Jamsil Olympic Stadium, a shrine of Korean sports

The Seoul Olympic Stadium, commonly referred to as Jamsil Olympic Stadium, is located by the Hangang River in Jamsil, Songpa-gu, some 13km from central Seoul in the southeastern part of the city, where many high-rise apartment buildings are concentrated. In 1971, President Park Chung-Hee announced the Comprehensive Jamsil Development Plan, which included the creation of an international-scale sports facility, that is, Seoul Stadium, in a new section of the city. The plan required the reclamation of Jamsil, a vast sand island on the east side of the Hangang River. The construction of the Seoul Sports Complex began in 1977 and was completed seven years later, having used 24,000 tons of steel, 5,700 tons of steel frames, 160,000 sacks of cement, and the work of 800,000 people in total. Nearly one half of the total cost of the construction of the Seoul Sports Complex, about KRW 100 billion, was spent on the construction of Seoul Olympic Stadium. The 1988 Olympics, which was held after the 1986 Asian Games in the world’s only divided nation, was recognized as the largest in scale in Olympic history.
Korea drew international criticism when it had to abandon its plan to host the Asian Games in 1970, mainly for financial reasons and a lack of facilities. But it was able to transform its national image from that of a poor, devastated nation, after the war, to that of a nation that successfully hosted two major sporting events, at Jamsil Olympic Stadium, in the 1980s.




Baek In-Je House, with 100 years of history

Designated as Folk Cultural Asset No. 22 by Seoul City in 1977, Baek In-Je House, in Gahoe-dong, is one of the few remaining large-scale traditional Korean houses in Seoul. It is a modernized traditional Korean house built by Han Sang-Ryong. Han was a nephew of Lee Wan-Yong and the executive director of Korea’s first bank, Hanseong Bank, and he enjoyed a life of luxury by riding on the coattails of the Japanese colonial government. Completed in 1913, Baek In-Je House sits on an elevated lot of land and has a tall gate and servants’ quarters. Upon entering the yard in the servants’ quarters, one can see the partly two-story inner quarters and the detached quarter, or “sarangchae,” next to each other. The house is built with black pine, a building material commonly used by the Japanese, and features various Japanese elements, such as floor, tatami rooms on the second floor, and middle corridor, as well as modern elements such as glass windows. It seems that the owner of this house used these materials in order to prove that he was a Japanized person to Japanese government officials and businessmen, the main visitors to the house. Seoul City once planned to use the house as the official residence of the mayor, but abandoned the plan when it was caught up in controversy over the fact that the house was built by a chililpa (a pro-Japanese, anti-Korean collaborator). It is a house with a tragic history, which is the very reason it should be protected as an important historical resource for the study of modern-style traditional Korean houses in Seoul.




Ujeong Chongguk, Korea’s first post office

In 1884, King Gojong decided to launch a modern postal service system. To achieve this, Ujeong Chongguk (Historical Site No. 213) was established, with the agreement of the Vice Minister of War, Hong Yeong-Sik, who had long desired such a postal system.
Ujeong Chongguk is the world’s oldest post office and the first post office of Korea’s modern postal service. Originally built in a style similar to that of Jeonuigam, the palace medical office in the Joseon period (1392-1910), the Ujeong Chongguk building is an example of the architectural style of the late Joseon period. It covers an area of 5 kan (1 kan is equivalent to roughly to 5.876m2) by 3 kan and consists of granite column and round and square columns with a hip-and-gable roof. Founded by King Gojong, Ujeong Chongguk opened in November 1884. However, on December 4, 1884, when the opening ceremony was scheduled to be held, a group of reformers, including Hong Yeong-Sik, who was also the first president of the post office, staged a coup. The coup ended in failure three days later, and the operation of the post office was suspended 20 days later and eventually closed. The world’s oldest post office and Korea’s first postal administrative office, Ujeong Chongguk is a living witness to the history of the modern postal service and the origin of the over 3,600 post offices nationwide.




The Artist’s House, a trace of the Dongsung-dong Campus of Seoul National University

In early spring of 1975, the Dongsung-dong Campus of Seoul National University held its last graduation ceremony. Standing at the corner of Daehang-ro, a street packed with youthful energy and many parks, the building was turned into the Artist’s House in 2010. It is a modern architectural structure that has been designated as a historical site. This three-story brick building has its entrance on the second floor and is finished with coarsely scratched tiles in a modernist style. With its protruding entrance and curves, the Artist’s House highlights artistic beauty. Designed by modern architect Park Gil-Ryong, it was built along with the Law and Literature College and the Medical College on the Dongsung-dong Campus in 1931. With the establishment of Seoul National University in 1946, the building was used as the university’s main building. After the relocation of Seoul National University to its current Gwanak Campus in 1975, the Korea Arts and Culture Education Service took the building over and used it for a while. Later, it renovated the building and reopened it as the Artist’s House.




