Architecture in Korea changed a lot between 1850 and 1950. During the late Joseon period, Western and Japanese influence led to a greater variety of building designs. At first, this architecture came in the form of government buildings, hotels, and homes for foreigners, but the traditional Korean cityscape took on more American, British, German, Russian, French, Chinese, and Japanese styles as the foreign population grew. Even the traditional hanok started to take on slightly different forms. Unfortunately, much of Korea’s traditional architecture was lost during colonization – especially its old town fortresses and thousands of hanok. Industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s only added to the destruction of early modern buildings. The tragedy is that little is done to protect the country’s old buildings despite having already lost so much. Today, Korea’s traditional urban vistas are inarguably completely gone.

This website is a series of photo essays that seek to document and raise awareness for the few remaining early modern structures on the Korean peninsula. It should be said that this is not a defense or romanticization of Japanese Imperialism. Rather, the point here is to discuss misunderstood and unknown architectural trends while bringing nuance to a complicated time. Admittedly, the website’s title is now a bit misleading as I sometimes cover information from before and after colonization. The historically significant buildings in Korea have been registered and protected by the government or private owners, but the rest – the ones that haven’t been demolished in the name of progress – often seem to remain by accident. While I can’t always find information on the histories of these buildings, I do photograph and map them out. Building locations and reference footnotes are at the bottom of each post, and most of these essays take the form of city overviews that take a broad look at urban development before delving into specific building histories. Other articles will be coming soon that are not city specific. If you think you see an error somewhere, please comment or send me a message!

*Cover photo is of Huijeongdang, a structure moved from Gyeongbokgung to Changdeokgung in 1920 that served the Korean royal family after the Japanese government took over. Its interior is a good representation of how architecture changed in early modern Korea as it shows a unique mixture of Korean, French, British-Victorian influence. This and the other buildings that were moved to Changdeokgung in 1920 are the only examples of this kind of architecture left in Korea. Unfortunately unpromoted and off the radar of most tourists, Huijeongdang is a fantastic glimpse into a bygone era.

busan 1919Busan, circa 1919 (Flickr Commons)

seoul 1945Seoul, 1945 (Don O’Brien, Flickr Commons)

The ideas and writings featured on this website are the intellectual property and copyright of Nate Kornegay, as are all of the photos and images unless otherwise noted. All rights are reserved. Please do not use or redistribute these photos in any way without permission, with the exception of Fair Use, in which case it would be appreciated if the copyright owner was notified (via the contact form). If you’re interested in using some of these photos for something, or if you’re looking for more information on a specific point mentioned in an article, feel free to get in touch with me. To see the entire Flickr gallery, click here.

10 thoughts on “About

  1. Just wanted to say thanks for doing the website! I stumbled on a few of these buildings in Busan myself and then found the site when looking for further information. It’s fascinating to read the history you’ve researched, the photos are beautiful and the detailed directions and maps are certainly appreciated! Looking forward to exploring more of these places over the coming weeks. Thinking of heading to Masan and Cheongdo, as well as more of Busan. Thanks again, keep exploring and updating please! ^^


    1. Hi, Sam! Thank you for your kind words! I really appreciate it. Regarding Masan, there’s a lot more to be said about it and I should go back and rewrite that blog post some time. I’ve learned a lot more since then and that blog post doesn’t accurately reflect Masan’s importance. I was looking at a 1950 military map of Masan and comparing it to present day Daum Maps. The old waterfront has been completely overhauled so all the old structures there were wiped out. The buildings that are still in Masan are relatively spread out so it could take a few hours to visit each of the structures in the Masan blog post. Regarding Cheongdo, you could see everything around the town and Naeho-ri in a day if you’re fast. There’s a remaining Japanese county office in Punggakmyeon (in Cheongdo county) that I’ll add to the Cheongdo blog post when I get a chance to visit it. I’m currently rewriting the Jinhae blog post while also working on posts about Miryang, Samnangjin, Ganggyeongeup, Gunsan, Jeonju, Iksan, Suncheon, Bolgyeo, and Mokpo. 😦 There’s so much to be said about each place that it is difficult to do so quickly and accurately. If you have any questions or need help finding something (or want to add something to the blog that I missed!) then feel free to write me. Thanks for your interest in this part of Korea’s history, too. I’m always happy to meet a fellow early modern history enthusiast! Your comment encourages me to keep doing this! Cheers~~~


  2. Thanks for your reply!

    I look forward to the new posts and updates – I’m planning to head to Jinhae in the next couple of weeks, so if I could put in a request for that to be top of the to-do pile it’d be appreciated! 😉

    As for Cheongdo, I’ve also seen at nearby Singeo (a disused station) there’s a small ‘New Village Movement’ memorial/museum and an ex-Presidential train as well as the old station building itself to look round, which could hopefully be combined with the other buildings you mentioned for an enjoyable little day trip

    Have you started or do you know of any Facebook groups or similar for sharing/discussing stuff like this? I’m sure there’s probably a few other people that are or could be interested in stuff like this.

    If you can see my e-mail address when I post this, please feel free to send me any info or add me on Facebook if there is anything, or just post any links here.

    Thanks again for all the work you’ve put into the blog!


    1. Yup. I’m revisiting Jinhae and Masan this weekend and should wrap up the Jinhae rewrite by next week, actually, so you should be good by then! There’s an older Jinhae post you can see right now, too.
      I totally forgot about Singeo! The bus passed it on my way from Cheongdo to Naeho-ri and I was able to get a glance of it and that train. I won’t be back to visit it any time soon, though. I’ve got too many other places to cover. 😦 Thanks for mentioning it! That’s awesome that you know about it. I didn’t know it was there until randomly passing it during that trip.
      I’ve found a few Korean individuals on FB and Instagram mentioning cultural heritage sites like this, but i haven’t seen any groups. Definitely no groups in English. Want to start one? I’m open to ideas. I do this to spread awareness so maybe forming a group would help promote. I want more people to see the value in protecting these places. Drop me a line! Thanks again for your kind words.~~~


  3. Fascinating to see what an architectural historian can see, indeed, what can be interested in! I go back to 1958 at the AeYangWon and can see a number of needs for revision in the article’s history. Would be glad to elaborate on these if there is interest.

    Stan Topple, MD


    1. Dr. Topple, it’s a pleasure to have you reading and commenting here. Thank you for your interest and I would love to know of any corrections that should be made regarding Aeyangwon. I certainly do not wish to spread misinformation and any knowledge you would like to share would be greatly appreciated. Please write to colonialkoreablog@gmail.com or use the “Contact” form at the top of the website. I’m looking forward to starting a dialogue with you and hearing what you have to say! Thank you.

      – Nate Kornegay


  4. 1910 ~ 1945 is the Japanese colonial period. Any reason why you chose different period as “colonial” which could be quite upsetting thing for Korean?


    1. Excellent point. The content of the website is mostly about architecture from 1910-1945. However, other buildings constructed before or after 1910-1945 are mentioned sometimes. I did not intend to call 1850s-1950s the “colonial” period. Certainly 1910-1945 is the “colonial” period. The purpose of saying “1850s-1950s” is to show that the website does not only discuss colonial period buildings, but also late Joseon and post-liberation buildings. I will consider changing the website description so that it is less confusing. Thank you for your question! ^^


  5. これたけ貴重な、それもとても鮮明な資料写真を提示して下さってどうもありがとうございます。私は、大正4年の朝鮮物産共進会について論文を書いているところで、その時の美術館建築の資料を探しているところですが。。。


    1. 親切な言葉をありがとうございます!


      李泰文 (慶応大学講師)


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