The last remaining “Citizens’ apartment building”: Hoehyeon Apartments

Hoehyeon Apartments is located at the foot of Namsan Mountain with a wide view of downtown Seoul.
In the late 1960s, construction was completed on Hoehyeon Apartments (the second in a series of “citizen’s apartment buildings”), which was built in a horseshoe shape, which is rare for a citizen’s apartment complex, after having torn down the nearby shantytowns on the hilly areas. Although each building consisted of ten floors, which was quite high at the time, the budget did not allow for the installation of an elevator. Instead, bridges were built to allow easy access to the sixth and seventh floors. In one horseshoe-shaped building, there were 340 households of 11 pyeong each. It was the first apartment building in Korea to be equipped with central heating and individual flush-toilet bathrooms. Owing to its modern facilities, the apartment building was soon home to celebrities and employees of the KCIA and various broadcasting companies. The structure of the apartment building, which did not provide much living space, was soon subject to a diverse range of modifications. However, due to an apartment building collapse that occurred just before Hoehyeon Apartments was completed, the ambitious “citizen’s apartment” construction project that had thus far progressed at a breakneck pace was stopped after only three years. In 1997, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced a plan for a complete reorganization of the city’s aging citizen’s apartments. Today, Hoehyeon Apartments is the last remaining structure of its kind. As a symbol of modernization in Korea that must be preserved as well as a potential subject for demolition for safety purposes, 45 years later, Hoehyeon Apartment presents a problem that still remains to be solved.




New Era of Public Transportation: Seoul Metro Line 1

Ten years after the advent of the first domestic car, the 1960s witnessed a sudden increase in the number of cars and buses in Korea. In Seoul in 1970, with a population that already exceeded five million, the construction of a subway line was the only solution available to relieve the intense traffic congestion of the downtown area.
Throughout the 1960s, numerous plans were drawn up for the construction of a subway system, but it was in 1970, with the appointment of Mayor Yang Taek-sik (former director of the Korean National Railroad), that the plan was actually put into action. On April 12, 1971, a ceremony was held, with over 30,000 citizens in attendance, to mark the beginning of the construction of Subway Line 1. On August 15, 1974, the day of the historic opening of the third subway line in Asia, First Lady Yuk Yeong-su was shot and killed by an assassin at a National Liberation Day event. This resulted in the cancellation of all other events other than the subway line opening event. At the time of its opening, the basic subway fare from Seoul Station to Cheongnyangni was KRW 30. The subway ticket, which today costs KRW 1,050, has since undergone numerous changes.




A Center of Foreign Socializing: Jemulpo Club

After the opening of its port in 1883, Incheon has developed into a city where the cultures of many countries coexist. It was an early example of multiculturalism in Korea, which is evident in the buildings constructed in the architectural styles of various cultures.
Of these buildings, one of the best examples of early modern architecture is the Jemulpo Club, which is located in Songhak-dong, Jung-gu. Following its construction, the Jemulpo Club was quickly surrounded by settlements of Japan, China, and Western countries. It was a social club exclusively for foreigners and also served as the arena for dialogue concerning diplomatic concessions.
Originally named “Jemulpo Club,” the word “club” was changed to the Japanese transliteration “gurakubu” after the foreign settlement system was abandoned. It is still called Jemulpo Gurakbu in Korean today. The Jemulpo Club was designed by the Russian architect Afanasy Ivanovich Seredin-Sabatin, and construction began in 1900. The structure was completed on June 22, 1901.
After the elimination of the settlement system in 1913, the Jemulpo Club was used by Japanese veterans, and after World War II, it became a club for American officers. Used as the building for the Incheon Metropolitan City Museum beginning in 1953, it has housed the Storytelling Museum since 2007, after undergoing large-scale remodeling.




First Post-War Government Memorial: Freedom Center

The Freedom Center and International Freedom Hall were constructed on Namsan Mountain in the early 1960s by the military regime installed after the May 16 coup, which aimed to make Korea the main anti-communist outpost in Asia. At the time, it was a large-scale national memorial, but today, the Freedom Center is only remembered as one of architect Kim Swoo-geun’s earliest works.
The center (with one underground floor and seven aboveground floors) was originally built to be the main building of the Asia Anti-Communism Federation with an exposed mass concrete technique, which uses only bare concrete as the facing. However, today’s Freedom Center is covered in a coat of paint that completely conceals the concrete, which itself had been a symbol of the building’s commemorative function. First attempted by Swiss-French master of modern architecture Le Corbusier, the exposed mass concrete technique was applied to many subsequent works by his disciple, Kim Chung Up, as well as Kim Swoo-geun, leading the 1960s to become known as the “era of exposed mass concrete.” The Freedom Center’s structural beauty consists of a cantilever (a beam that protrudes from a wall or column) that turns up toward the sky—at a distance equal to that from the roof to the ground—and a massive colonnade. The central stairway that connects to the lobby area emphasizes the building’s authority.




