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    Modern History and Culture Exploration

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    #drive course #museum #history #exhibition

    Modern History and Culture Exploration Course

    Former Dongbonwonsa Mokpo Branch (Now Ogeori Culture Center)

    Mokpo Modern History Museum 1 (Former Japanese Consulate)

    Mokpo Modern History Museum 2 (Former Oriental Development Company)

    Seongok Memorial Hall

    Nojeokbong Peak

    (Former) Honam Bank Mokpo Branch (currently Mokpo Pop Music Hall)



    In 1897, Mokpo flourished to be called one of the 'Top 3 Ports and 6 Major Cities' as it grew into a modern city through its independent port opening. It was a city at the heart of Korea's modern and contemporary history, especially during the Japanese occupation. Many buildings in Mokpo still bear traces of its modern history. Mokpo, a center of modern history where history and culture coexist, invites you on a 'time travel to the modern era,' looking back at Mokpo's history from its port opening in 1897 to the present.

    The first stop is the Former Dongbonwonsa Mokpo Branch. Established in Mokpo after the port opening in 1897, it was the first Japanese Buddhist temple in the area, officially known as 'Jinjong Daegokpa Dongbonwonsa.' It was the first and officially operated Japanese elementary school in Mokpo, receiving approval for the establishment of Mokpo Shim Sang High School. Located in Ogoli, the center of old downtown Mokpo, it was slightly off the center of the Japanese residential area but was still a suitable location for a temple, being a border area where Koreans and Japanese interacted. After liberation, it was managed by Junggwangsa Temple and became Mokpo Central Church in 1957, marking a unique history of a temple transforming into a church. On January 19, 2010, it opened as Ogoli Culture Center and is now used for various cultural events and exhibitions.

    < Former Dongbonwonsa Mokpo Branch (Registered Cultural Property No. 340) >

    ☞ Address: 5, Yeongsan-ro 75beon-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (58728), South Korea

    ☞ Contact: 061-245-8832

    ☞ Visitor Information

    ◾ Hours: 9 AM - 6 PM / Admission: Free

    ◾ Closed on Mondays, Sundays, and public holidays

    Walking past the once bustling Mokpo Ogeori and following the main road for about 10 minutes, you will come across the Mokpo Modern History Museum 1. This place used to be the Japanese Consulate. As you approach the main gate and continue up, you will be greeted by an imposing and magnificent building standing proudly with dignity.

    Known to the public as a filming location for the drama 'Hotel Del Luna,' it has become a must-visit destination and a hot spot for tourists visiting Mokpo. The building's exotic and beautiful architecture, offering perfect photo opportunities from any angle, has especially captivated the attention of visitors.

    This oldest and largest building in Mokpo, which was initially a part of Manhocheong (Mokpojin), a naval base during the Joseon Dynasty, was temporarily used as a consulate after the opening of Mokpo Port in October 1897. As the influx of Japanese residents in Mokpo increased, a new building was constructed in 1900 at its current location, moving the consulate there. It is Mokpo's first Western-style modern building and a nationally designated cultural heritage site, maintaining its original interior and exterior. After liberation, it served various roles, including Mokpo City Hall, a public library, and Mokpo Cultural Center. Since 2014, it has been operating as Mokpo Modern History Museum 1, a historical exhibition hall where you can explore everything from the beginnings of Mokpo to its modern history, rightfully called a 'treasure trove of modern history.'

    Before Mokpo's port opening, spanning from the Joseon Dynasty to the present, the museum is divided into seven themes. The journey begins on the 1st floor in Zones 1-2, moves up to the 2nd floor for Zones 3-5, and

    then returns to the 1st floor for Zones 6-7. The museum's diverse visual materials and exhibits explain how Mokpo has changed and developed over time, making each zone an interesting visit.

    1. Starting as Mokpojin: The role and appearance of Mokpojin as a naval defense position in the southwestern sea of the Korean Peninsula.

