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.