Sunday, February 28, 2016

Colonial-era films discovered and will be screened next week (and a few other links)

The Joongang Daily reported the other day about the discovery and screening of colonial-era documentary films about Korea:
The [Korean Film Archive] announced Thursday during a press conference that the seven short films, found in Russia and Germany, expand upon cultural aspects of the time as well as Japan’s economic plan to breed sheep in the north of the country and plant cotton in the south - part of efforts by Tokyo at the time to produce industrial raw materials via cheap labor.[...]

The seven short films will be screened publicly in commemoration of the Independence Movement Day on March 1 in the Cinematheque KOFA, located in Sangam-dong, Mapo District, western Seoul.
Those films would appear to be the untitled films at the top of this schedule page.

Speaking of films, here are hundreds of Korean movie posters from the 1960s and 1970s (hat tip to Hamel).

And speaking of the colonial period, here are a couple dozen colorized photos from that time.

As well, the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the Cultural Heritage Administration and Jongno-gu Office signed a memorandum of understanding for the restoration of Dilkusha on February 26 (hat tip to Robert Koehler). It was built by Albert Taylor, a gold miner who first reported the Samil Independence Movement to the world as a reporter for AP; more on the house and its history can be found at Brother Anthony's site here. It's to be opened in 1919 on the 100th anniversary of the Samil Movement (though the house itself was built in 1923). Mary Taylor's memoir 'Chain of Amber' is a fascinating read about her time in Korea from around 1916 to WWII. I think there may be reprints of it available at the RAS Office.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Glimpses of Korea Under American Occupation

A couple of weeks ago Jacco Zwetzloot gave a lecture for the Royal Asiatic Society entitled "Glimpses of Korea Under American Occupation," which can be watched below. The lecture explored "how Korea was seen and represented in US military newspapers and magazines during the period of American Military Government (1945-1948)," particularly in the weekly newspaper Korea Graphic. More information about the lecture can be found here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Partner-swapping meth-heads and Canadian pothead with 4 plants caught; Guess who gets more coverage?

Today the Korea Herald published the following article, "Canadian caught in South Korea growing marijuana in apartment":
A 47-year-old Canadian was caught growing cannabis in his residence and habitually smoking it, South Korean police said Monday. [...]

The man allegedly set up facilities like a ventilator, electronic heater and reflecting plate on the balcony to grow the weed for years.

He reportedly lost his job as a university lecturer as allegations about him smoking cannabis surfaced at his workplace.

The Busan Police Agency booked a total of 42 people on charges of possessing or taking illegal drugs in violation of the act on the control of narcotics. Among them, 15 were booked and 27 were taken into custody.

Police seized 59.31 grams of methamphetamine and 7.59 grams of marijuana from them worth 200 million won ($162,000).

While they don't make it very clear, the amount of pot seized was, at most, 7.59 grams from, at most, 4 plants - hardly a huge haul. It certainly doesn't compare to the money to be earned from the 59 grams of meth seized. 11 out of 25 of the articles mention the foreign professor in the headlines, but  the 41 other people barely register, and only 7 articles mention this fact in their headline, as KNN does.
From marijuana-growing professors to a swapping married couple... various drug crimes

Foreign professor's apartment "marijuana farm"

A foreign university professor who even set up a marijuana farm in his apartment and smoked it was caught by police..

Sexually promiscuous acts were committed while high by astounding drug users who were also arrested.
I had to twist that last sentence a little to capture the way that the Korean sentence "환각상태에서 성적으로 문란한 짓까지 저지른 기막힌 마약사범들도 체포됐습니다" gives sordid details before revealing it is referring to someone else (as in, not the teacher); this blurring also occurs later in the report.

As for the swapping couple and their sexually promiscuous acts, No Cut News fills in the details:
Among [those arrested for meth], it was revealed that Mr. Kim (55) and Mrs. Lee (43), who are in a common law marriage, would engage in swapping with other men and women while high on meth.

