The Kojong Memorial, also known as Pigak, houses a stele erected in 1902 in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of King Kojong's accession.
Manse Gate, Kojong Memorial, Seoul (detail)
서울 기념비각 만세문(紀念碑閣 萬歲門).
The hanging board of the pavilion is dated "6th year of Kwangmu" (광무6년 光武六年), referring to Emperor Kojong's reign title "Brilliant Warrior". Unfortunately, Kojong was neither too brilliant nor a warrior. His reign was characterised by weakness and degeneration and ended in the country's annexation by Japan.
Zoo in Ch'anggyŏng Garden, Seoul, c1930s
The Japanese colonial authorities opened most of the former royal palaces in Seoul to the general public and created a zoo and a botanical garden in the grounds of former Changgyŏng Palace, renaming it Ch'anggyŏng Garden.
Modern Korean historians condemn the Japanese for "demoting" and "symbolically neutering" the palace by turning it into a "leisure facility". The children shown in the photo, however, were probably happy with it.
Taehan Hospital, Seoul, c1910
One of the few pre-Japanese period modern buildings in Korea, this was built in the reign of Emperor Sunjong in 1907-08 as the "Great Han Hospital" (Taehan Ŭiwon). After 1910, it became the Government-General Hospital. In 1926, it was attached to Keijo Imperial University (now Seoul National University).
The main building shown in the postcard is well preserved, the annexes have been demolished.
Altar of Heaven, Seoul, c1910
When King Kojong assumed the title of the Emperor in 1897, it became necessary to build an altar at which imperial sacrifices to Heaven could be celebrated. The Altar of Heaven or Wŏn'gu-dan was completed in 1897 in the southern part of downtown Seoul. Modelled on the Temple of Heaven (天壇) in Beijing, it consisted essentially of a circular platform in the open air and an octagonal pavilion, the Hwanggung-u, in which an ancestral tablet for King T'aejo, founder of the Yi dynasty, was enshrined.
Alas, Kojong's attempt to secure the assistance of Heaven proved futile. In 1910, Korea was annexed by Japan, and the Altar of Heaven was razed by the Japanese colonial authorities. On its site, the Chosen Railways built the Chosen Hotel. All that remains today is the octagonal pavilion and an arched gate which separated the altar and the pavilion.
This old postcard shows a view of the Wŏn'gu-dan or Altar of Heaven before its destruction in 1913. The Japanese description refers to the place as the Southern Palace (南別宮) or the coronation site (位式場).
wanggung-u Pavilion seen from Chosen Hotel, c1930s
조선호텔에서 본 원구단 황궁우(圓丘壇 皇穹宇).
After the destruction of the Altar of Heaven in 1913, Hwanggung-u Pavilion and the arched gate remained as decorations in the hotel garden. This is a view from the hotel.
Chosen Hotel, Seoul, c1920s
Built by the Chosen Railways from 1913-14 on the site of the Altar of Heaven, the old Chosen Hotel, aka the Railway Hotel, was a world-class international hotel. It was demolished in 1968 and replaced by a high-rise building, today's Westin Chosun.
Korean quarters, Seoul, c1920s
This photo may illustrate why there are so few old buildings left in Seoul (apart from monumental structures such as palaces or town gates). Average Korean houses simply were not built to last several centuries.
Government-General Museum, Seoul, c1920s
The predecessor of the National Museum of Korea, this museum was opened by the Japanese Government-General in 1915 on the grounds of the Kyŏngbok Palace. It housed historic items and works of art from all over Korea. Sadly, the graceful building was demolished in the course of the Kyŏngbok Palace restoration project.
Pumin-gwan, Seoul, c1940
Built in 1935 as a municipal theatre for the Seoul citizens, it had several assembly halls and a modern cinema.
Downtown Seoul, c1930
The Seoul City Hall and the former capitol building, both completed by the Japanese in 1926, dominate the view. The ground plan of the capitol building, the seat of the Government-General, formed the character 日 while the city hall building formed a 本, together forming the characters for Japan (日本). (It may sound a bit far-fetched but this is how many Koreans understood it.) This symbolism was broken when the capitol building was demolished in 1996. Still, some saw the need to go even further. At present, the rear wing of the city hall is being torn down to make way for an extension. However, some claim this was necessary in order to eradicate the vertical stroke of the character 本 ...
Seoul Station, c1930
일제강점기 사진엽서 - 서울 역사(京城驛).
Completed in 1925.
Namdae-mun, Seoul, c1930s
Namdae-mun, the Great South Gate, first built in 1396 and rebuilt in 1447, was the oldest and most significant town gate in Korea. It was designated National Treasure no. 1. In 2008, a disgruntled old man set fire to it.
Namdaemun Street from Seoul Station, c1930s
Namdae-mun gate is visible in the distance. The station building is still there but its surroundings have changed beyond recognition.
Downtown Seoul, c1920
A postcard view of the heart of pre-war Seoul. In the centre, the Bank of Korea, to its right, the Seoul Post Office, behind that, the Chosen Hotel (aka Railway Hotel). The Anglican Cathedral (begun in 1922) and the City Hall (begun in 1925) are still missing, so the photo was probably taken around 1920 (Taisho 10 = 1921). The Japanese quarters in the front of the picture and the Korean old town in the background (starting from behind the Chosen Hotel) can easily be distinguished by the rooftops.
Bank of Korea, Seoul, c1920
일제강점기 사진엽서 - 서울 조선은행(朝鮮銀行)
Chosen Shinto Shrine stairway, c1930s
일제강점기 사진엽서 - 서울 조선신궁(朝鮮神宮)
Chosen Shinto Shrine, Seoul, c1930s
일제강점기 사진엽서 - 서울 조선신궁(朝鮮神宮).
The Chosen Jingu was the principal Shinto shrine in Japanese-ruled Korea. It was built in the first half of the 1920s on the lower slopes of Namsan Hill in downtown Seoul. The shrine buildings did not survive the liberation of the country from Japanese rule in 1945. On their site, the Koreans built a memorial to An Chunggŭn, a Korean nationalist who had assassinated Ito Hirobumi, the Japanese mastermind of the annexation of Korea.