Seoul National Cemetery: Sacred Ground for Korean Patriots and Martyrs for Over 60 Years

210 Hyeonchung-ro, Dongjak-gu, Seoul. Seoul National Cemetery, the first national cemetery in Korea, is nestled among the ridges of Gwanaksan Mountain alongside the meandering Han River, with Gongjakbong (Peak) at its center.
The site of the cemetery was selected after an 11-month survey that was carried out during the Korean War, when the number of casualties was surging. Constructed in the first spring after the end of the Korean War, this 14-million-square-foot cemetery is now the eternal resting place for countless patriots, martyrs, and soldiers of the Korean Empire who sacrificed their lives in times of national crises.
Now, it has been more than 60 years since the ceremonial gun salute was first performed for the burial of the remains of the first anonymous soldier. Years after its establishment, this military cemetery was promoted to the status of a national cemetery, with nine graveyards and various memorial facilities. However, Seoul National Cemetery eventually became completely full, and separate enshrinement facilities were constructed in 2005.
Innumerable remains and memorial tablets have filled the cemetery, but there are many more named and nameless soldiers who have not been interred there. Seoul National Cemetery serves as a space that is open to everyone to remember and pay tribute to them all.

The Legacy of Incheon Harbor: Incheon’s Former Daehwajo

Built about 120 years ago, one machiya (traditional Japanese wooden house) still remains near Incheon Harbor. It once housed a cargo company called “Daehwajo,” which was established around the time of the opening of Incheon Port, where poor Korean laborers went back and forth to work every day. This was the center of the Japanese settlement in the area, where the consulate, police offices, post offices, and other public offices were concentrated. Now, 120 years later, Daehwajo has been turned into a café. After the café owner bought the old building, its historical value began to draw increasing attention and recognition. It had always been assumed that Daehwajo had been constructed in the 1930s, but that assumption was proven wrong when an image of the building was found on a postcard from the end of the 19th century as well as when the name of the shipping company’s owner was discovered in the records of the Japanese Government-General of Korea from the 1910s. As it is the only Japanese machiya that remains in the Incheon Harbor area, experts recommended that the Daehwajo building be restored rather than remodeled, after carrying out extensive historical research. Daehwajo is a place of significant historical value that, to this day, still contains traces of Korea’s past in its very walls.

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.

Taereung Training Center: The Heart of Korean Sports

The Taereung Training Center is now recognized as the only comprehensive training center in Korea. As a sports arena for members of national sports teams and athletes participating international sports competitions, as well as for ordinary citizens, it is contributing to the popularization of sports in Korea.
The establishment of the Taereung Training Center was initiated by Min Gwan-sik, then president of the Korea Sports Council, with the goal of reinvigorating Korean sports following the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Located in Gongneung-dong, in Nowon-gu, Seoul, the Taereung Training Center started out as a few buildings for members of Korean sports teams, but was expanded into a large-scale sports facility on about 3.6 million square feet of land over the next 50 years. The training center laid the foundation upon which Korea raised its status in various international sports arenas. Preserving the historical and cultural values of Korean sports, the Taereung Training Center is a space where the traces of the dedication and hard work of countless national team members remain to this day. Since its opening, the training center has been recognized for its central role in the development of sports in Korea and selected as a “Future Heritage” of Seoul in December 2014. The restoration of a world heritage site that humanity is responsible for preserving and handing down to future generations and the preservation of the sports facilities that have served as the heart of Korean sports are two challenges that must be confronted and overcome by not only cultural and sports circles in Korea but all Korean citizens as well.

Incheon Jung-gu Office: The History of Government Offices in Incheon

Construction of the present-day Incheon Jung-gu Office began on August 19, 1932. After a total of six modifications to the floor plan, the office building was completed on June 20, 1933, with one basement level and two above-ground floors. Jung-gu Office is located on Incheon’s Gaehang Nuri-gil, which is where many Japanese settled after they opened the Incheon port and where visitors can now enjoy the pleasures of modern Incheon. Jung-gu Office is a particularly symbolic building, having begun as the Japanese Consulate following the opening of the port and still remaining in use today as a government building. After years of service as the Japanese Consulate and 40 years as an Incheon city government building, discussions began to be held about remodeling the decrepit building. Completely lacking the decorations of the more eclectic architecture that was popular at the time of its construction, Jung-gu Office was built in a simplified, yet modern architectural style from the 1930s. The main building is flanked by the east and west annex, which are connected to the second story of the main building. As it has been used as a public building since its construction, the exterior of Jung-gu Office is relatively well preserved. On the other hand, continuous extension and extensive remodeling projects have changed the interior of the building dramatically. Nonetheless, the office building still remains a symbol of the administration of Incheon, spanning from the opening of the port, the colonial period, and liberation to the modern era of today.

Yanghwadaegyo (Bridge): The Second Hangang Bridge

Near Hapjeong-dong, where Yanghwajin—one of the three docks along the Hangang (River)—was once located, a bridge was built in 1965 to connect Yanghwajin and Dangsan-dong, Yeongdeung-po. Except for the now torn down Gwangjingyo (Bridge), Yanghwadaegyo was the second bridge built along the Hangang (River), about 50 years after the construction of the Hangang Bridge. Therefore, at the time, it was known as the “Second Hangang Bridge.” With four lanes on each side, it is a large bridge with a total of eight lanes. However, in the safety inspections carried out after the collapse of Seongsudaegyo (Bridge) in 1994, Yanghwadaegyo (Bridge) received the worst evaluation of the 15 bridges in Seoul, following which it underwent extensive repairs over a six-year period. Although the construction of the bridge seems quite basic in this day and age, it was a major undertaking that presented considerable construction challenges at the time. Nonetheless, Korea built the Second Hangang Bridge using only domestic manpower and technology. The glory and joy Korean’s experienced on the day the construction of Yanghwadaegyo (Bridge) was completed is still preserved in the Han River that continues to flow beneath it.