Police said that they confessed that when they were swapping, in order to forget their shame and increase their sexual pleasure, they took meth with men and women [or perhaps, a man and a woman] they met through a chatting app and swapped several times. 
Really though, choosing to highlight the foreign teacher with his four pot plants over the above story? Korean media, you just.... you disappoint me.

Oh wait - no you don't, since MBN managed to turn out something I haven't seen in awhile:
Endless native speaking-instructor drug criminals... worry over secondary crimes

A Canadian who grew marijuana on his apartment balcony and even smoked marijuana was arrested. When he was caught it was discovered he had been a native-speaking professor at a university; drug crimes by native speaking instructors placed in educational facilities are never ending.
This is reporter Park Sang-ho.

Police storm into an apartment where a native speaking professor lives.

Upon going to the veranda, they discovered a greenhouse had been set up, with even a heater, reflectors, and a ventilator.

The man, a Canadian national, secretly bought marijuana seeds from Thailand in 2010 and grew them himself and for years made and smoked marijuana.

Interview: Kim Chang-rip, head of the Busan Police Drug Investigation Unit -
"I understand that if the conditions are right within three months of growing the the leaves can be picked, dried and smoked."

Two years ago a kindergarten foreign instructor was caught in Yongin when he smoked marijuana and taught class while high.

In the last three years 1000 or more foreign drug criminals have been caught by police and [the number] is steadily increasing every year.

Drug enforcement by customs also [found that] 20% of the total [caught] is smuggling by foreigners.

As the popularity of native speaking instructors accompanying [Korea's] English fever rises. their crimes tend to rise as well.

In fact, in 2014 it came out that one in five drug smugglers were native speaking instructors.

Much concern is being voiced that there may be so-called secondary crimes due to students learning English from native speaking instructors being exposed to drugs.
Yes, because people who pay inflated prices for pot are going to share it with their students, the same way Korean teachers hand out their imported scotch to students under their care. Ridiculous, as always.

If we look at Immigration statistics from December 2015 (download #3), we see that the number of E-2 visa holders has dropped to 16,144, down from the all-time high of 24,107 in February 2011 (when incoming and outgoing public school teachers overlapped), suggesting rather strongly that the "popularity of native speaking instructors" is not rising at all.

You do have to love the images in the report, however; scaremongering at its best!


"My teacher is blurry and made of syringes!" 

The above image purports to show the increase in foreign drug criminals. The problem is, they don't relate at all to the Supreme Prosecutor's Office's statistics, which are higher. I've posted about Supreme Prosecutor's Office reports on annual drug arrests in the past, such as in 20112012 and 2013. The Office publishes statistics monthly here; the year end report for 2013 is here, for 2014, here, and for 2015, here.

To add to this chart, the total number of arrests for foreigners for drug crimes in 2014 was 551, and in 2015, 640. The total number of people arrested in Korea was 9,984 in 2014 and 11,916 in 2015.

Here is a breakdown of arrests by nationality for 2015:

China, 314
Thailand, 122
USA, 53
Uzbekistan, 17
Vietnam, 23
Sri Lanka 13
Canada, 11
Kazakhstan, 8
Philippines, 8
Russia, 7
India, 7
Taiwan, 6

While we're on the topic of these busts in Busan, there was another pot bust there reported on January 19 which involved smuggling pot inside "popular foreign chocolate" by mailing it from New York, where a Korean guy in his mid 20s had bought 20 grams for $200 from a Mexican and mailed a gram each sealed inside the chocolate, selling 10 of them for 100,000 won a piece before being busted.

Perhaps the dog found them.

Monday, February 22, 2016

In 2013 the Korean crime rate was higher than that of foreigners, but...

On February 12, Yonhap published the following article:
Foreign crime rate falls short of Korean rate but murder, robbery rate higher

(Seoul - Yonhap News) Reporter Shin Yuri - It's come out that the crime rate of foreigners living in Korea is lower than the crime rate for Koreans, but their rate of committing murder and robbery is 2.5 times higher.

On the 12th this analysis was shared in the IOM [International Organization for Migration] Migration Research and Training Center's most recent "Issue Brief" titled "Truth and misconceptions about the crime rate of sojourning foreigners," which compares the crime rates of foreigners and Koreans by comparing their population.

