The Korea Herald

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Museum shows Seoul’s old face, warts and all

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 21, 2013 - 19:21

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Seoul must be one of the most dynamic cities in the world with its nooks and crannies changing every day.

“Whenever I come to Seoul, I am surprised by how much it has changed. You don’t see the same shops, buildings and sometimes, the hills, roads and streams anymore,” said Kim Jong-nye, a U.S. resident who visits Korea every two or three years.

A report on the changing face of Seoul was released by the Seoul Museum of History earlier this week, highlighting the everyday lives of ordinary people and their living spaces.

“The pictures and the articles will tell how the city transformed itself from poverty-stricken to cosmopolitan,” the museum said in a press release for the three-volume report, which will be downloadable from its website in early March.

■ 104 Village: From 1967, those who were “kicked out” of the Yongsan, Imun-dong, Seokgwan-dong and Namdaemun areas due to redevelopment plans gathered around Junggyebon-dong in northern Seoul. The government subsidized enough cement for 100 bricks per house for construction, short of the 200 actually needed to build a house. The residents had to make their own homes by mixing cement with sand and mud, which produced fragile housing. Frequent repairs were necessary and rain penetrated the homes easily in rainy season.

The residents formed a strong and unique community culture and a considerable number of people still reside there, inheriting the community spirit.
People pose in front of Shindo Cinema in Cheongnyangni in this picture taken in the 1960s. Well-built men guarded the entrance of the then state-of-the-art theater to examine tickets and make sure the audience respected public order. (Seoul Museum of History) People pose in front of Shindo Cinema in Cheongnyangni in this picture taken in the 1960s. Well-built men guarded the entrance of the then state-of-the-art theater to examine tickets and make sure the audience respected public order. (Seoul Museum of History)

■ Cheongnyangni: The area that was farm land during the Joseon era (1392-1910) became an important transportation hub during Japanese rule (1910-1945) when the colonial government built a tram and railway station there.Shindo Geukjang (Shindo Cinema), opened after liberation in 1945, was formerly an apparel factory owned by a Japanese man.

Gu Jae-seo, owner of the cinema, hired an imposing man to check the tickets at the entrance. He recalled that at one point hundreds of people gathered to see a film with just a single projector.

Now the theater is closed but Cheongnyangni is not only the location of a train station. It is also a shopping district with an Oriental medicine market attracting citizens every day. 
Venders and buyers at Gwangjang Market in central Seoul greet foreign visitors in this picture taken in October 1983. Foreigners were rare and given VIP treatment, according to the Seoul Living Culture Report. (Seoul Museum of History) Venders and buyers at Gwangjang Market in central Seoul greet foreign visitors in this picture taken in October 1983. Foreigners were rare and given VIP treatment, according to the Seoul Living Culture Report. (Seoul Museum of History)

■ Gwangjang Market: In Gwangjang Market, one should listen carefully to the slang the merchants speak ― it is often used among vendors to label their customers among themselves without letting the “outsiders” know. They also sometimes fix the price by using special terms ― “geon,” “cha,” “yeo,” “jeong,” “in,” “gyo,” “baek,” “tae,” “uk,” and “logwang” stand for one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and 10, respectively.

The market, founded in 1905 after Japanese vendors began to dominate the traditional Jongno Market, was designated a tourism district in 2006, attracting people from around the world with its variety of goods including food, apparel and other items. It is still the source of livelihood for 20,000 people who work in 5,000 shops.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)