[Update: I've made some corrections and additions to this post, which are pointed out in detail here. This post has been amended to account for these corrections, though the original text which was changed can be found in the post I just linked to.]
I recently read (or devoured, really, as it only took two days) Yom Sang-seop's Three Generations, which was originally published serially in the Chosun Ilbo between January 1 and August 17, 1931. It was eventually published in book form in 1946. To see what it looked like in the Chosun Ilbo on the first day of its publication (and for more information), do check out Antti's post about the book upon the publication of the English translation last year.
A lot could be said about the book, but for now I'll just focus on an aspect of it that caught my attention - the geography of colonial Seoul, known then as Keijo, and the different place names which are sprinkled throughout the book. While many of the names of buildings (the post office, the bank of Korea, the train station) and area names (Hyoja-dong, Samcheong-dong, Suha-dong) are still the same, it took awhile to find information about many other places mentioned in the book, as their names have changed. Below is a map I cobbled together (made using a 1946 US military map of Seoul) which locates every place name mentioned in the book.
As you'll notice, the above map is also useful because it has the streetcar lines on it, as well as major buildings; and though it may seem that a map made 15 years after the events of the book may not be as useful, it's worth remembering that the most recent Japanese map that was used in making this one was from 1937, which means the city looks as it did only five or six years after the publication of Three Generations.
At any rate, I dug around and found numerous photos from the colonial era, and thought they would be helpful in helping establish a sense of place for Seoul in that time period. Using the map above and the photos below, we can walk down streets the characters of Three Generations frequented. In my descriptions there may be mild spoilers, however. As well, if I've made a mistake, feel free to let me know - with 30 or 40 locations, it's possible to get confused.
Let's start with the most obvious landmark - Namdaemun.
In the photo above, we're looking north-east. Let's, for a moment, turn around and face south. The view is not so different from today:
Above, of course, we see Seoul station, where Deok-gi embarked for (and returned from) Kyoto. It's also on (or near) this street that Sang-hun's church and Deok-gi and Gyeong-ae's elementary school were located. Deok-gi remembered that as children they would walk up this street towards Namdaemun, until Gyeong-ae turned west and walked towards Bongnaegyo.
Above is Bongnaegyo (known today as Yeomcheongyo), which in the Chosun period crossed a stream called Manchocheon, which the Japanese called Ukcheon (and which now lies under concrete). It appears in the photo above (facing west) that the bridge at that time crossed the train tracks north of Seoul Station as well as the stream. Keep in mind that Gyeong-ae didn't actually cross the bridge on the way home, but would have turned right and walked northwest up to Migeun-dong (near present day Seodaemun station). Pil-sun would have also walked to and from her job at a factory in Yongsan along that same street, passing in front of Seoul Station on her way to or from her home in Hongpa-dong (near Dongnimmun) . It would have been near here that Deok-gi and Byeong-hwa ran into Pil-sun on her way home and ate at a noodle restaurant.
Anyways, let's return to Namdaemun.
In the picture above, taken from Namdaemun, we are looking northeast. The neighbourhood we see directly in front of us is Bungmi Changjeong, present day Bukchang-dong. It is here that Gyeongae lives with her mother and daughter (and where a tense scene involving an apparent police stakeout takes place). On the left we can see City Hall. We, however, are going to follow that streetcar turning to the right...
...and walk up Namdaemunro. At the end of the street the central post office is visible:
It was here that Deok-gi went to check to see if the telegrams had actually been sent. To the right of the post office (the building faces west) is the entrance to Jingogae. Facing the post office as we are, we need only turn around to see the bank of Korea:
The bank of Korea faces the Mitsukoshi department store:
The Mitsukoshi department store (present-day Shinsegye department store) was opened in October 1930, two months before the first installment of the novel appeared in the Chosun Ilbo, and so it isn't mentioned in the book. In the photo below, looking south, we can see the post office and the Mitsukoshi department store.