According to this, of 1,857,276 crimes committed in total in 2013, Korean crimes amounted to 3,649 crimes per 10,000 people, more than double that of foreigners, which came to 1,585 [per 10,000 people].

The Korean crime rate was higher, and even by type of crime, Koreans, at 48.2 cases per 10,000 people, committed more violent crimes (murder, robbery, rape, etc.) than foreigners (44.2 cases), and also committed more assault crimes (injury, assault, etc.), with 707 cases per 10,000 Koreans compared to 529 for foreigners.

However, if individual crimes are looked at, the foreigner murder rate is 2.5 times higher, the robbery rate is 1.4 times higher, and the assault rate is 1.3 times higher.

By country of origin, Chinese people committed the greatest number of crimes, but this was attributed to their being so many Chinese among foreigners living in Korea.

Contrasting the crime rate by nationality, those with the highest violent crime rates were Pakistan (5.97 times higher than the Korean crime rate), Mongolia (3.86 times higher), Russia (2.92 times higher), Uzbekistan (2.86 times higher), and Sri Lanka (2.66 times higher).

As for rape (including crimes similar to rape) crime rates, Pakistan's was 5.85 times higher than Korea's, Bangladesh was 3.2 times higher, Kyrgyzstan was 2.83 times higher, Sri Lanka was 2.43 times higher, and Mongolia was 1.86 times higher.

The report's diagnosis is that, "In terms of statistics, the foreign crime rate is lower than Koreans,' but since [by type] some violent crimes exceed the Korean rate, there are limits to supporting [the assertion] that the crime rate of foreign nationals is low."

It pointed out that "As the number of foreigners in Korea increases, crimes by foreigners are also steadily rising." "While policies to proactively prevent crimes by foreigners from occurring are required, there is also a need to minimize prejudice against foreign crime." 
The report they speak of can be found here; I don't have time to dig through it, I'm afraid. Since Americans and Canadians aren't at the top of the 'most criminal by nationality' list, it would appear the IOM Migration Research and Training Center has done a better job than the Korean Institute of Criminology did back in 2013, as was related in this series:

From incorrectly calculated foreign crime rates to tabloid TV

Part 1: Incorrect statistics portray Americans and Canadians as more prone to criminality
Part 2: Yonhap reports on the KIC foreign crime study
Part 3: Joongang Ilbo: "Get a Korean woman pregnant": Shock over manual for foreign men
Part 4: JTBC's "We are Detectives" looks at foreign crime using the KIC report

Part 5: JTBC's "We are Detectives" looks at xenophobia and foreign crime
Part 6: For JTBC, consensual sex between white men and Korean women is a "sex crime"

The final post in that series has a classic video, for those who wish to revisit that blast from the past.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Colonial era Seoul and Jinhae

Here's an interesting map of Seoul - and all of Korea, in its own way - from 1929, when a colonial exhibition was held in Seoul. It was given away at an exhibition of colonial era photos and artifacts at the Cheonggyecheon Museum in 2011. Thanks to Jacco Zwetsloot for his help in stitching this together.

A full-size copy can be downloaded here.

Anyone interested in colonial (or early-modern) era buildings absolutely must check out the site Colonial Korea, which is full of not just detailed information and incredible photos, but also maps showing how to find the buildings in 10 different cities / towns in southern South Korea. (Hat tip to Robert Koehler for pointing this site out.)

