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.