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.

Korea University’s Main Hall, making great advancements as a leading private institution of higher education

Some 80 years ago on the Anam-dong Campus of the present-day Korea University, a western-style school building, designed and financed by Koreans, was established. In 1932, Kim Seong-Su, also known by his childhood name “Inchon,” took over Bosung College, visited universities around the world, and dreamed of establishing a college in Korea. He brought his dream to life when he started the construction of a school building in 1933, and completed it in 1934. The three-story building is designed in a Tudor-Gothic style with a wooden truss roof. The concrete interior wall is finished with granite in random ashlar and the central tower serves as a focal point, highlighting the symbolic meaning of the building. In addition, the building has the ogival arched entrance in front and additional entrances on the sides and back. Its windows are in diverse shapes, serving to break the monotony and providing a sense of rhythm. Renamed from Bosung College in 1946, Korea University carries great historical significance, as its main building is the origin of Korean-style stone architecture and the first higher-education building built with solely domestic capital.

The Namsan Science Museum, the former Children’s Center

In 2012, Seoul City restored part of the Seoul Fortress Wall and the Namsan Mountain ridge as part of the Namsan Renaissance Project. Korea’s first Children’s Center stands at the end of the mountain ridge that connects the site of a playground to Baekbeom Square, still preserving its old glory.
In 1970, when it was completed and opened to the public, the 18-story “skyscrapers” with an observatory on top that rotates once per hour was a castle of dreams for children. Several hundreds of thousands of children flocked to Namsan Mountain to visit the Children’s Center everyday as Korea at that time was virtually devoid of cultural facilities for children. Unfortunately, the Children’s Center could not accommodate them all and had to be closed temporarily three days after its opening. Asia’s largest children’s center equipped with cutting-edge science and technology was a paradise for children. Now, it continues to make its presence felt as the Namsan Branch of Seoul Science Park.

Namsan Public Library, Korea’s first public library

With Japan’s cultural control in the 1920s, restrictions on the press were eased and modern libraries emerged in Korea. The Gyeongseong Prefecture Library (the former Namsan Public Library), Korea’s first public library, was established amid such social circumstances. A result of Japanese colonial reform policy, the Namsan Public Library was a haven for Korean people with a thirst for knowledge. On October 6, 1922, the Gyeongseong Prefecture Library opened its doors in the former Hanseong Hospital, in Myeong-dong, but moved to the Daegwanjeong Building, in Sogong-dong, in May 1927. The library was renamed the “Gyeongseong Prefecture Namdaemun Library” on December 19, 1945, and the “Seoul Municipal Namdaemun Library” on September 28, 1946. The library was then moved to its present location on Namsan Mountain on January 27, 1965, and has been open to the public as the “Namsan Public Library” since that time. The five-story ferroconcrete Namsan Public Library building is a large cultural hall equipped with a collection of over 7,000 books, an audiovisual room, an exhibition hall, and a music room with a total capacity of 1,602 seats.
Beginning as a library with some 2,000 books and a capacity of 60 seats, the Namsan Public Library is now a major full-service library that boasts a collection of over 500,000 books. During the Japanese colonial period, the Namsan Public Library was a place that gave wings to the dreams of young students, but now serves as an important part of Korean history.

The National Theater of Korea, the first cultural space in Namsan

Nestled at the foot of Namsan Mountain on Jangchungdan-ro, Jung-gu, the National Theater of Korea, built in the 1970s, is the first cultural space built solely with Korean technology, at a time when Korea’s economic development was at its peak. Asia’s first national theater opened on April 29, 1950; however, the Korean War broke out 58 days later and the theater was moved to Daegu during the war. On June 1, 1957, a Seoul City building was used as the national theater and named Myeongdong National Theater (the present Myeongdong Theater). In 1966, President Park Chung-Hee announced the plan for the construction of a national cultural complex centered on Namsan. Designed by the architect Lee Hee-Tae (1925~1981), the present-day National Theater of Korea in Namsan Mountain was completed nearly six years after the groundbreaking ceremony in 1967. The original plan to create a cultural complex in Namsan was revised, and only the National Theater of Korea and a traditional Korean music training center were built in the Namsan area. The National Theater of Korea features pilotis reminiscent of Gyeonghoeru in Gyeongbokgung Palace and ribbed eaves linked to the row of 14 columns, creating a rhythmic, three-dimensional effect. The Museum consists of the large Haeoreum Theater, small Daloreum Theater, versatile Beoloreum Theater, and round, outdoor Haneul Theater. As a leader in Korean performing arts, the National Theater of Korea is reaching out worldwide so that it may become a cultural leader of the future.

Baewha Girls’ High School Residence Hall, the residence of a Southern American Baptist missionary

Baehwa Girls’ High School is nestled at the slanted foot of Inwangsan Mountain in Pilun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul. It was the site of the house of Lee Hang-Bok, a civil official who served in the early Joseon period (1392-1910), and was commonly referred to as Pilundae and frequented by academics. To this day, Baehwa Girls’ High School retains various traces of its past. J.P. Campbell, the first female Southern American Baptist missionary dispatched to Korea, founded Carolina School in 1989. In 1910, the school was officially renamed Baehwa School by Yun Chi-Ho and moved to the newly built campus, its present location, in 1915. Designated as Registered Cultural Asset No. 93, Baehwa Girls’ High School Residence Hall was built as a missionary residence but is now used as the Alumni Hall. Built before the 1920s, the unique, modern-style architecture of this structure reflects Campbell’s attempt to adjust to the Korean cultural environment, as it is a Western-style brick building topped with a traditional Korean hip-and-gable roof. Baehwa Girls’ High School still retains its old form.

Jamsil Olympic Stadium, a shrine of Korean sports

The Seoul Olympic Stadium, commonly referred to as Jamsil Olympic Stadium, is located by the Hangang River in Jamsil, Songpa-gu, some 13km from central Seoul in the southeastern part of the city, where many high-rise apartment buildings are concentrated. In 1971, President Park Chung-Hee announced the Comprehensive Jamsil Development Plan, which included the creation of an international-scale sports facility, that is, Seoul Stadium, in a new section of the city. The plan required the reclamation of Jamsil, a vast sand island on the east side of the Hangang River. The construction of the Seoul Sports Complex began in 1977 and was completed seven years later, having used 24,000 tons of steel, 5,700 tons of steel frames, 160,000 sacks of cement, and the work of 800,000 people in total. Nearly one half of the total cost of the construction of the Seoul Sports Complex, about KRW 100 billion, was spent on the construction of Seoul Olympic Stadium. The 1988 Olympics, which was held after the 1986 Asian Games in the world’s only divided nation, was recognized as the largest in scale in Olympic history.
Korea drew international criticism when it had to abandon its plan to host the Asian Games in 1970, mainly for financial reasons and a lack of facilities. But it was able to transform its national image from that of a poor, devastated nation, after the war, to that of a nation that successfully hosted two major sporting events, at Jamsil Olympic Stadium, in the 1980s.