On a related note, there are several colonial-era photos and maps of Jinhae here and here, respectively. Included in the first link is this incredible panorama of Jinhae from the early 1920s, about 15 years after the Japanese built a naval base and city there. Since they were able to build the city from scratch, they could create the 'hub and spoke' street system the wanted for Seoul but were unable to accomplish (see Todd Henry's book Assimilating Seoul or his chapter "Respatializing Chosôn’s Royal Capital: The Politics of Japanese Urban Reforms in Early Colonial Seoul, 1905-1919" in Sitings: Critical Approaches to Korean Geography, which can be found here). A 1946 map of Jinhae can be found here. Also, photos of a colonial-era air raid shelter can be found here. A similar tunnel can be found on the U.S. base in Jinhae, as can remains of underground stockades and a Koi fish pond.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Recovering a stone wall walkway around Deoksu Palace that never existed

A few weeks ago articles appeared in the Korea Times about a plan to "restore" a walkway around Deoksugung Palace (here and here):
A narrow walkway along Deoksu Palace in downtown Seoul will be restored 132 years after it was cut off by the construction of the British Embassy in Korea, a Seoul City Council member said Monday.

The council member said the Seoul Metropolitan Government will restore the 170-meter-long sidewalk along the stonewall of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) palace at the embassy compound at the expense of 2.8 billion won (US$2.34 million).

The capital city will finish the 3- to 6-meter-wide walkway, commonly called "doldam-gil" in Korean, by the end of the year after compensating the British Embassy, according to council member Choe Pan-sul.

In 1884, the British Embassy purchased the land site for the soon-to-be restored walkway, cutting it off from the present tree-lined sidewalks, famed for their seasonal beauty.

As if such "tree-lined sidewalks" even existed then! There's much more to say about this, but it has already been written by Jacco Zwetsloot in a letter to the editor published a few days ago, which can be found here. Actually, the letter that appears there was rather heavily edited and differs from the one Jacco sent to the Times, so I asked him for permission to reprint his entire letter, which he graciously granted.
Last Tuesday (26th January, 2016), the Korea Times carried a story titled “Seoul city to restore palace walkway.” It showed a map with a proposed 1.1-kilometer long walkway around Deoksu Palace, following the palace wall. It is apparently the plan of Seoul Metropolitan Government to gain access to a 170-meter-long section of wall that abuts the British Embassy. This would involve pedestrian access through embassy property. The article raised a number of interesting questions: about historical accuracy, “authenticity” of heritage, and journalistic practices.

The article states that the proposed walkway is “interrupted by the British Embassy […] and has been since 1884 when the mission purchased land near the palace.” This idea, and, by extension, that the British and U.S. embassies purchased land around the palace, thereby encroaching upon it, is one I have seen repeatedly over the years. However, it is misleading. Deoksu Palace was not a fully-fledged “beop-gung” (a palace where a monarch resides) before King Gojong issued orders from the Russian Legation in 1896 to construct his new palace.

Why did he choose this area? The answer lies in the history of Jeongdong neighborhood. It was once owned by the Joseon Dynasty’s ruling Yi family. Prince Wolsan (1454-1488), older brother of King Seongjong, 9th king of Joseon, once had his official residence there. Although called Deoksu Palace, it was humbler and smaller than a kingly residence, having no throne hall for instance. During the Imjin Wars (Hideyoshi Invasion) of the 1590s, after King Seonjo had fled to the far north and then returned to the capital, he lived temporarily at this old residence, becoming the first king to do so. This is because Gyeongbok and Changdeok Palaces had been destroyed or made unlivable by the population of Seoul, who were angry at his having deserted them.

Once Changdeok Palace was rebuilt in 1618, King Gwanghaegun moved there, Deoksu was renamed Gyeongun, though it was also known as the “Western Palace”; it served as a lesser auxiliary palace until King Gojong’s time. During the intervening centuries, parts of the land around this residence were sold or given to the powerful Min family, and they sold parcels of it to the first Western legations, whose arrival, beginning with the Americans in 1883, marked the opening of Korea to the non-Chinese world.

In 1894-5, the waxing Japanese and waning Chinese empires fought a war in, and for control of, the Korean peninsula; Japan won. Barely 6 months later, Japanese agents and their Korean henchmen infiltrated Gyeongbok Palace to assassinate Queen Min (later given the posthumous title Empress Myeongseong). This caused King Gojong to flee with Crown Prince Sunjong, never to return again.

