|Clockwise from top left are Korea’s oldest restaurant, first apartment, first power plant and Dilkusha. (Yonhap News)|
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is seeking to preserve modern historic sites at risk of being damaged or lost ― such as Korea’s oldest restaurant, first apartment and first power plant ― as heritage of the capital.
Officials said Sunday that the municipal authorities would pass bylaws to protect modern landmarks of Seoul from rapid urban development.
Seoul heritage of the past century includes a house habited by Ham Seok-heon, an independence fighter, publisher, columnist, Christian civil rights and democracy activist; a two-story red brick house named Dilkusha, where Albert Taylor, a U.S. entrepreneur and Seoul correspondent of United Press International, lived from 1923 to 1942, when he was expelled from Korea by the Japanese; a house of the late prominent novelist Park Kyung-ni; the first bridge built over the Hangang River; and Changgo Theater behind Myeongdong Cathedral.
Located in Jongno district, once regarded as the political, economic and cultural heart of the Joseon era (1392-1910), Emun Seoleongtang, the oldest restaurant in Korea has served “seollongtang,” or ox bone soup, since it opened its doors in 1904.
The eatery was known as a hang out of Kim Du-han, the boss of a Korean gang in the Japanese colonial era and a politician after independence; Korea’s first Vice President Lee Si-young; and marathoner Sohn Kee-chung, the first Korean Olympic gold medalist.
Korea’s first apartment building, the four-story Chungjeong Apartment built near the current Chungjeongno subway station in the Seodaemun district in 1930, was sold to senior officials or Japanese nationals during the Japanese colonial occupation. Later, it was used as a hotel under the U.S. army military government, which ruled the southern half of the Korean Peninsula until the foundation of the modern South Korean government in 1948, after Korea gained independence in 1945.
Preparatory preservation works are already underway to preserve modern heritage, such as projects to utilize a closed site for water intake as a stage for street performances and designate the house of famous nursery rhyme writer Yun Geuk-young. The bylaws are expected to further raise the public awareness of the modern legacy of Seoul as well as lay a legal basis for municipal heritage projects, according to officials.
The city is also considering purchasing modern historic sites at risk of disappearing as their owners cannot afford to preserve them.
By Chun Sung-woo (firstname.lastname@example.org)