The photo above, taken from the same vantage point, looks southwest towards Cheongmokdang restaurant (far left) and the Bank of Korea. Cheongmokdang was one of the earlier western restaurants in Seoul, which served alcohol on the first floor and coffee and western food on the second floor (or so it says here). It is to the second floor that Gyeong-ae brings Sang-hun, and has her first meeting with Maedang and Ui-gyeong. Near these buildings is the entrance to Jingogae. Before heading there, let's look at the bigger picture:
This photo is facing southeast. City hall is clearly visible at bottom left, as is Taepyeongno, which runs south towards a just-out-of-sight Namdaemun. At center-right is, again, Bungmi Changjeong, and if we follow the street running from in front of city hall (the 'X') towards the top of the photo, it ends at the post office. The back of the bank of Korea and the Mitsukoshi department store are also visible. If we follow the street running east from city hall (present day Euljiro, then known as Hwanggeumjeong) just beyond the picture frame, we would come to Euljiro 1-ga, and it is just northeast of this intersection (essentially kitty-corner to the present-day Lotte department store) that Suha-dong lies, which is where Deok-gi's (or his Grandfather's) house is.
Let's return to the area between the post office, the bank of Korea, and the Mitsukoshi department store. The photo below is likely taken from the roof of the Mitsukoshi department store, and in it we can see the bank of Korea, at left, and the post office, at right. The advertising tower/billboard next to the post office is for a Japanese skin care product called "laitcream", more information about which can be found here (hat tip to Mika). If you were to continue straight up Namdaemunro, instead of following the curve, you would end up in the aforementioned Suha-dong, where Deok-gi lived.
If we look at the vista in the photo above and pan right, we would have the view seen in the photo below (also taken from the department store roof).
Again, above we see the post office, but next to it, on the right, we see the entrance to Jingogae, where many events in the book take place. Below is a view of the same entrance from the ground, with the edge of the post office clearly visible.
Now, initially I'd thought Jingogae was the street known today as Teogyero, but I've since come to realize that was not the case, mainly due to the picture above and from the part in the book where Gyeong-ae and Sang-hun ride in a hired car from Anguk-dong to Yeongnakjeong, turning west towards Namdaemun, and when arriving at the "entrance to Jingogae", they headed for the restaurant named Cheongmokdang, which I've already described. Jingogae was the name of the area, but was also the name of the street, which was also known as Bonjeongtong (and known as Honmachi in Japanese). In this article (which is well worth a read) about colonial Myeong-dong, Andrei Lankov describes Honmachi as being Myeong-dong, and the street running east from the post office's southern edge does indeed run through the southern part of Myeong-dong today (while technically being within Chungmuro 1 ga to 3 ga). At any rate, at that time, Jingogae was the commercial and entertainment center of the Japanese settlement in Keijo.
It is here where Bacchus, the bar where Gyeong-ae works, is found. I don't know the exact location of Bacchus, of course, but in the novel it is described as being "at Samjeongmok on Bonjeongtong". From what I've read, it seems sam (ie. "3") jeongmok corresponds with Chungmuro 3-ga, and so that is where I've located it on the map above. This area, and certainly the bar, play a large part in the story. Many characters in the story (Byeong-hwa and Sang-hun, especially, but also Deok-gi and Gyeong-ae) head to this area's bars, cafes and restaurants to eat or drink. Keep in mind, however, that these are all Koreans (the younger generation of whom were all educated in Japanese) heading out to drink in the Japanese quarter. One almost gets the feeling that the area may have been like present day Hongdae or Itaewon, where Koreans and foreigners mingle, except that at that time, it was the foreigners who ran the show, and the book describes the kind of confrontration that inevitably occurred, as well as its aftermath at a police station:
Upon arriving at the station, the policeman who had brought them in became even more overbearing. He listened to what the two Japanese men had to say, but he addressed Byeong-hwa and Sang-hun in a menacing tone and refused to hear them out.Luckily, since independence from Japan, Korean police stations are now free from such racism. Okay, maybe not. (The torture that is displayed in the book, along with the racism, is also displayed in this case.)
Another policeman noticed Gyeong-ae. "Isn't she the girl at Bacchus?" He smiled at her and said snidely, "You'd better be more careful when you fool around with men."
Gyeong-ae was furious. She didn't expect to be treated well in a place like this, but never before had she been shown such disrespect. It pained her to think how she had become the laughingstock of these policemen largely because she was Korean and worked at a bar. She knew, however, that this was no place for her to talk back.