The Daeonsi l (large greenhouse) in Changgyeonggung Palace, a sacrosanct place that was violated by the Japanese

Changgyeonggung Palace is one of the four palaces in Seoul, along with Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, and Deoksugung. Built in 1483 during the reign of King Seongjong, Changgyeonggung Palace is also referred to as “Donggwol (East Palace)”. After the forced abdication of King Gojong, the Japanese launched a project to violate the Korean royal palaces under the pretext of “cheering Emperor Sunjong up”. In Changgyeonggung Palace, they created a zoo and a botanical garden, but first, they built the Daeonsil (large greenhouse). Even long after Korea’s liberation from Japan, Changgyeonggung Palace was a popular recreational area, and was called “Changgyeongwon”. With the relocation of the zoo and botanical garden to Seoul Grand Park in Gwacheon, all the remaining facilities built by the Japanese were torn down. Three years later, in 1986, a small part of Changgyeonggung Palace was restored. In 2004, the Daeonsil was designated as a registered cultural asset, as it is Korea’s first modern-style greenhouse introduced from the West. Among the five royal palaces built during the Joseon period, Changgyeonggung Palace was damaged the most, which, in addition to its architectural value, is another historical reason to preserve the Daeonsil.




Good bye Ahyeon Overpass, Korea’s first elevated highway


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The Ahyeon Overpass is the oldest elevated highway in Korea. Following its opening on September 19, 1968, the Ahyeon Overpass attracted many visitors, as one of Seoul’s leading landmarks. Until early 1982, when Korea was under curfew from midnight every night, the Ahyeon Overpass was blocked off with barricades. Since the early 2000s, however, the area near the overpass began to turn into a slum, and it was singled out as a major blight on the surrounding cityscape and an obstacle to communication. In response to the growing demand for the removal of the Ahyeon Overpass, Seoul City conducted a thorough safety inspection in 2011, in which the overpass received a grade of C (urgent repair required). In consideration of this and the social costs involved, such as the enormous cost of repairs and maintenance and the frequent traffic accidents caused by its outdated layout, it was decided, on March 26, 2014, that the Ahyeon Overpass would be dismantled completely. A central bus-only lane is slated to be installed after the completion of the demolition in September. As the Ahyeon Overpass is a symbol of the modernization of Korea, Seoul City plans to preserve the nameplate of the overpass and its signs in the Seoul Museum of History.




Son Kee-Chung Memorial Hall, commemorating Korea’s first sports hero

In Sports Park in Malli-dong, Jung-ju, a pin oak stands as it did 78 years ago. It was the sapling that hid the Japanese flag on the chest of Son Kee-Chung when he stood on the podium as a gold medalist. In 2012, the Son Kee-Chung Memorial Hall was opened in celebration of Son’s 100th birthday. Son started training for marathons after he entered Yangjeong High School, eventually winning the gold medal with a world record time of 2:29:19.2 on August 9, 1939, at the Berlin Olympics. Despite his great accomplishment, Son’s triumph was received coldly at home, as the Japanese police banned any celebratory event for fear that it might escalate to anti-Japanese protests, fueled by Son’s bold covering of the Japanese flag on his chest. Due to difficulties caused by the Japanese government’s constant surveillance of him after his win at the Olympics, Son later said that he wanted to return his gold medal. The site of his alma mater, where he dreamed of becoming a world-class marathoner, still retains the mixture of sorrow and joy he felt on the day his dream came true.




