Traces of the Imperial Crown Style in Colonial Korea

The Imperial Crown Style was a genre of Japanese modernist architecture generally found in 1930s-1940s government buildings. It appears to have mostly skipped southern Korea, but traces of the style can still be seen today. In Volume 92 of Transactions, a journal published by the Royal Asiatic Society – Korea Branch, you may find a short article … More Traces of the Imperial Crown Style in Colonial Korea

Early Modern Brick and the Perforated Qing Cross

Before the rise of reinforced concrete, brick was the heart and soul of many an early modern building in Korea. Red brick architecture arrived in the 19th century, with some of the earliest (non-palace) examples being the Busan Japanese Administration Office in 1879, the Sechang Trading Company in 1884, the Beonsachang Armory in Seoul (1884-present),1 … More Early Modern Brick and the Perforated Qing Cross

The Comfort, Construction, and Social Views of Common Homes in Colonial Korea

The period of Japanese imperialism was one of architectural experimentation. As architects came to find out, some of the Western designs were misfit for the Japanese climate. Something similar happened in colonial Taiwan when, after realizing that termites were chewing up their wooden buildings, architects turned to reinforced concrete. This resulted in cement manufacturing years … More The Comfort, Construction, and Social Views of Common Homes in Colonial Korea

Railway Quarters

The birth of Korea’s railways has been commented on by a number of Westerners living in Korea, including missionary doctor and US minister Horace Newton Allen. In his 1908 work Things Korean, Allen seemed to be rather proud of the American gauge railroad system in Korea, claiming he had heard “prominent Japanese deploring the fact … More Railway Quarters

Suncheon

At the end of the 19th century, the area around Suncheon had long been known as an important military and administrative center. Its early modern and colonial history is not widely known, but it was the events during this time period that led to its gradual urban reformation under Japanese rule. As the former Joseon seat … More Suncheon

Iksan

Iksan was established as a colonial town in the middle of the Honam breadbasket at the turn of the twentieth century. For a town that is off the radar for most tourists, it may be surprising to know that a significant portion of its early modern architecture remains. Unfortunately, its murky colonial past makes it … More Iksan

Jeonju

The decade prior to Jeonju’s modernization was fraught with turbulence and disorder. Like the entire nation of Joseon itself, Jeonju faced an uncertain future at the end of the 19th century. In 1894, Jeonju came into a chaotic time as the Donghak rebels took control of this provincial capital city. Joseon government troops then laid … More Jeonju

Gunsan

Gunsan was the most important port in the Honam region in the early 1900s. It developed so quickly that it easily rivaled Chemulpo (Incheon), Busan, and Mokpo, becoming a modern international trade center whose ships could reach both China and Japan. As a city mostly propped up by the colonial economic structure, it declined post-liberation.1 … More Gunsan

Ganggyeong

Ganggyeong-eup was an important colonial river port during the Japanese occupation. As industrialization swept the peninsula in the 1960s and 1970s, Ganggyeong was left behind. As its neighbor, Gunsan, developed in the 1980s and 1990s, changes to the waterway also contributed to the port’s disappearance. The result is a well preserved early modern Korean town … More Ganggyeong

Ulsan

Perhaps no other city in Korea has seen as much change in architecture and infrastructure as Ulsan, for only one of its historically significant structures remain intact. Almost no minor colonial buildings are left, let alone any Joseon relics. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Ulsan we know today began to develop, but the … More Ulsan

Jinhae

Strategically placed in the middle of a natural harbor, and even further protected from possible Russian naval attacks by the island of Geoje-do, the location of Jinhae has long been considered a valuable naval position. Prior to 1906, the area that Jinhae now occupies was previously known as the county of Ungcheon (Uncheong-gun). Masan, a … More Jinhae

Gadeokdo

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 … More Gadeokdo

Busan (7)