    2. Rebirth as a Port City: Mokpo's voluntary port opening in 1897 and its rise as a renowned city of rice, cotton, and salt.

    3. The Frontline of Resistance: The history of resistance against the Japanese Consulate, Oriental Development Company, Mokpo Prison, and Mokpo Police Station, including the March 1st and April 8th Independence Movements and youth movements.


    4. Spread of Foreign Cultures: The propagation of various cultures, education, and religions like Christianity, Catholicism, and Dongbonwonsa (Japanese Buddhism).

    5. Era of Popular Culture: Establishment of theaters and Peace Hall, modern film screenings, performances, popular music, and vibrant cultural activities.

    6. Join the Independence Movement: A visitor experience corner themed around the April 8, 1919 Independence Movement.

    7. Special Exhibition on Modern City Architecture: Various modern buildings constructed post-port opening, incorporating foreign influences. 

    Zone 6, which allows visitors to experience the Independence Movement, also features a small recreation of the set from the drama ‘Hotel Del Luna,’ popular among all age groups. The familiarity of the filming location from the drama added freshness to the experience. By the time visitors finish exploring the comprehensive two-story Zone 7, they can understand why the museum is called a 'treasure trove of modern history.' It offers a rich exploration of Mokpo's independence movement, modern religion, education, and cultural facets.

    < Mokpo Modern History Museum 1 (Nationally Designated Cultural Property Historic Site No. 289) >

    ☞ Address: 6, Yeongsan-ro 29beon-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (58729), South Korea

    ☞ Contact: 061-242-0340

    ☞ Visitor Information

    ◾ Hours: 9 AM - 6 PM / Closed on January 1 and every Monday

    ◾ Admission Fees: Adults 2,000 Won, Teenagers 1,000 Won, Elementary Students 500 Wo

    Walking down about 3 minutes from Mokpo Modern History Museum 1, you will find Mokpo Modern History Museum 2.
     If you have a ticket from Museum 1, you can visit Museum 2 for free, so it's recommended to see both!

    Mokpo Modern History Museum 2 is housed in a building that was once used as a branch of the 'Oriental Development Company,' a special company established by Japan to monopolize Korea's economy during the Japanese colonial period. It can be seen as a symbol of exploitation during the occupation.


    After liberation, the building was used by the Korean Maritime Police and as the Mokpo Maritime Defense Command's Military Police headquarters. It once faced the threat of demolition due to its symbolic association with Japanese colonialism but has been operating as Mokpo Modern History Museum 2 since 2006. The museum exhibits the history of the building's inception, development, and the process of exploitation.

    Mokpo has been a central point for the collection of abundant rice from the vast granaries of Honam and marine resources from the southwest sea, connected by sea routes to Japan. Therefore, governing structures like the Japanese Consulate and the Oriental Development Company were established here. People from Mokpo and the southwestern coast resisted Japanese exploitation through independence movements and student anti-Japanese movements, contributing to the democratization movements of the 1890s.


    The first floor's Exhibition Room 1 displays photos showing the streets, buildings, and daily life of Mokpo in the late 1920s. The second floor's Exhibition Room 2 offers a space to glimpse the history of national independence in the 1920s, modern independence movements, and stories of various independence activists who lived through Japanese aggression.


    Mokpo Modern History Museum 2 serves as an educational site of historical awareness, vividly revisiting the hardships of the Japanese colonial period and the forgotten scenes of Mokpo in the late 1920s. It features exhibitions including the first public display of photos of Japanese aggression and tangible records of the fierce national movements for independence. The museum not only offers various photo zones but also interactive contents such as games related to history, making it a valuable educational resource in learning modern history.