First Main Parish of Korean Catholicism: Myeongdong Cathedral

Myeongdong Cathedral, which has completed the first stage of a comprehensive reconstruction project, was built over a period of six years, beginning in 1898. In 1894, a year already heavily plagued by funding and material shortages, the start of the Sino-Japanese War resulted in the withdrawal of Chinese laborers. As such, the construction of the cathedral suffered multiple starts and stops. The design of the cathedral was created by French priest E.G. Coste, who also designed Yakhyeon Cathedral and the Yongsan Theological Seminary. Coste used a Neo-Gothic format that emphasizes practicality, which is evident in the single spire at the cathedral’s center and the smaller octagonal spires on either side of it. Made up of mostly baked bricks, the cathedral features 20 types of irregular red and grey brick shapes, exuding a finely detailed Gothic style rather than the majestic solemnity suggested by stone. Myeongdong Cathedral is a symbol of Korean Catholicism, which is characterized by persecution and frequent martyrdom, as well as its part in the struggle for democratization. From its position at the center of Seoul, Myeongdong Cathedral will continue to stand for peace and reconciliation.




A Record of Presidential Life: Kyu-hah Choi’s House

With the emergence of a new military faction at the same time as the death of the Yushin regime on December 12, 1979, the turbulent circumstances of this era led Kyu-hah Choi, the tenth president of the Republic of Korea, to become the president who spent the shortest time in office. Kyu-hah Choi’s House (located in Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu) was renovated and opened to the public as part of the effort to renovate government-related historical relics, including Gyeonggyojang (residence of Kim Gu) and the residence of Jang Myeon. It was here that Choi lived in seclusion after stepping down from the presidency until his death, during which time he led a frugal lifestyle free of corruption. The house consists of three floors (one basement floor and two aboveground floors) and was built in the 1970s as part of the movement to build “new style” homes. Construction began in 1972, when former president Choi was serving in the government, and he lived in the residence for the next 30 years. After serving as a talented diplomat who prepared the foundations for Korean diplomacy and worked hard to overcome the global oil crisis by securing crude oil, Choi rose to the presidency after serving as prime minister. During his term, Choi and his wife lived a quiet, frugal life. During the oil crisis, after returning from an inspection of the coal mines in Gangwon-do, Choi famously declared to the miners that he would use charcoal briquettes for the rest of his life.




The Symbol of Seoul: N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower is a symbol and landmark of Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, and also a popular tourist destination. Since it reopened in 2005 under its new name, N Seoul Tower (formerly, Namsan Tower), it has been reborn as a new type of cultural space.
Visitors who take the high-speed elevator (40 meters per second) to the observation deck are not only offered a sweeping view of Seoul but can even see as far as the Yellow Sea of Incheon and Songaksan Mountain near Gaeseong to the north. N Seoul Tower features a variety of facilities, including the Teddy Bear Museum, N Restaurant, and N Shopping. Currently, it is planning various concerts as well as the Love Festival and events related to the Locks of Love, targeting the younger generation. Equipped with broadcasting facilities and an observation deck for tourists, N Seoul Tower appeared on the scene in 1970 as an integrated facility on the same level as Japan’s Tokyo Tower and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and it will continue to serve as a top landmark that provides the most beautiful view of Seoul.




Arco Art Center: The Center of Korean Art

Marronnier Park, which is located in Seoul’s Dongsung-dong area, reopened last year after undergoing renovations. Now an open space without surrounding walls, the transformed park has reemerged as a central location for culture and the arts. The red-brick Arco Art Center, which is located at the back of the park, continues to be a major symbol of the park.
Mostly featuring exhibitions of modern Korean artists, the Arco Art Center first opened its doors in 1979 as “Marronnier Art Gallery” under the direction of the Korea Arts and Culture Education Service, which chose the former site of Seoul National University as the location for the museum.
With its low rental fee, it made a name for itself as a major exhibition space in the Korean art community, which was struggling at the time.
Kim Swoo-geun, the designer of the Arco Art Center building, is a first-generation Korean architect who greatly broadened the horizons of modern Korean architecture. An article in Time magazine referred to Kim as the “Lorenzo of Seoul,” comparing him to Lorenzo de Medici, the Italian Renaissance giant who was known for supporting artists.




Mapo Resource Recovery Plant




SEOUL, never ending story




SEOUL, never ending story




The House of Sangheo Lee Tae-Jun, who perfected the genre of the Korean novelette

This house is where Sangheo (pen name) Lee Tae-Jun, a novelist who defected to North Korea, lived and wrote his works from 1933, when he built the house, to 1946.
As a founding member of the Guinhoe (the Circle of Nine), a literary club formed in 1933 by nine writers who pursued belles-lettres rather than propagandistic literature. Lee is viewed as the writer who perfected the Korean short novel with his lyrical sentences embodying aesthetic beauty. His major works include the essay “Museorok (Incoherent Writings),” “Dalbam (Moonlit Night),” “Gamagui (Crow),” and “Munjangganghwa (Lecture on Writing),” among others.
Located on a hilly street in Seongbuk-dong, a region that could be called the “cradle of Korean modern art,” as many writers and artists have lived there, the house of Lee Tae-Jun was designated as Seoul City Folk Material No. 11. Currently, the house is now used as a traditional Korean tea house called “Suyeonsanbang,” and is run by the writer’s granddaughter.
The Korean government lifted the ban on the works by those writers who defected to or were abducted by North Korea in 1988, which made his works more accessible and the use of his name possible. The house of Lee Tae-Jun, where many writers once gathered together, now serves as a cozy place for people to relax and try to feel the presence of the writer.