Keijo 京城, or Japanese Seoul

Seoul City Hall was the former Keijo City Hall, built in the 1930s.

Seoul City Hall was the former Keijo City Hall, built in the 1930s.

In 1910, Imperial Japan annexed Korea forcefully, culminating a process that began with the Meiji Emperor in 1876.  The Joseon capital of Hanseong was renamed 京城 – read as “Kei-jo” in Japanese, and “Gyeongseong” in Korean – and designated the colonial capital.  Literally, the word meant “capital”.

During their colonial rule (1910 – 1945), the Japanese destroyed many of Seoul’s indigenous Joseon architecture, including much of the Gyeongbukgung.  In place of the mediaeval city, they inscribed a European-inspired, totally rational urban plan of broad boulevards, grand vistas and monumental civic buildings: buildings such as the controversial former Government General Offices, demolished in 1995.

Today, much of colonial Seoul has vanished, demolished and built over by a city keen to get over a particularly difficult period of its history – the Japanese were brutal colonial masters and attempted to systematically eradicate Korean culture and replace with it with the Japanese.

But around downtown Seoul, some instances still remain of the Keijo era – in some cases, just barely.  The Keijo City Hall, for example, was literally in the midst of being torn down when the Cultural Heritage Department of the city declared it a protected site and halted demolition.

Keijo also remains in the urban fabric of the city – in the many low-rise front-facing stores that remind one of the same in the (Imperial) cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. And also in how modern-day Seoul (like modern-day Tokyo) is a towering city of glass and steel.

The Bank of Korea Building (1912) is built in a typical Meiji Imperial Architecture.  It resembles the Bank of Japan in Tokyo.

The Bank of Korea Building (1912) is built in a typical Meiji Imperial Architecture. It resembles the Bank of Japan in Tokyo.

Colonial-era bank building adjacent to the Bank of Korea.

Colonial-era bank building adjacent to the Bank of Korea.

The former Korea First Bank was built in 1933 and is today's Standard Chartered Bank.

The former Korea First Bank was built in 1933 and is today’s Standard Chartered Bank.

The Shinsegae Department Store was formerly the Mitsukoshi Department Store, built in 1930.

The Shinsegae Department Store was formerly the Mitsukoshi Department Store, built in 1930.

Municipal Building

Municipal Building

Seoul Central Train Station, built in 1925 is a classic example of Meiji Imperial Architecture.

Seoul Central Train Station, built in 1925 is a classic example of Meiji Imperial Architecture.

The Ilmin Building was built in 1926 by the Dong-A Ilbo 東亞日報.

The Ilmin Building was built in 1926 by the Dong-A Ilbo 東亞日報.

Commercial Building

Commercial Building

The Old Woori Bank Building was built in 1909 and is one of the oldest colonial buildings in downtown Seoul.

The Old Woori Bank Building was built in 1909 and is one of the oldest colonial buildings in downtown Seoul.

The former National Theatre of Korea in Myeongdong was built in 1934.

The former National Theatre of Korea in Myeongdong was built in 1934.

Colonial-era buildings in Myeongdong.

Colonial-era buildings in Myeongdong.

More colonial-era buildings.

More colonial-era buildings.

New and old in the Myeongdong area.

New and old in the Myeongdong area.

Streetcar from the Keijo era.

Streetcar from the Keijo era.

 

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About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Landmarks & History, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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