Despite being set apart from the rest of Busan, the island of Gadeok-do actually falls under the jurisdiction of the city’s Gangseo-gu district. There are two villages towards the southern tip named Daehangpo and Yangpo. The Japanese Army forced the locals out of the Yangpo area in 1905 in order to convert the valley into a military outpost. This was during the Russo-Japanese war and, at the time, Japan was worried about the Russian navy. The Japanese military then set up a series of military installations along Korea’s southern coast. Though there are some colonial remains around Daehangpo, most of Gadeok-do’s old Japanese architecture can be found in Yangpo.
Yangpo is like the naval base in Jinhae and Gimhae Airport in Daejeo in that it sits on land that was once appropriated by the Japanese military but is now used by the Korean military. The entire southern tip of Gadeok-do, including Yangpo, is now military-government owned land. As such, it is a protected zone that does not allow for the renovation of buildings, but there are some things that have been allowed in order to keep the decaying buildings in livable condition since people still live there. These buildings were highly desirable after liberation because most of the locals were still living in straw and mud houses. The Koreans that returned to Yangpo then drew lots for ownership (squattership?) of the old Japanese military structures. It’s then interesting to think that stepping into Yangpo a mere ten years ago would have been a surreal experience as the village has only changed within the last decade or so. Even with these changes, Yangpo exists as a good example of colonial architecture and is the physical manifestation of Japan’s fear of Russian naval forces. During the Russo-Japanese War, battles were fought near Ulsan and then Tsushima, but the Russians never fought in the coastal waters of Busan, Gadeok-do, Geoje-do, Masan, or Jinhae.
Since Yangpo is in a valley, people have to cross over a mountain on Gadeokhaean-ro from Daehangpo to access it. The road is hard to miss as it is the only way in or out of the village. When you come down from the mountain on the other side, you get a decent overview of Yangpo. The first thing that greets you on the right is an old Japanese well next to a colonial building. The village had some seven or eight wells, of which it seems at least four remain. Considering that the area is extremely small (roughly 10 acres or 40,000 square meters), it is interesting that so many wells were built. They only sit about 100 feet away from each other. These wells were used after liberation until a hurricane flooded the valley and contaminated them with salt water. They have been unusable ever since.
Behind the house in the previous picture is an old concrete armory. A neighbor said it was used to store weapons or ammunition, which would make sense considering it is too small for anyone to stand up in. It could only be used for storage. Continuing down the first road to the right will take you to another well by a colonial building. You can still see the old Korean style outdoor oven between the well and the house. The elderly lady in the photo might still even cook with it.
On the main street up from the quay sits an old military police building that still retains its woodwork under the windows. The building featured a solitary confinement style prison cell in the floor that, until recently, was still accessible from inside the house. Over the years, moisture and humidity weakened the floor so the jail cell was filled in and covered up.
Also along the main street is a structure that, according to a local on the street, is the most original of the buildings. However, the fact that it is covered in tin seems to suggest otherwise. It served as the barracks. The other building pictured below (green roof) was supposedly a prison that held Koreans.
A few more buildings can be seen in the middle of the village. Their purpose was not pointed out to me so I’m not sure what they were used for. However, they were built in the same style as the other buildings.
Yangpo was chosen by the Japanese Army precisely because of its strategic location. The valley was an ideal spot to hide a small bunker complex, which was constructed just behind the village. Built of concrete and bricks, it consists of three large semi-circular structures, one of which has two rooms with brick entrances. The other two structures in the center of the complex have one room each. The entire complex is lined with concrete arches that were perhaps meant for soldiers to hide in. On the sides and in between the two center bunkers are some concrete circles that used to hold large anti-aircraft guns. Look-outs at the top of each mountain would signal the base below and offer firing coordinates if enemy forces ever approached. All of the bunkers were covered with dirt and vegetation so as to be invisible from the air, but even from the village you would never know that a military complex exists here. It really just looks like a grassy hill until you walk around the corner. Judging by the semi-circular cracks in the facades of the two center bunkers, the entrances were added after the frames of the bunkers were poured. Interestingly, the bunkers were painted in camouflage at some point.
A colonial era lighthouse also sits at the southern most point of the island. It is visitable if you call in advance. However, I was denied access due to the recent MERS scare. Since the area is under military jurisdiction, they were supposedly denying visitors to the lighthouse because they didn’t want the disease to spread to service men. If I make it back there some time, I’ll update this part with photos of the lighthouse. Daehangpo also has some cave shelters that were dug out by the Japanese along the (I think) eastern coast that I didn’t get a chance to photograph. However, I did find the remains of some brick structure on the western beach.
*All information was told by the locals. The village beekeeper, who acts as the local tour guide when tourist groups come to town, was kind enough to talk about the bunker when I visited.
*Yangpo is not easy to get to without a car. Buses from Hadan (Busan) run to Cheonseong-dong (central Gadeok-do). However, there are currently no buses running the 2-3km from Cheonseong-dong to Yangpo. On national holidays it seems a town bus runs from Cheonseong-dong to Daehangpo. From Daehangpo, it is about a twenty minute walk to Yangpo. From Cheonseong-dong to Yangpo, expect it to be more than an hour long walk.
Small concrete armory
Gendarme Military Police building
Prison that supposedly held Koreans