48. National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul

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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

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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.

45. Bumingwan, a Composite Cultural Space in Gyeongseong


In 1935, Bumingwan, the country’s first multi-purpose performance venue, was built opposite the Gyeongseong-bu Office (present-day Seoul City Hall). The building, which is currently used as the Seoul City Council building, was an ultra-modern building equipped with heating and air-conditioning systems, a 1,800-seat auditorium, and ancillary halls.

The opening of a municipal facility dedicated to the performance arts led to the invigoration of creative stage dramas. After the country’s liberation, the building was used as the National Assembly building. With the launch of the local autonomy system, the building came to be used by the Seoul Metropolitan Council. It is one of the few landmark buildings dating back to early modern period left in Seoul.

44. Jeonggwanheon in Deoksugung Palace, a Royal Tea House


Around 1900, Emperor Gojong ordered the overall repair of such buildings as Jeonggwanheon Hall, Dondeokjeon Hall, Guseongheon Hall, Jungmyeongjeon Hall, Hwanbyeokjeong Hall, in Deoksugung Palace. The restoration work took seven years to complete.

Jeonggwanheon Hall was built in 1900 at the highest point in the palace grounds as a venue for the king’s entertainment. After Seonwonjeon Hall, a building where the portraits of former kings were kept, was destroyed by fire in 1901, Jeonggwanheon Hall was used temporarily to keep the portrait of King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, under the name Gyeongundang Hall.

Jeonggwanheon Hall, the country’s first western-style building, built with high-quality materials by first-rate architects, may be regarded as a representative structure of Imperial Korea.

43. Ttukseom Reservoir (Water Supply Source)

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When was the piped water supply started in Seoul? With the opening up of the country towards the end of the 19th century, the population of Hanyang (present-day Seoul) increased rapidly. Small streams and neighborhood wells were mostly contaminated; epidemics spread rapidly. Foreigners in the country, where the piped water supply was not started yet, had to buy clean potable water from people carrying ceramic water jars in a wooden frame on their backs.

In 1903, Emperor Gojong granted the right to install a piped water supply system to Americans H. Collbran and H. Bostwick, who started the country’s first power supply business. Ttukseom Reservoir was thus completed in 1908.

The piped water supply system was closely associated with the power supply. Power was needed to operate a steam turbine to supply water to distant places. Ttukseom was selected as the site of the reservoir, as it was a suitable place to take clean water from the Hangang (River) and collect firewood used for power generation for the steam turbine.

The purified piped water was supplied to places within the four main gates to Seoul and the Japanese military base in Yongsan.

42. Seoul Meteorological Observatory


The country’s first modern meteorological observation was carried out at the Incheon Meteorological Observatory founded by Imperial Japan right before the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). However, Imperial Korea (1897-1910) also started making meteorological observations on its own around that time. Meteorological observatories were also erected in Pyongyang and Daegu in 1907.

In 1949, the Central Meteorological Office (CMO) was established. In 1990, the CMO was upgraded to the Korean Meteorological Administration (KMA).

The Seoul Meteorological Observatory building was first built eighty years ago as the Gyeonggi-do Municipal Gyeongseong Rain Gauge Station and has been used as a meteorological observation station ever since. The building is an early-modern hexagonal structure with a round column at the center.


40. Nakwon Musical Instruments Arcade

By the late 1960s, Seoul needed to make wider roads with the rapid increase of the population. Seoul City decided to build a four-lane road linking Yulgok-ro with Jongro and a multi-purpose apartment above the road as part of an effort to meet the new demands.

That was how the Nakwon Musical Instruments Arcade came into being as an unprecedented building above a road in 1969. It also had a cinema and a bowling alley, in addition to being the country’s largest musical instruments arcade. In the 1970s and 1980s, it became a favorite destination of young lovers and the No.1 composite cultural facility in Seoul. Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to renovate the arcade as a historical and cultural heritage site.

41. Chungdong First Methodist Church


American missionary Henry G. Appenzeller, who founded Paichai Hakdang, a predecessor of Paichai High School, in 1885, also founded the country’s first Protestant church Bethel Yebedang (chapel), using a private Korean house in October 1887. This ultimately gave rise to Chungdong First Methodist Church.

39. The Salvation Army Building


The old Central Hall of the Salvation Army is now used as the Salvation Army History Museum. The four columns of the entrance and the roof create a strong impression as an imposing structure. The porch flooring is made of concrete slabs. The corridors and stair railings are made of wood. The offices are on the first floor and worship services spaces are on the second floor. Triangular wooden beams support the ceiling, which displays a unique esthetic quality. Bramwell Booth, the first Chief of Staff of the Salvation Army, paid a visit to Korea in 1926. Then, members of the American Salvation Army raised funds in commemoration of his 70th birthday and spent them on the construction of this building. The work was started in November 1927 and completed in 1928. The building was used as the Salvation Army College for Officer Training until 1989. Part of its spaces came to be used for the Salvation Army Korea Territory and the building was called the Central Hall of the Salvation Army.

38. The French Embassy in Seoul

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The French Embassy building is said to be the acme of contemporary architecture in Korea. The architect Kim Jung-eup, who designed the building aged 38, said, “With this work, I took my first steps as an architect.” In fact, Kim Jung-eup gained the contract by winning the open competition for the design of the embassy building organized by French Ambassador to Seoul Roger Chambard.

Kim Jung-eup spent most of his time at the construction site. The building was completed in 1962 after three years of work. The most noticeable thing about the building is the roof separated from the body of the building. The gentle upward curve of the roof looks like the eaves of a traditional Korean house. The bulky columns supporting the roof exude a grandiose air.

The construction of the French Embassy building marked a turning point in the contemporary architecture of Korea.


37. Gilsangsa Temple

This temple is located in a neighborhood at the foot of Samgaksan (referring to the three peaks, namely, Baegundae, Insubong, and Mangyeongbong, of Bukhansan Mountain). Even its entrance has a unique atmosphere unlike that of other temples. Its entrance consists only of an Iljumun (One Pillar Gate) with a lofty roof, while ordinary temples are supposed to have a Sacheonwangmun (Gate of the Four Heavenly Kings) and a Burimun (Gate of Non-Duality) at the entrance.

Until the 1970s, the Gilsangsa Temple used to be an upscale gisaeng (Korean geisha) house where politicians engaged in closed-door meetings. Its owner, Kim Yeong-han (1916~1999; aka Jinhyang), became a gisaeng at the age of 16. At 22, she met the poet Baek Seok, whom she came to regard as the love of her life. The two met each often for years, but she could not marry him due to her social status as a gisaeng. Later, the poet defected to the North and never returned.

Left alone in the South, she applied herself to academic research. In the 1950s, she opened a Korean restaurant, Daewongak, in Seongbuk-dong. The restaurant came to be known as one of the three leading gisaeng houses in Seoul in the 1970s, when closed-door politics reached its extreme.

After discovering the non-materialistic philosophy taught by Monk Beopjeong, she decided to donate the Daewongak to him in 1987, but he flatly rejected her proposal.  However, she persisted for ten years until, finally, the monk gave in and it was transformed into Gilsangsa Temple.