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    Time Travel to the Modern City of 1897

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    #museum #history #exhibition

    1897 Modern Travel Course

    Former Dongbonwonsa Mokpo Branch (Now Ogeori Culture Center)

    National Route 1,2 Origin Monument

    Mokpo Modern History Museum 1 (Former Japanese Consulate)

    Mokpo Modern History Museum 2 (Former Oriental Development Company)

    Seongok Memorial Hall

    Former Mokpo Public Shim Sang Elementary School

    Gyeongdong Cathedral

    Saseum Supermarket (Japanese-style Commercial House in Mokpo's bustling area)

    Former Donga Ladies' Association Mokpo Branch

      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 about 8 minutes along the main road from Ogeori (Five-Way Intersection) Culture Center, just before the road leading up to Mokpo Modern History Museum 1, there is a monument marking the origins of National Routes 1 and 2. Although the current starting point of National Route 1 has been changed to Chungmu-dong in Mokpo and that of Route 2 to Shinan County in Jeollanam-do, this site holds a significant place in South Korea's history as the original starting point of the country's first National Route 1 and the beginning of Route 2. A monument has been erected here to commemorate this.

      National Route 1 runs from Mokpo to Seoul and then to Sinuiju, while National Route 2 connects Mokpo to Busan.
    Mokpo is the starting point of these first and second national highways.
    This represents
    the beginning of South Korea's modern transportation network, being the starting point of Route 1 leading to Sinuiju and the beginning of Route 2 connecting to Busan.


      Although it might seem like just a small monument that could be easily missed, it symbolizes that Mokpo is not just the end of the Korean peninsula but the starting point of South Korea's modern road network.
    This monument helps us realize the significant status Mokpo held at that time and allows us to reflect on the importance of Mokpo in modern history,
    as it was the origin of both the first and second national highways.
    The starting points of Routes 1 and 2 may have changed, but Mokpo's role as the 'starting point of a modern city' remains the same.

    < National Routes 1 and 2 Origin Monument >

    Address: 1-163, Daeuidong 2-ga, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (58729), South Korea

      Next, we visit Mokpo Modern History Museum 1, formerly used as a Japanese consulate.

    To the left of the National Routes 1 and 2 Origin Monument, there's a signboard for 'Mokpo Modern History Museum 1.' Following the path upwards, a magnificent and imposing building welcomes visitors.
    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 KRW, Teenagers 1,000 KRW, Elementary Students 500 KRW

      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

      The next stop is the auditorium of the Former Mokpo Public Shim Sang Elementary School, now the Mokpo Yudal Elementary School auditorium.

    This school was established by Japanese residents who moved to Mokpo after the port opened, to educate their children. The school was initially established in 1898, a year after the port's opening, and relocated to its current location in 1899.

      The remaining building, constructed in 1929, was used as classrooms on the first floor and an auditorium on the second floor.

    After liberation, it hosted various cultural and art events in Mokpo. This building is historically significant as the only remaining elementary school educational facility from the Japanese colonial period in Mokpo, reflecting the architectural style of auditoriums from that time. It was designated as National Registered Cultural Property No. 30 in 2002.

    Address: 10 Yeongsan-ro 10beon-gil, Yudal-dong, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (58729), South Korea

      Next, we visited Gyeongdong Cathedral, the oldest existing cathedral building in the Mokpo area.

    It was established in 1954, separated from the Sanjeong-dong Parish to facilitate missionary work in the islands around Mokpo.

      The cathedral introduced ‘Legio Mariae,’ an organization within the Catholic Church that engages in all forms of social service and Catholic activities deemed beneficial for the welfare of the church. It spearheaded missionary activities, including visiting needy families. Despite challenging circumstances, the cathedral established a kindergarten to care for numerous war orphans during the Korean War, starting social welfare and educational activities. Recognized for its historical and religious significance, it was designated as National Registered Cultural Property No. 764 in 2019.Standing in front of this grand cathedral, one can only imagine how people supported each other through difficult times, filling one's heart with reverence and humanity.

    < Gyeongdong Cathedral (National Registered Cultural Heritage No. 764) >

    Address: 165 Haeannam-ro, Haeannam-dong 2-ga, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (58754), South Korea

      The next historical site on our time travel is Saseum Supermarket, a Japanese-style commercial residential building located in Mokpo's bustling area. Built in 1935, the building is located at a crossroads in what was once the central street of Mokpo. The first floor was a shop selling traditional Japanese shoes, and the second floor served as a residential space.

      Saseum Supermarket was a popular space for military police and locals when there were no accommodations nearby. It remained in use as a supermarket until recently. During my visit in 2023, it was closed due to the Mokpo National Sports Festival and Mokpo Cultural Heritage Night Festival.

    Currently, under Mokpo City's ‘Empty House Utilization Urban Regeneration Project,’ it serves as an exhibition space and resting place for visitors, making it a must-visit location.

    < Saseum Supermarket (National Registered Cultural Heritage No. 718-7) >

    Address: 26 Bunhwa-ro, Jungang-dong 2-ga, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (58754), South Korea

      The last destination of our 1890 modern city time travel is the Former Donga Ladies' Association Mokpo Branch. It was a branch of 'Donga Ladies' Association,' which opened in various places like Seoul, Mokpo, Gwangju, Daegu, Pyongyang, and Hamhung, starting in Jongno, Seoul, in 1920.
    It was established to sell household and daily necessities to Korean women during the Japanese colonial period.

      In 1937, the Mokpo branch of Donga Ladies' Association was so renowned that it was featured in newspapers as 'Mokpo's major department store.'
    It was a representative commercial building of modern Mokpo and a complex building from the Japanese colonial period, reflecting the lifestyle of that era.
    It's also historically valuable as
    the first modern enterprise and place operated predominantly by women.

    < Former Donga Ladies' Association Mokpo Branch (National Registered Cultural Heritage No. 718-7) >

    ☞ Address: 62 Bunhwa-ro, Haengbok-dong 2-ga, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (58753), South Korea

      Walking through the streets filled with modern architecture, it felt like becoming a person from that era, learning about the life and history of modern city Mokpo from the past to the present.
    Mokpo offers many sights, foods, and activities, but spending a day walking the streets of Mokpo's modern history with family, a partner, or children for a meaningful 'modern time travel' would be a great idea.

    Main Places

    Tourist Attractions

    Former Dongbonsa Temple Mokpo Annex


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

    Tourist Attractions

    Monument to the starting point of National Route 1 and 2


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

    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

    Former Mokpo Public Simsang Primary School


    25, Yeongsan-ro 10beon-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Gyeongdong 2-ga) Old Mokpo Public Heart Primary School

    Tourist Attractions

    Gyeongdong Cathedral


    33, Coastal-ro 165beon-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Gyeongdong 2-ga)

    Tourist Attractions

    Deer Supermarket. (Japanese shopping mall house 1)


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

    Tourist Attractions

    The Mokpo branch of the former Dong-A Women's Association.


    62 Jungang-ro, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do (Haengbok-dong 2-ga)

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