A Mountain of Korean Poetry: The Home of Seo Jeong-ju
In the late 1960s, an “artist’s village” was formed near Nambusunhwan-ro, Sadang-dong (formerly in the Yeongdeungpo-gu area). The artist’s village, which had consisted of 200 Western-style houses, is now an ordinary residential area with a high concentration of multiple-unit dwellings and townhouses. One two-story house in this area that was opened to the general public in 2011 is the home of the late Korean poet Seo Jeong-ju, who built this home himself when he moved into the neighborhood in 1970. The house, where Seo lived until his death in 2000, has a building area of 74 pyeong and consists of one underground floor and two aboveground floors. The first floor was used as the living quarters, while the second floor was the poet’s space for writing. The name that Seo gave his home is “Bongsan Sanbang,” which literally means “mountain home of mugwort and garlic.” The name is derived from the Korean legend of Dangun, in which a bear turns into a woman after eating mugwort and garlic, and reflects Seo’s lifelong interest in Korean legends. The simplified blueprint, which Seo drew up himself, and the list of construction materials, show the poet’s fastidious attention to detail and his efforts to save as much as possible on construction costs. The Seoul Metropolitan Government began work on plans to preserve Bongsan Sanbang in 2001, but the plan was suspended due to negative public sentiment that the home is a pro-Japanese relic. In 2003, it was purchased by Gwanak-gu with assistance from the Seoul Metropolitan Government, but was neglected for five more years due to budgetary problems, and finally renovated and opened to the public ten years after the poet’s death.