21. Seodaemun Prison


Imperial Japan forced the Joseon government to sign the Eulsa Treaty, thus depriving the country of its sovereignty. The first thing that Imperial Japan did in Korea was to build Seodaemun Prison, a large wooden building that could accommodate more than 500 inmates, being more than twice the size of all the country’s prisons combined.

In 1910, the Japanese colonists staged a fake assassination of the Japanese Governor-General in Korea and threw 105 Korean independence activists into this prison on trumped-up charges. With the emergence of the March 1919 Independence Movement, the number of inmates in the prison quickly exceeded 3,000. Many independence fighters were tortured and killed here. The inmates were also forced to produce military supplies in a facility within the prison.

After the country’s liberation, the prison was used to accommodate peoplewho protested against the military dictatorship. Seodamun Prison has witnessed the twists and turns of the country’s modern history.


20. Samillo Changgo Theater in Myeong-dong


Opened in 1975, the Samillo Changgo Theater has earned itself a significant place in the history of performance arts in Korea by producing many actors and actresses (including Chu Song-ung, Park Jeong-ja, Jeon Mu-song, Choi Jong-won, Yu In-chon, and Myeong Gye-nam) and directors.

During the dictatorship period, the theater introduced experimental works by young stage artists and was regarded as a culturally liberated zone for artists and audiences alike. However, Myeong-dong gradually turned into a commercial district and the theater was closed down due to financial difficulties, although it was eventually reopened thanks to the efforts of cultural and art circles and support from the government.

19.Hyochang Stadium, Korea’s First International Soccer Stadium


Hyochang Stadium, the country’s first international soccer stadium, was built in October 1960. The 23,000-seat facility consists of a soccer field with an athletics track running around it. The stadium is still used for various purposes. At first, the government planned to relocate patriots’ tombs in the area elsewhere to build the stadium, but the work was stopped due to stiff opposition. After Seoul was selected as the host city of the 1970 Asian Games (although the games were not actually held in Seoul in the end) in June 1959, the stadium was built without relocating the tombs. Hyochang Park, where the tombs of patriots Lee Bong-chang, Yun Bong-gil, Baek Jeong-gi and Kim Koo among others are located, was designated as Historic Site No. 330.

18.Pyounghwa Market


This wholesale clothing market, the largest of its kind in the country, developed along the Cheonggyecheon (Stream). It was given the name Pyounghwa (Peace) because many of the storeowners wished for the country’s peaceful unification with the North.

Many of the market’s storeowners crossed the 38th parallel from the North during the Korean War, and quite a few of them went into business with just a sewing machine or two to make a living. They lived in ramshackle huts along Cheonggyecheon (Stream).

In 1962, their situation improved and they moved their equipment into newly built modern buildings, but they still relied on the cheap labor of people living in the nearby ramshackle huts. The employees’ working conditions were very poor. Jeon Tae-il, a member of the Cheonggye Clothing Workers’ Union, burned himself to death in protest against the poor working conditions in November 1970.

17.House of Han Yong-un (pen-name: Manhae), Simujang


There is a hanok (Korean traditional house) that resembles a small hermitage on a secluded slope in Seongbuk-dong. Buddhist monk and poet Han Yong-un lived in this house as a hermit in his later years. He played a leading role in the modernization of Buddhism in Korea. He had the house built facing north, as he did not like to face the Japanese Governor- General’s Office in the south.

He named the house Simujang. The word simu literally means “looking for a cow” also refers to a process by which humans are restored to their true nature. He devoted himself to the independence movement. When he got married in 1933, those close to him presented him with this house.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Korean intellectuals gave up their struggle against Japanese imperialism one after another. Feeling a deep sense of desperation, Han wrote the poem Nimeui Chimmuk (My Lover’s Silence). He passed away in this house in June 1944, a year before the country’s liberation. He remained faithful to his principles to the end.

16.Cheongnyangni Station


In the 1960s and 1970s, Cheongnyangni Station was the departure point for anyone taking a trip to Chuncheon or other destinations along the Hangang (River) between Seoul and Chuncheon. It was also the starting point for trains linking Seoul and Wonsan (North Korea) in 1911, as well as trains linking Seoul and Yeongju.

Major railroads took Cheongnyangni as the starting point, as it was the starting point for streetcars. As Emperor Gojong paid frequent visits to the tomb of his wife in Hongneung, a streetcar line was laid between Seodaemun and Hongneung to make the trip more convenient for him in 1899. The newly laid line brought many changes to people’s daily lives. With Cheongnyangni Station serving as a major railroad station in eastern Seoul, local agricultural and forestry products were supplied to Seoul through it. Local people swarmed to areas close to Cheongnyangni Station. Streetcars disappeared from Seoul in 1968, but Seoul Subway Line 1 linking Seoul Station with Cheongnyangni opened in 1974. Thus, Cheongnyangni Station emerged as a commercial center in the northeastern part of Seoul.

15.Sewoon Arcade, the Country’s First Multi-Purpose Apartment


During the Pacific War, the one-kilometer-long open space between Jongmyo and Toegyero used to be left against Allied Forces’ aerial attack. After the end of the Korean War, the area was filled with unauthorized ramshackle huts, and there were also many whorehouses there until the 1960s.