By 1896, the year that King Gojong spent boarding with the Russians atop Jeongdong’s highest hill, there were also British, American, French, Austro-Hungarian and German legations nearby. A permanent “safe haven” from both Japanese and Chinese influence would have been attractive, and having a palace in Jeongdong was a very visible way to moved Joseon closer to Western powers. It was at this time that Gojong ordered Deoksu Palace to be expanded, rebuilt, and upgraded. Except for Jeukjo-dang and Seogeo-dang, which had long stood there, all buildings and structures date from that feverish period of construction. Upon King Gojong’s move here in early 1897, he proclaimed the Great Han Empire, had himself crowned Emperor, and Deoksu Palace became Gyeongun again -- now as the first imperial palace in Korean history.

It should be clear, then, that the legations in Jeongdong predate the existence of Deoksu Palace as a fully-fledged royal palace. There can be no sense in which the palace was spoiled by the arrival of Western powers in the late Joseon Dynasty. Indeed, the palace became what it did because of the presence of the legations.

Moving on to look at the question of authenticity of heritage, I note also that last Tuesday’s article used the words “restoration” and “recovery” to talk about the proposed new walkway. It is a common theme of historical sites around the world to claim authenticity and genuineness as virtues, but this is often a fraught and deeply contested idea.

A quick look at the signboard map beside the Deoksu Palace ticket window shows that the original palace perimeter looked very different than it does today. In fact, the complex is today about one third its size in 1897, and most people will be surprised to learn that much of the present wall was built no earlier than the late 1960s.

Construction of the original wall was still ongoing when Gojong moved to the palace, and was not completed until 1900, his fourth year as emperor. During his reign, the palace wall had gates to the British, American and Russian legations, perhaps in case the king needed to flee again. After his abdication in 1907, forced by the Japanese unhappy with his attempts to have Joseon represented at The Hague Peace Conference, Gojong remained in Gyeongun Palace, and the name reverted to Deoksu Palace for the last time. Seonwonjeon, a network of buildings where the sacred portraits of past kings were stored in the northern part of the palace, was dismantled and removed to Changdeok Palace; the site was sold. In 1915, Jungmyeongjeon, once the imperial library and Gojong’s temporary residence after a massive fire in 1904, became the headquarters of the Seoul Club.

Gojong’s death in 1919 led to the March 1st Independence Movement, but also provided the opportunity for the Japanese colonial government to tear down even more palace buildings and sections of wall. Dondeokjeon, a western-style building, was torn down, and the western wall of the palace was moved inwards, in order to build a two-lane road between the palace and the US legation. The eastern palace wall was later also moved inwards for the widening of Taepyeong-ro.

Sadly, destruction did not end with Korea’s Liberation. In the 1960s, the entire eastern wall facing City Hall was demolished and replaced with an iron fence. Taepyeong-ro was widened once more, leaving the Daehan Gate of the palace orphaned in the middle of a busy road, until its removal to its present location in 1970. The iron fence was once more replaced with a stone wall in 1968, except for the north east corner, where a police sub-station was built that stood until 1994. A diplomat formerly stationed in Seoul remembers that the gate between the British Embassy and the palace still stood there in the 1980s, but it was removed sometime later by either Seoul Metropolitan or the Korean Government. Perhaps the only section of wall that is in its original location and (more or less) original condition is the western end of the south wall, where the abutments of a pedestrian bridge that once connected the palace to the Uijeongbu (or State Council of Joseon).

Therefore, the idea of “restoring” the palace wall to its former glory and then putting a walkway all the way around it is a very difficult one, since so much of former palace land is now something else, and most of the wall was built in its current location and form after King Gojong’s death. The erstwhile existence of gates connecting the palace to at least three foreign legations shows further that there never was a pathway for ordinary citizens to walk around the entire palace wall. The authentic historic experience that the city wants to re-create through the construction of the circumferential walkway is in fact a new creation, and a very modern invention, connected to ideas of heritage tourism and universal ownership of national history. Nevertheless, the idea is an appealing one that, if it succeeds, would doubtless attract many visitors to the area and grow the interest in Korea’s early modern history.