Kukkiwon: The World Taekwondo Headquarters

San 76, Yeoksam-dong, Seongdong-gu (currently Gangnam-gu), Seoul. Starting out as the “Korea Taesudo Association” in 1961, the association changed its name to the “Korea Taekwondo Association” in 1965, finally becaming known as “Kukkiwon,” the realized dream of all Taekwondo masters, on November 19, 1971 . Over KRW 150 million was invested in the construction of the Kukkiwon, which was built on a plot of land more than 70,000 square feet in area. The ferroconcrete building has one basement level and three above-ground floors. Built with blue giwa roof tiles, which symbolize the beauty and elegance of Korean-style housing, and eight cylindrical columns, which symbolize the Taeguk patterns of the eight trigrams, the World Taekwondo Headquarters can accommodate 3,000 people in its over 8,000-square-foot arena, which is located near Teheran-ro in the center of Gangnam, Seoul. The road in front of the Kukkiwon was given the honorary name “Kukkiwon-gil” so as to reinforce the status of Korea as the origin of Taekwondo to all Taekwondo masters and visitors to the headquarters. In the past, when there was no adequate space or facility to hold taekwondo competitions, the headquarters was the long-desired dream of 1.3 million Taekwondo masters, making the construction of the Kukkiwon a particularly moving experience for them.

Hyehwa Catholic Church: The Origin of Modern Church Architecture in Korea

Located a short distance from Daehak-ro, Seoul’s street of youth and culture, the Hyehwa-dong Rotary area is called the “home of faith” by Korean Catholics, as it is home to the Catholic University of Korea, the first Korean seminary, Dongsung High School (which is a Catholic institution), and Hyehwa Catholic Church, the central Catholic church in northern Seoul. Hyehwa Catholic Church is the third church in Korea to be consecrated, following Myeongdong Catholic Church and Yakhyeon Catholic Church. After the Order of Saint Benedict left the Hyehwa-dong area, it was replaced by the current church in 1927. However, with the growth of its congregation following the Korean War, the 1,400-square-foot church needed to be expanded.
The new church was built by Chang Bal (Thomas Chang), a pioneer of Catholic art and the younger brother of Prime Minister Chang Myun (John Myun Chang). At the time, he was the dean of the School of Art at Seoul National University. The architect of the church was Lee Hui-tae, who also designed Jeoldusan Catholic Church.
In the spring of 1960, Hyehwa Catholic Church was completed, built in an architectural style that was unprecedented at the time. Instead of the gothic cruciform structure that was popular at the time, the cathedral was built as one large integrated space. With a simple cubic design, the church went on to become a space for the general public rather than an authoritative religious institution.

Unification House: The Residence of Moon Ik-hwan

Reverend Moon Ik-hwan was a South Korean minister who was active in the Korean independence and democratization movements. After his best friend, Yun Dong-ju, passed away in prison immediately prior to liberation, and another friend, Jang Jun-ha, died under suspicious circumstances in 1975, Moon was imprisoned six times. He spent a total of 12 years in prison between 1976, beginning with the March 1 Declaration for the Salvation of the Nation, and his death at the age of 77. Throughout his life, he longed for the unification of the two Koreas. Located in a residential area in Suyu-ri, Gangbuk-gu, on the way to Insubong (Peak) of Bukhansan (Mountain), with a mountain range in the background, is the residence of Moon Ik-hwan, better known as “Unification House.” Reverend Moon’s wife and partner, Park Yong-gil, known as “Unification Lady,” also spent her life working for the unification of the two Koreas and the democratization of the country. She opened her home to anyone who wanted to meet and talk about unification. Built in the 1960s, the house was renovated in 1997 after some construction workers, having heard the house needed repairs after 30 years of use, collected donations and carried out the repairs themselves. However, since the Unification Lady passed away, the house has been largely neglected, with only the old household articles that were once used by Reverend Moon and his wife lying around the house. Among them are numerous documents and records, such as sermon notes, declarations, journal entries, letters from prison, and records left by his children after they visited him in prison, many of which have not been made public. Also, the prison uniform he wore during his imprisonment is still enshrined in the house.


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.

The Jeoldusan Martyrs Shrine, a symbol of Korean Catholicism

Jeoldusan Mountain is located near the Hangang River in Hapjeong-dong, where the Gangbyeonbukno meets Subway Line 2. Also referred to as Jamdubong (literally meaning “silkworm head” in English), as it is said to look like a silkworm raising its head high, Jeoldusan used be a famous place in the east of Yanghwajin, a port on the Hangang River. At the end of the Joseon period (1392-1910), when anti-Catholic persecution reached its peak, thousands of Catholics were killed here, earning the mountain the name Jeoldu (literally meaning “to cut off the head” in English). In order to preserve the symbolism of the site, the Korean Catholic Church held a public contest to choose the design of a church to be established on the mountain, with the requirement that the design preserves the original state of the lot. Finally, a design by the Korean architect Lee Hui-Tae, who was active in designing Catholic churches at that time, was chosen.
The site of Yanghwanaru and Jamdubong was designated as Historical Site No. 399 in 1997. The church consists of only the space necessary for the church to fulfill its function, without any unnecessary facilities or decorations.
The Catholic Church and the museum on Jeoldusan Mountain are cultural heritages that retain the tragic history of Catholicism in Korea.