In November 1967, work on the construction of Sewoon Arcade in the area was started, and eight buildings were completed in the four districts by the end of the following year. Sewoon Arcade, the country’s first multi-purpose apartment, was created. It was a result of the joint efforts by Seoul Mayor Kim Hyon-ok, whose nickname was “Bulldozer,” and Kim Swoo-geun, one of the country’s leading, first-generation modern architects. It enjoyed good business for many years. People cracked jokes about Sewoon Arcade, saying that it could make anything, even humans, and that it could launch even a satellite.

14.Kyongsong Spinning & Weaving, the Country’s First Limited Company


Kyongsong Spinning & Weaving was the first limited company established by Koreans during the colonial period. It was established by raising capital of 100 won (equivalent to 120 billion won in terms of the current currency value) from influential people across the country.

At that time, Koreans paid 30 million won (equivalent to 3.24 trillion won in terms of current currency value) per year for imported cotton cloth made in Japan. The company was established as part of the effort to buy domestically made goods, and vied with Chosun Spinning & Weaving, a Japanese-owned business.

Concerning the Taegeuk pattern used in the trademark of Kyongsong S & P, Japanese colonists tried to reject it on the grounds that it was associated with Joseon. But Kyongsong’s management explained that the Taegeuk pattern was only a type of design pattern and the explanation was accepted.

Koreans bought goods carrying the Taegeuk pattern, and paid higher prices than Japanese-made goods.

Later, pro-Japanese acts perpetrated by the brothers Kim Seong-su and Kim Yeon-su, the founders of Kyongsong, were disclosed, igniting a controversy. However, Koreans’ sense of unity – displayed in the purchase of goods made by Korean businesses – should be remembered.

13.House of Jang Myeon


Mr. Jang Myeon served as the Prime Minister of the Second Republic following the April 1960 Revolution against the rigged election of March 1960, which led to the collapse of the First Republic. Jang Myeon’s House was built by Kim Jung-hee, one of his closer relatives, in 1937, when Mr. Jang served as the principal of Dongseong Commercial School. He lived in this house for more than thirty years until his death in 1966.

The house was designated as Cultural Heritage No. 357. The men’s and women’s quarters and what used to be used as the offices of bodyguards and aides have been preserved in good condition. The house exhibits a unique appearance that is a mixture of Korean, western, and Japanese architectural styles. Other major buildings associated with the Second Republic, such as the Bando Hotel, where its first cabinet was organized, and the Democratic Party building in Sinmun-ro, are all gone, leaving only this building of those formerly associated with the Second Republic.

12.Johnson Stew


Itaewon, Yongsan is a great place to experience a mixture of many different cultures. During the Imjin War (1592-1598) and the colonial period (1910-1945), Japanese troops were stationed in Yongsan. Following the Korean War (1950-1953), the area became a U.S. military compound.

An unusual fusion food became famous upon U.S. President Linden Johnson’s visit to Seoul, and thus came to be called Johnson Stew. It is similar to budae jjigae (Sausage Stew), which is a thick spicy Korean soup similar to a western stew. Right after the Korean War, Koreans did not have enough to eat. They managed to cook some food with the foodstuffs provided by the Americans as aid. The two dishes were created as a result. Now, most Koreans have enough to eat, but they still order these dishes at restaurants, perhaps out of a longing for the past. Although Johnson stew cannot be said to be a representative dish Seoul, Seoulites are likely to carry on loving it regardless.

11.Dae-O Bookstore


An elderly lady named Gwon O-nam (83) has run the Dae-O second-hand bookstore since 1951. The name Dae-O is derived from her husband’s name (“Dae”) and her own name (“O”). The bookstore is located in a back alley to the west of Gyeongbokgung Palace. The old signboard, the old-fashioned sliding door, and the cramped space make visitors feel as if they are back in the 1950s. Ms. Gwon says that the store enabled her to send all of her six children to college. But now things have changed a lot. Running a second-hand book store in this section of town is not very profitable.

In addition to the bookstore, there are several other places in this part of town that still retain traces of fifty or sixty years ago, such as Assi Gojeon Euisangsil (a traditional costume store), Hyojadong Ibalso (a barber’s), and Yeonghwaru (a Chinese restaurant).

10.Seoul Cathedral Anglican Church, a Structure of Exemplary Generosity and Harmony


Bishop Mark N. Trollope, the third bishop of Seoul Anglican Cathedral, led the campaign to raise funds for the construction of the cathedral. Designed by British architect Arthur Dixon, the new cathedral was begun in 1922. Cathedral Anglican Church settled for something less than what was originally designed, i.e. the shape of a Latin Cross, due to a shortage of funds among other reasons. Some seventy years later, in 1991, Cathedral Anglican Church decided to make additions to the cathedral in accordance with the original design on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its foundation.

At request, a Korean architect based in the United Kingdom found Arthur Dixon’s original plans in Liverpool in 1993. The new work was completed in 1996.