The final point I would like to raise is a brief but important one. It was surprising that last Tuesday’s article contained quotations from both Seoul Metropolitan Government’s plan and a current City Council member, but no word from the British Embassy. Most embassies have staff that handle public affairs and media relations, and given that the proposed walkway would enter and exit embassy gates and traverse embassy property, one would imagine that the British government would be keen to have a voice in discussing any such plan, especially given modern-day concerns about diplomatic security, personal safety and privacy, but there was no mention of it in the article. Normally in such circumstances, one would at least expect to see a sentence like, "The embassy was not available for comment," or, "We reached out to the embassy, but did not receive a response by time of press," or even, "The embassy declined to comment for this story." The absence of any such statement could leave a newspaper open to the criticism that not enough had been done to get all sides of the story. I think this is a regrettable editorial decision from your otherwise fine newspaper, to which I have subscribed for over 10 years.
Jacco Zwetsloot
Many thanks to Jacco for permitting me to reprint the full letter. He covers a great deal of history there, and I thought I'd add a few photos to illustrate some of what he wrote about.

Here is a photo of Deoksugung Palace in 1961 after the wall had been torn down and replaced with a fence (also seen in the last photo here), with a gate standing in the northeast corner; this was before Taepyeongno was widened.

(From here.)

Here is a photo of Daehanmun orphaned in the middle of the road after the wall was rebuilt in 1968 but before it was moved westward to its current location in 1970:

From here (where lots of photos can be seen).

Here is Dondeokjeon, which was built in 1901 and destroyed around 1926 to allow the Japanese to punch a road through between the U.S. consulate and Deoksu Palace:

(From here.)

Here it is in relation to Seokjojeon, which still stands today; it likely wasn't necessary to tear it down, but the fact that Sunjeong, the last Korean monarch, was crowned there may have have made its demolition more tempting.

(From here.)

It can also be seen in the background of this photo of Samil protesters in 1919 walking around Deoksu palace (most likely to the US Consulate), which should make clear that one could not walk around the palace back then. (Originally from this post.)

Jacco managed to find a column by Nam Jeong-ho in the Joongang Ilbo which dealt with this issue and in which the UK Embassy was actually contacted, and the Embassy said that due to a number of issues the cost quoted by the city (2.8 billion won) is likely far too low, and it may be closer to 10 billion won. Nam suggests that a way around this would be simply to allow people to walk through the back gate (Podeokmun) of the palace and open the north gate near the British Embassy entrance to allow people to walk "around" the palace. Needless to say, it would certainly be a lot cheaper.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

From an elementary school in Daehangno to a temple bell in Deoksu Palace via Tapgol Park and 560 years of history

If you walk along Daehangno about halfway between Jongno 5-ga Station and Hyehwa Station you'll come upon the gates to Seoul Sadae Buseol Elementary and Girls Middle School.

These gate pillars originally stood at the entrance to Pagoda (now Tapgol) Park, Seoul's first modern park, built under the direction of John McLeavy Brown in 1897. [Hat tip to JiHoon for showing this to me.] About the only photo of the gates I've ever seen is this one from the time of the Samil Uprising in 1919:

I originally posted that photo in this post, which includes photos taken from this page, which has scans of a 1919 Korean Red Cross pamphlet about the suppression of the Samil independence movement. It includes the declaration of Korean independence, 34 photos (taken by Francis Schofield), and a statement from the Korean Red Cross. It was in this park, of course, that the declaration of independence was read on March 1, 1919.

Before the park was built, the ten-story pagoda it is named after stood surrounded by houses, as captured by Percival Lowell in 1884:

Many more photos of the pagoda from both before and after the area became a park can be found here, while Brother Anthony has posted a detailed history of the pagoda (and another that it was modeled after) here

I hadn't realized the fate of Wongaksa, the temple it was built to be a part of. As Wikipedia reveals, King Sejo had Wongak-sa temple built in 1465, followed by the pagoda 2 years later. on the site of an older Goryeo-period temple, Heungbok-sa. The temple was closed and turned into a kisaeng house by Joseon's most notorious king, Yeonsan-gun (who ruled from 1494 to 1506), and his successor, King Jungjong (ruled 1506–1544) turned the site into government offices.