    < Mokpo Modern History Museum 2 (Provincial Cultural Property Monument No. 174)>

    ☞ Address: 18 Bunhwa-ro, Jungang-dong 2-ga, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (58754), South Korea

    ☞ Contact: 061-270-8728

    ☞ Visitor Information

    ◾ Hours: 9 AM - 6 PM / Closed on January 1 and every Monday

    ◾ Admission: Free with a ticket from Museum 1

    The next destination is the Seongok Memorial Hall, located just a 3-minute walk from Mokpo Modern History Museum 2. The Seongok Memorial Hall was established in 2003 by the children of Lee Hoon-dong, the founder

    of Joseon Naehwa (Co.) and the publisher of Jeonnam Ilbo, to commemorate his 88th birthday, known as 'Misu' (a traditional Korean celebration of longevity).

    Passing by the bust of Lee Hoon-dong, as you enter the memorial hall, a large central hall is situated. The hall includes exhibition rooms where you can explore the life of Seongok Lee Hoon-dong. In three exhibition rooms, there are collections of calligraphy, Korean paintings, and other fine art pieces, as well as ceramics by modern and contemporary masters, all lovingly collected by Lee Hoon-dong and his children throughout their lives.

    Behind the memorial hall lies 'Lee Hoon-dong's Garden,' said to be the largest private estate and garden in Honam, established during the Japanese colonial period. In front of the garden, there's an 'Annex,' presumably the former residence of Lee Hoon-dong. Deep inside, it seems to have been used as an office, with traces and the presence of Lee Hoon-dong still vividly felt. Notably, there's a vintage phonograph used for listening to music after dinner when President Park Chung-hee visited Mokpo, giving a sense of time-traveling back to those days. The preservation of these artifacts in their original state is impressive.

    Additionally, part of the Annex is used as a gallery, exhibiting artworks by local artists for free. Remarkably, all the revenue from the sales goes to the artists, and the exhibition schedule is fully booked a year in advance, indicating its popularity. This shows the immense passion and interest of Lee Hoon-dong and his children in the arts and local artists.

    < Seongok Memorial Hall (Provincial Cultural Property Material No. 165) >

    ☞ Address: 11 Yeongsan-ro, Yudal-dong, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (58729), South Korea

    ☞ Contact: 061-244-2527

    ☞ Visitor Information

    ◾ Hours: 9 AM - 12 PM, 1 PM - 5 PM / Closed on Mondays, public holidays, and during traditional Korean holidays

    ◾ Admission: Free

    Next, I headed to a place deeply revered by all South Koreans, embodying the spirit and soul of the greatly respected Admiral Yi Sun-sin - Nojeokbong Peak. Located in Yudalsan, Nojeokbong Peak, a massive rock formation rising just 60 meters above sea level, is historically significant. It was here during the Imjin War that Admiral Yi Sun-sin ingeniously used the terrain for advanced psychological warfare, successfully defeating the Japanese forces.

    During the Jeongyujaeran (the second Japanese invasion of Korea in 1597), Admiral Yi Sun-sin led an unlikely victory in the Battle of Myeongnyang with just 12 ships. While reorganizing his fleet, Joseon was in a critical situation with a severe shortage of military forces and provisions. At this crucial moment, Nojeokbong Park played a significant role.


    When Japanese ships were anchored off Yudalsan and monitoring the Joseon forces, Admiral Yi Sun-sin devised a strategy to compensate for his military inferiority. He covered the rocks of Nojeokbong with straw to make it appear as though large quantities of military rations were stored there. Additionally, he had civilians wear military uniforms and continuously circle around Nojeokbong, creating the illusion of a large army. He also spread white clay powder in the Yeongsan River, making the water flowing into the sea look like rice-washing water, deceiving the Japanese into thinking that the Joseon army was larger and causing them to retreat.


    This tactic around Nojeokbong later inspired a cultural and artistic form, believed to have influenced the development of the traditional Korean circle dance, Ganggangsullae. The ingenuity and bravery of Admiral Yi Sun-sin in overcoming difficulties were deeply impressive, making me proud to be a descendant of such a remarkable figure.

