SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, March 2, 2021 – Under the Japanese colonial rule, the Japanese were holding more lands than Koreans, and the number of Japanese-style houses was increasing in Seoul. Then a Korean land developer began to build a group of urbanized hanok, or traditional Korean house, in Bukchon in the 1920s and 30s. His name was Ginong Jeong Se-kwon, who provided hanok to preserve traditional Korean housing and culture. Thus was created the famous Bukchon Hanok Village.
Bukchon could survive Japanese colonialism with its urbanized hanok. Jeong also made significant contributions to protecting the Korean language. On March 1, the Seoul Metropolitan Government opened the Bukchon Hanok History Center to celebrate the March 1st Independence Movement Day and commemorate Jeong’s life.
The Seoul city government interpreted that Jeong’s activities during the colonial era were part of urban regeneration from a patriotic perspective. He bought and parceled out spacious mansions to build a lot of small hanok. It not only prompted the arrival of a modern city but also provided the foundation for a life in Seoul to the people of Joseon. Thanks to the newly built urban hanok, the people of Joseon could stay in Seoul.
Feeling a sense of crisis over the increasing number of Japanese-style houses, Jeong became determined to “stop the Japanese from stepping into Jongno.” With this firm conviction, he purchased hanoks of the nobility in Gahoe-dong, Samcheong-dong, and other neighborhoods inside the Fortress Wall of Seoul to supply many small urban housings.
With the money he earned through the construction projects, Jeong funded Joseon Mulsan Jangnyeohoe, a society for promoting Joseon’s products, and the Korean Language Society. By so doing, he played a pivotal role in preserving Korean houses and language.
The Bukchon Hanok History Center unveils its permanent exhibition from March 1. The centerwill bring diverse regular, special and online exhibition programs to the citizens.
Seo Hae-sung, Director of the History Generation Project, who was in charge of organizing the center’s opening, explained, “We established the center to let more people know that Bukchon was created during the Japanese colonial period and Jeong Se-kwon built the foundation for it. I wish more of our citizens know that people cooperated to keep the village out of Japanese reach and that Jeong provided financial aid to the Korean Language Society with the profits he gained from building hanok. I hope we have an opportunity to learn more about the history of Bukchon and the life of Jeong while celebrating the March 1st movement.
Ryu Hoon, Deputy Mayor of Urban Regeneration of the city, mentioned, “Bukchon Hanok Village remains until today by virtue of the pioneering urban regeneration. I expect a visit to the center to serve as a momentum to revisit Bukchon as well as urban regeneration.