This was actually part of a spate of temple building / improvements by King Sejo, as Gregory Henderson explained in his 1959 article for Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, "A History of the Chŏng Dong Area and the American Embassy Residence" (available as a .docx file here - more Transactions articles can be found here). He made a specific addition to Hŭngchŏn-sa, a temple which stood near present day Deoksu Palace:
In 1462, King Sejo, a devout Buddhist, deeply conscience-stricken over his murder of his own nephew Tanjong to attain the throne, repaired and built many temples, notably Wŏngak-sa in Pagoda Park with its pagoda; with these repairs he had a great new bell made for Hŭngch’ŏn-sa in the seventh year of his reign. For more than thirty years the temple continued with this embellishment and with its high tower. In 1495, however, there came to the Korean throne one of the most notorious tyrants of Korean history, Yŏnsan-gun, a man dedicated to sybaritic personal habits, malice and impetuousness. In July, 1504, he ordered the temple razed and built in its place an extra office for the care of his royal horses and their accoutrements. The next monarch, Chung-jong, after overthrowing Yŏnsan-gun, abolished this extravagance and built a public office here. Of the temple, only the five-story shari hall remained. 
Of that five-story hall, Henderson tells us that on
the night of March 28, 1510, the students of th[e] central Confucian college, firmly convinced by their instructors that Buddhism was heresy, marched on the shari hall and enthusiastically set fire to it. [...] The bell now alone remained and this, after many perigrinations through Seoul’s palaces, finally came to the grounds of the Tŏksu (Duksoo) Palace where it hangs today, the only remaining reminder of this temple’s colorful history.
And that's the history of the bell (this one, from this page) that you can see in Deoksugung Palace today, which was cast around the same time as the Wongagksa Pagoda in Tapgol Park was built, the park which saw its original gate pillars moved to an elementary school on Daehangno. A bit of a detour, but hopefully the ride was worth it.

I'll save the story of one of the architects of Yeonsan-gun's overthrow, and his tomb behind where I used to live in Banghwa-dong, for another day.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The transformation of Gindeung Maeul, 2008-2015

It was back in 2008 that I first posted about the destruction of Gindeung Maeul, a neighborhood south of where I lived in Banghwa-dong. The house above was one of the holdouts during both the first phase of demolition in 2008 and the second phase in 2010. It was finally demolished in 2012, but it wasn't until early 2014 - after 5 years of lying empty - that construction of apartments in Gindeung Maeul finally began. Here are my posts about the area from 2008 and 2010:

Exploring Gindeung Maeul
The Disappearance of Gindeung Maeul

It was initially torn down to make way for part of the Banghwa New Town. It can be seen jutting out on the right below:

This new town plan, however - like most of them - never was carried out. Here's what the area looked like from above in early 2006, with the first phase, meant to be a part of the Banghwa New Town and carried out in 2008, marked in yellow; the area marked in red was the second phase, carried out in 2010, and intended to make way for a much larger project.

The area after the first phase of demolition:

The second phase of demolition was to make way for the Magok development, about 3 square kilometers including a lake park (since converted to "Seoul Botanic Gardens"). I looked at the the completion of the the first phase of apartment building for the Magok development back in 2014. Below is a map of the planned apartments (most of those in the bottom left corner are not yet completed (mainly due to the need to move a school (since demolished) and because there's still a small military base there. As can be seen, the red shape marks the Gindeung redevelopment,

Here are panoramic shots of the changes to the neighbourhood between 2008 and 2015:

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008.

January 2010

October 2011

May 2012

February 2013

May 2013

 August 2013

November 2013

May 2014

September 2014

October 2014

January 2015

March 2015

July 2015

That's quite the change from mid-2008:

Here are the schematics and plans for the Magok Hillstate Apartments:

(From here.)

(From here.)

A view from the side:

Here are views from above of Gindeung Maeul and Magok in early 2008 and mid 2015:

Needless to say, the area has changed quite a bit.