Japanese architect Iwazuki Yoshiyuki of the Japanese Governor-General’s Office in Korea. It was built as a three-story (with a basement) Renaissance-style building, in imitatation of the National Diet building of Japan. Special paint was used on the building to withstand the extreme cold weather conditions.

51. Tapgol Park


This park is the site where the nationwide independence movement began in March 1919. It was also the site of Heungboksa Temple during the Goryeo Period (877-1394). The temple was renovated by King Sejo, who mobilized 2,000 troops for the task, and expanded into the largest temple in the capital by purchasing 200 nearby houses. It was renamed as Wongaksa.

At first, the park was a facility of the royal family. The octagonal roofed pavilion, which was built around 1900, was a music hall. The park was opened to the public in 1913, following the opening of Manguk Park in a territory leased to the western in Incheon in 1888. It has since become a relaxation space for senior citizens.

50. Yongsan Catholic Seminary


With the signing of the Korea-France Treaty in 1886, the country’s 100-year-long persecution of Catholics came to an end. Seoul’s three main cathedrals, Yakhyeon Cathedral (1892), Myeongdong Cathedral (1898), and Wonhyoro Cathedral (1902) were all built shortly thereafter. The Gothic-style Wonhyoro Cathedral (or Youngsan Catholic Seminary) is located within the compound of Seomshim Girls Middle/High School.

49. Jungangtang, a Public Bathhouse


Jungangtang, a two-story public bathhouse, is located among a number of small old stores in Gyedong-gil, Bukchon, Jongno-gu .

Initially it was used as a shower room by athletes of Jungang High School. It started business as a public bathhouse in 1969. Although it had more than 150 customers in the early days, it is now frequented by just 20 or 30 regulars. Locals like to chat there while taking a bath.

The aged owner of the dilapidated public bathhouse says that he is considering closing the business, but it will not be an easy decision to make as some regular customers see it as a repository of many happy memories.

48. National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul


This museum was opened in Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu opposite Gyeongbokgung Palace in November 2013. It contains part of the buildings of the Jongchinbu (Office for the Keeping of Royal Pedigrees) (Seoul City Tangible Cultural Heritage No. 96), Gyeongseong Medical School, and the Defense Security Command (Registered Cultural Heritage No. 375).

The red-brick building which serves as the main entrance to the museum used to be the outpatient checkup facility of Gyeongseong Medical School, which was opened in 1928. It was used by the Defense Security Command from 1974 to 2008.

At present, the museum comprises eight exhibition rooms featuring bright sunlit exhibition spaces. The building is regarded as a work of art that embodies the modernism of the 20th century, being stripped of all embellishments, with the focus firmly on function.

47. Sangheo Memorial Hall in Nagwon-dong


The Seobuk Academic Society was organized in Nagwon-dong in 1908 by a group of scholars including Ahn Chang-ho, Park Eun-sik, Yu Dong-yeol, and Lee Dong-hui, with the aim of enlightening grassroots people, at a time when the country’s fortunes were in rapid decline. The society and the associated Oseong School were handed over to Yu Seok-chang, who ran Minjung Hospital, which later became the College of Medicine of Konkuk University.

In 1956, Konkuk University was moved to its current location in Seongdong-gu. This building in Nakwon-dong was used by students attending night classes at Konkuk University and as offices.

In 1985, the Seobuk Academic Society was relocated to Konkuk University in Seongdong-gu. At present, the building is used as the Sangheo Memorial Hall to honor the educational philosophy of the university’s founder, Yu Seok-chang. It has also been designated as Cultural Heritage No. 53.

46. Ddeokjeon (rice cake and fried food) Alley in Nagwon-dong


Old-fashioned rice cake eateries were opened one after another before and after the Korean War in Nagwon-dong, close to the royal palaces Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung. Some of them were opened about 100 years ago. These stores are kept busy making rice cakes from several days before the Seollal (lunar New Year’s day) and Chuseok (Korean thanks giving day) to meet customers’ orders. Many of these businesses have operated for three generations. As people’s tastes have changed and there are many more things to eat nowadays, rice cakes are not as popular as they used to be. The number of rice cake houses in this area has decreased from more than fifty to about a dozen.

It is said that, with the collapse of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), former court ladies and attendants entered this business to make a living, leading to the emergence of the rice cake and fried food alley in Nagwon-dong.

There is a phrase, Namjubukbyeong, which concerns the eating habits of people in Hanyang (present-day Seoul). It suggests that poor scholars in Namchon Village enjoyed only liquor while influential and rich people in Bukchon Village enjoyed rice cakes, which were more expensive. These stores in Nakwon-dong are known for sticking to the old-fashioned ways of making rice cakes.