    < Nojeokbong Peak >

    ☞ Address: 45, Nojeokbong-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Chukhodong), 58729

    After absorbing the patriotic spirit of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, I visited the (former) Honam Bank Mokpo Branch. Honam Bank was established by local Korean leaders to nurture national capital against Japanese finances. The Mokpo branch, founded in 1929, was initiated by Hyun Jun-ho, a wealthy Honam resident. It's recognized as Registered Cultural Property No. 29.

    The bank operated independently against Japanese colonial financial policies and, after liberation, became Choheung Bank and Mokpo Cultural Center. Now, it serves as a modern history and culture space, showcasing Mokpo's artistic status in leading Korean popular music, hence being repurposed as the 'Hall of Popular Music.' This building, a unique modern financial architectural remnant in Mokpo, is highly valued as a national bank established and managed with pure Korean capital.


    The space profoundly resonates with the sacrifices and efforts of Mokpo citizens to preserve our national identity and autonomy from the Japanese colonial era to liberation.

    < (Former) Honam Bank Mokpo Branch (National Registered Cultural Asset No. 764) >

     Address: 34, Haean-ro 249beon-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Sangrak-dong 1-ga)

    ☞ Visitor Information

    ◾ Hours: 9 AM - 6 PM / Closed on Mondays

    ◾ Admission: Free

    The final destination of the modern historical cultural exploration is Mokpojin, which can be considered the starting point of Mokpo's history. Established in 1439 (21st year of King Sejong's reign) as a naval base to protect against Japanese pirates, Mokpojin played a significant role.

    Mokpojin served as a military base for the Joseon navy, also called 'Manhojin' as it was led by a commander titled 'Manho.' Geographically, Mokpo, holding the Yeongsan River estuary and a strategic point connecting to the sea, became prominent from the early Joseon period as a transport route for grain between Honam and southern Gyeongsang regions.


    Mokpojin, a historical strategic point in defending the southwest sea of the Korean Peninsula, was abandoned in 1895. In 1897, with the port's opening, it housed the Imperial Korean offices like Gamrisa and Customs. Now, the site, with only the monument of Mokpojin remaining, has been partially restored and utilized as Mokpojin Historical Park.


    During my visit, the park was bustling with preparations for the 2023 Mokpo Cultural Heritage Night Festival. The Mokpojin observatory offers a panoramic view of Mokpo city. Although only a portion is restored, it's a meaningful site, attesting to Mokpo's rich history. 



    < Mokpojin (Provincial Designated Cultural Material No. 137) >

    ☞ Address: 4, Mokpojin-gil 11beon-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Manho-dong)

    The painful history of the modern era during the Japanese occupation, and the determination and efforts for independence by many... Mokpo, a city where every step bears the history penetrating past and present. Through the 'modern history cultural exploration,' I hope you fully experience Mokpo, a gateway between modern and contemporary times.

    Main Places

    Tourist Attractions

    Former Dongbonsa Temple Mokpo Annex


    5, Yeongsan-ro 75beon-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Muan-dong)

    Tourist Attractions

    Mokpo Modern History Hall 1st Hall


    6, Yeongsan-ro 29beon-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Daeui-dong 2-ga)

    Tourist Attractions

    Mokpo Museum of Modern History 2


    18 Jungang-dong 2-ga, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do

    Tourist Attractions

    The Seongok Memorial Hall


    11, Yeongsan-ro, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Yudal-dong)

    Tourist Attractions

    Nojeokbong Peak


    45, Nojeokbong-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Sukhu-dong)

    Tourist Attractions

    The Mokpo branch of the former Honam Bank.


    34, Coastal-ro 249beon-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Sangrak-dong 1-ga) Mokpo Cultural Center (formerly Honam Bank)

    Tourist Attractions

    Mokpojin (Mokpojin


    4, Mokpojin-gil 11, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Manho-dong)

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