At any rate, in one scene, Byeong-hwa and Gyeong-ae are discussing the fugitive activist Pi-hyeok while walking west in Jingogae, and decide to slip down a side street and walk towards Myeongchijeong, which, of course, is present-day Myeong-dong:
They soon make their way to Hwanggeumjeong (Euljiro) and go their separate ways. Gyeong-ae decides to go to the Junganggwan (cinema), which stood where the Jungang Cinema stands today (near Myeong-dong cathedral). Later, she hires a car and goes to Anguk-dong to snatch Sang-hun from a party at Maedang house, and, turning south in front of Changdeok palace, they make their way south until they turn west, towards Namdaemun, at a place called Yeongnakjeong, which is present day Jeo-dong (on a smaller street that runs north/south between Euljiro 2-ga and 3-ga).
Above is Yeongnakjeong. From here (facing south), they turn towards Namdaemunro, coming onto that street at the entrance to Jingogae and facing Mitsukoshi department store, beside which is the aforementioned Cheongmokdang restaurant, where several characters conclude their night.
More action takes place elsewhere, of course. This photo shows numeous locations that appear in the book:
Above we can see the Government General building and the remains of Kyongbok palace. To the palace's left, we see a street running north to Hyoja-dong, which is just to the left of the northwest corner of the palace. It is here that the Samhaejin grocery store, run by Byeong-hwa and Pil-sun's family, is located, and it proves to be an important location in the latter half of the book. It might be worth noting that from the streetcar on his way there for the first time Deok-gi notices "the Japanese stores that had sprouted up along the street since the 1929 Joseon Fair." To the right side of the palace, across from the southeast corner of the palace, is Gan-dong, (present day Sagan-dong) where Ui-gyeong lives. Just north of there is Hwagae-dong (present day Hwa-dong), where Sang-mun lives. North of there, of course, is Samcheong-dong, which appears in the same chapter as Chuseong-mun. Though there seemed to be no street behind Kyongbok palace, it seems you could walk, somehow, behind the palace, and to do so you had to pass through a gate (or gates) such as Chuseong-mun, which was in the palace's northwest corner. It is here, on their way back from Samcheong-dong, that Byeong-hwa and Pil-sun's father have a run-in with Jang-hun's thugs. After that, a nearby hospital at a medical school becomes important. The hospital, pictured below, is on the other side of Junghakcheon, the stream that once ran southwards along Gyeongbokgung's east side.
One day, looking out from the front of the hospital, Pil-sun notices Gwanghwamun.
Gwanghwamun was moved to the eastern wall of the palace in 1916, and stood in front of a stream that ran southwards into Cheonggyecheon. Pil-sun, while she was looking out the window, notices Deok-gi crossing a bridge to come to the hospital, which is likely the one seen in both pcitures above.
Here we see the Government General, with a streetcar line which turns north to Hyoja-dong. Sang-mun and Gyeong-ae have a conversation at one point while walking towards us, and then turning south to walk to Hwangtohyeon (present day Sejongno intersection). At the time, Gyeong-ae lived just behind what is now the Sejong Cultural Center, in Dangju-dong. Prior to walking in front of the Government General, they walk from Hwagae-dong (northeast of Gwanghwamun) out towards the eastern gate of the palace, which Yom Sang-seop mistakely identifies as Yeongchumun (which is the western gate). From his description of their walk, he must be describing the east gate Geonchunmun, and not Yeongchumun. Anyways, if you were to walk away into the distance of the picture above, you would end up at Anguk-dong:
This photo looks north from what would now be near the entrance to Jogyesa temple. In front of us is Anguk-dong, where Maedang House is located, and where Gyeong-ae is taken to a Chinese restaurant to be confronted by some of Jang-hun's thugs. This is probably one of the few ground level pictures here of a Korean neighbourhood, and many of the main characters live in this area.
That covers most of the locations (or at least those I could get my hands on). One last thing I came upon - in the photo of Namdaemun below, on the horizon at far right, you can see an odd shaped tower, which is tall and narrow.
I'm quite certain it's this:
The advertising (?) tower above (any Japanese readers care to translate it?) stands along a street in Sogong-dong, which would place it near the present-day Lotte department store. I know there was at least one of those in Pyongyang as well, but I'd be curious to know if there were more of these in Seoul; they're rather massive for their time, aren't they?
[Note: the answer to this question can be found in the comments, and has already been referred to above. Also, the tower in the photo of "Pyongyang" did not exist, as it is actually a photo of Seoul, as I discussed here.]