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Culture & Tourism

  • Jeongdong-gil, Footprints of American Missionaries Who Brought Waves of Modernization

  • Culture & Tourism SMG 2570
    • Jeongdong-gil, featuring the atmosphere of Seoul as it was 100 years ago, has been highlighted as a destination where visitors can “travel back in time” to experience the past of Seoul.
    • In the past, the area served as a window to Western culture in Korea and was home to Western schools, churches, and foreign legations.
    • The area is full of attractions, such as the Paichai School, founded by the American missionary Appenzeller, and the Chungdong First Methodist Church.
    • Deoksugung Palace, one of the palaces of Joseon, is famous for its stonewall walkway, a popular dating place for couples.

    After the Joseon Dynasty opened Korea up to the world in the nineteenth century, visitors from the West rushed in like waves. Among them, came North American missionaries who began to sow the seeds of modernization in the unexplored regions of Joseon Korea.

    The missionaries founded medical facilities to help heal the sick and taught modern sciences to young students who were only familiar with rural life. They also established churches and led the Korean people on the path to Western religion.

    One of the most prominent North American missionaries was Henry Appenzeller, who founded the first Western-style school in Korea and taught hundreds of Korean students.

    The school and the church founded by Appenzeller still stand side-by-side along Jeongdong-gil, an alley in Jeong-dong at the center of Seoul.

    Paichai School

    Walk out of Exit 1 or 2 of Seoul City Hall Station and continue along the Deoksugung stonewall walkway, and you will soon be greeted by a number of old Western-style buildings and historical churches. This path, also known as Jeongdong-gil, still contains the vestiges of North Americans who constructed Western-style educational and medical facilities as well as religious institutions in Korea over 100 years ago.

    Travel back in time with a trip down Jeongdong-gil to experience the first signs of modernization in the great city of Seoul.

    A hundred years ago, when Joseon first opened its doors to the world, the United States Russia, France and other western powers constructed consulate buildings in the Jeongdong area to strengthen ties with Joseon. Although many of these buildings are no longer in existence, there are still a number of modern cultural heritages from this time.

    At the end of the Deoksugung stonewall walkway is the old US Consulate building, which is an important location that has historically been key to the development of US-Korea relations. The construction of the US consulate in Jeongdong in 1883 also paved the way for other foreign presences and transformed the Jeongdong into a representative area for foreign affairs and a mixing ground for Western and Korean cultures.

    Chungdong Methodist Church

    The Appenzeller Noble Memorial Museum, housed in an impressive red brick building, was once Korea’s first Western school. The school’s alumni include Syngman Rhee, the first president of Korea, as well as novelist Na Do-hyang and poet Kim So-wol, two major literary figures in Korea in the 1920s.The building is currently used as a memorial hall honoring the missionary Appenzeller and his wife.

    Henry Gerhard Appenzeller was a Methodist missionary from the United States who spread Christianity in Korea and made advances in education and modern medicine in Korea.

    Appenzeller once resided in the Chungdong First Methodist Church, the first Methodist church in Korea, and many artifacts related to the missionary can still be found in the memorial hall located next door. Architecturally, the church was built primarily in a Western style but, is also said to have been constructed in a way that harmonized with its Korean surroundings.

    Ewha Museum

    The Ewha Museum located near the church was the first educational facility for women in Korea. Ewha School was founded in 1886 in a time when Korean women did not receive any formal education. When the school first opened, it only had one student, but soon became the cradle of education for women in Korea.

    Of the North American missionaries, those who were unable to return to their home countries and passed away in Korea were buried in Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery. Containing memorials of prominent Western figures in Korean modern history, the cemetery has become a unique attraction for both tourists and history aficionados alike.