Gangseo-gu In 1927, socialist writer Cho Myeong-hui described the Nakdong River as being “the mother’s milk of many lives” in his historical fiction named after the waterway.1 The river flows all the way from the northern Taebaek Mountains down to Busan and has played an important role in the development of Korean civilization since ancient times, … More Busan (7)

Busan (6)

Nam-gu The majority of the hill houses in Uam-dong and Munhyeon-dong appear to be from the 1960s, with perhaps a handful from the 1950s. As such, it is not a particularly noteworthy area with regard to old architecture. However, there are a handful of structures left spread throughout the two neighborhoods. A U.S. military map from … More Busan (6)

Busan (4)

Seo-gu In the early 1900s, the West New Town project that was developed inside present day Seo-gu and part of present day Jung-gu was split into eleven neighborhoods (jeong in Japanese, dong in Korean). It was roughly a third of the size of the Japanese population in the Nampo concession.1 This West New Town could be … More Busan (4)

Busan (3)

Jung-gu Present day Jung-gu roughly occupies what was the exclusive Japanese concession in Busan. (This included Nampo-dong, which got its own blog post here as the first part in this Busan series. For more about the history of this area, see that post.) As the center of colonial Busan, Jung-gu had the greatest number of … More Busan (3)

Busan (2)

Yeongdo After the port’s opening in 1876, the lands in the northern part of the island of Yeongdo, formerly known as both Makishima and Jeolyoung Island (Jeoryeongdo), may have been appropriated by Japanese colonists as early as the 1880s.1 However, some parts of the island were definitely occupied by 1885 when a concession was granted for the stated … More Busan (2)

Busan (1)

A Word About Busan and the Events Surrounding Its Opening (1850-1876) Prior to the city’s official naming in 1910, the area would have been referred to as being that of the Dongnae prefecture or the port of Fusan (the Japanese settlement).1 The Busan that we know today was originally a series of unconnected villages and towns that … More Busan (1)

Daegu (2)

Jung-gu Continued… Namsan-dong About a block south of Seomun Market Station (Exit 3) on the Green Line is Namsan Elementary School. Though most of its buildings are newer, the original lecture was built in 1936. It has a beautiful French-styled mansard roof with a stately gambrel roofed bay over the center of its eastern entrance. … More Daegu (2)

Jinju

Jinju is a very old city. Touted as having a thousand-year history, it used to be known as Goryeonggaya prior to 940. In 1896, it became the seat of power in the newly formed Gyeongsangnam-do province. The provincial capital then shifted to Busan in 1925. There are only a handful of colonial buildings left in Jinju. Okbong-dong … More Jinju

Daejeon (2)

Jung-gu As the railway fostered development around Daejeon Station and Jung-dong, the city also expanded west into modern day Jung-gu. Daejeon doesn’t have a lot of colonial period buildings left, due in part to the Korean War and recent city developments. As of 2010, just roughly one fifth of Daejeon’s historically significant structures remain.1 Daeheung-dong Taking … More Daejeon (2)

Daejeon (1)

Daejeon was a product of colonial modernization, becoming so important that it later replaced Gongju as the seat of power in the region. While cities like Seoul and Busan were already relatively important at the turn of the 20th century, Daejeon barely existed prior to 1900. The lack of convenient transportation, and even more importantly, … More Daejeon (1)

Guryongpo

Just to the east of Pohang lies the community of Guryongpo. An eup under Pohang’s jurisdiction, it was at one point the largest fishing base around the East Sea, known for being a mackerel center after the Houjou Fishing Sailor Group’s success in the area in 1909.1 In 2011, the city followed in the footsteps of Gunsan … More Guryongpo

Sorokdo

Sorokdo’s tragic past stands as a historic example of human rights abuse – particularly abuse committed under the name of medical modernity. At first glance, the island is deceptively beautiful and doesn’t resemble what we would imagine a leper colony to look like. As you cross over the suspension bridge from Goheung, everything is notably more serene … More Sorokdo