Dongdaemun Apartment Complex, a space intended for communication

Take a walk along Jibong-ro, Jongno-gu, or Changsin-dong, and you will encounter a group of apartment buildings much older than those usually found in downtown Seoul. This is the Dongdaemun Apartment Complex, the second oldest apartment complex in Seoul, after Chungjeong Apartment. This apartment complex has appeared frequently in various TV programs and films, and it is not uncommon to find more people with cameras here than local residents. When it was built 48 years ago, it was so popular that many popular entertainers moved here, thus its nickname, the “entertainer apartment”. In 2013, the apartment was designated as a Future Heritage of Seoul City.
Established in 1965 by the Korea National Housing Corporation, the Dongdaemun Apartment Complex consists of seven floors, including the basement, and the buildings were set up in a square formation. It was the first apartment complex in Korea with a courtyard in the middle. The courtyard has a traditional Korean jangdokdae (an outdoor platform for earthen jars) and a clothesline so that it may serve the purpose of a typical traditional Korean yard, thereby overcoming some of the disadvantages of apartment living. Also, the bridges that connect the opposite sides of the complex have promoted communication among the residents. Once a luxurious apartment complex that was home to national celebrities and possesses a unique structure with a central courtyard, the Dongdaemun Apartment Complex has lost much of its former glory since the 1960s, and is now viewed as an unsafe building on the verge of demolition for re-development, which is causing tension between the residents, who want to preserve it as a Future Heritage of Seoul City, and those who favor development.




The former official residence of the mayor of Seoul in Hyehwa-dong, an administrative site in Seoul for 33 years

On May 9, 2014, the official residence of the mayor of Seoul in Hyehwa-dong was temporarily opened to the public. Due its controversial location—it is said to have interfered with the restoration of the Seoul Fortress Wall that Seoul City is now striving to have designated as a World Heritage site—the building was finally shut down after 33 years of service as the official residence of the mayor of Seoul. Back when it was used as the official residence of the Chief Justice, it was the venue where the ruling of the April 19 Revolution was read in secret and the Korean judiciary’s crisis in 1971 was resolved. Following that, it served as the administrative space for the mayors of Seoul. Discussions on the movement of the official residence started as early as 2004 and, finally, upon the request of the Cultural Heritage Administration in 2007, Seoul City decided to temporarily move the official residence of the mayor to Eunpyeong New Town and open the present residence building in Hyehwa-dong to the public. After the completion of the restoration project, the building will be used as the information center for the Seoul Fortress Wall. It will serve to introduce and preserve the Seoul Fortress Wall, which has been damaged and broken in the course of Seoul’s modernization.




Daeryuk Hall of Seoul National University of Science and Technology, a bridgehead for Joseon’s mine development

In 1931, the Japanese Kwantung army invaded Manchuria, and in 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, starting the Pacific War. The Japanese colonial government in Korea focused on producing weapons and developing herbal medicines in order to secure victory in World War II. To that end, the Japanese government established two schools in Korea: the Gyeongseong Imperial Engineering College and the Gyeongseong Imperial Mining College. The Gyeongseong Mining College was built to train the professionals needed for mining in Joseon so that Japan could produce the war supplies necessary for victory. Daeryuk Hall was a long, linear two-story brick, steel, and concrete building. The four-story tower in the center of the main hall of the school proves that this is a typical and authoritative school built in the Japanese colonial period. The porch in the center of the building for cars to pass by and the ramp are features commonly found in typical public buildings of the period. After Korea’s liberation from Japan, Daeryuk Hall became part of Seoul National University’s School of Engineering in 1946, but since Seoul National University moved to the Gwanak campus in 1980, it has been used by the Seoul National University of Science and Technology (formerly Seoul National Industrial University). Daeryuk Hall was built by Japan to produce human and material resources, and it continues to fulfill its original purpose as part of a university and silent witness to the history of Seoul.




Beonsachang, Korea’s first modern weapons factory

Beonsachang, which refers to the weapons factory affiliated with the Arsenal Bureau that was built to produce modern weapons, is located inside the grounds of the Korea Banking Institute in Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul. The roof-tiled Beonsachang, with its antique atmosphere, sharply contrasts with the modern architecture of the Korea Banking Institute building. It has been disassembled and reassembled for restoration purposes and was designated as Tangible Cultural Asset No. 51 by Seoul City. As “Beonsa” means “to cast by pouring molten metal into a clay mold,” “Beonsachang” implies that a weapon thus made creates a thundering noise and the ignition of the gunpowder creates a light as bright as day. The arched and horizontal windows and the triangular windows between the tiered roofs are said to have been used to allow the escape of the heat and smoke generated during the weapon-making process. The interior features both rafters and king post roof trusses used in Western-style wooden structures. In this respect, Beonsachang is a particularly unique building that modernized the traditional Korean roof structure. As the oldest existing brick building in the country and Korea’s first modern factory, Beonsachang served as a symbol of Korea’s will to achieve independent national defense King Gojong and the Joseon Dynasty during the period when Korea was under great pressure by Japan and Western powers.




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