Namdaemun Church: The Religious Community of Jejungwon
“Let’s meet at the church beyond the South Gate of Seoul Station.” Namdaemun Church, located across from Seoul Station, was a meeting place for refugees during the chaotic period following Korean liberation from Japanese rule and the ensuing Korean War. Before skyscrapers were built on the hill in Hoehyeon-dong, Namdaemun Church must have reached high above all other structures in the area. Having started out as a religious community at Jejungwon, the first Western medical institution in Korea, in 1885, Namdaemun Church was relocated every time Jejungwon was moved. Finally, in 1910, the first consecration service for the church was held just outside Namdaemun Gate. With the construction of a 2,500-square-foot, Korean-style worship hall in 1910, the name of the church was changed from “Jejungwon Church” to “Church Outside Namdaemun.” A new worship hall was installed in 1950 but burned down during the Korean War, after which, worship services were temporarily held in tents. The current worship hall was built in 1955, and the gothic-style worship hall, designed by one of the first generation of modern Korean architects, Park Dong-jin, who had already designed Young Nak Presbyterian Church, was constructed in 1969, 14 years after the first worship hall was completed. In the 1970s, when the development of the Gangnam area was in full swing, the topic of relocating the church was raised once again. However, Namdaemun Church still remains where it has always been, serving as a religious institution for ordinary Koreans living near Namdaemun Gate. Now, 130 years since its establishment, Namdaemun Church still embodies the same spirit as it overlooks the city from the hilltop.