Tucked in a forsaken corner of North Gwangju lies the Old Red Church. Despite buildings being erected and asphalt for parking lots being poured, this place lingers. At some point, a demo crew was hired to tear it down, only to half-heartedly tear down seventy percent of the structure and then quit. In front of the church, a parking lot was laid down that wraps around the building, making the church an island unto itself. It’s as if everybody around wants to forget the place by not mentioning its existence. The building is almost forgettable. ALMOST.
It’s that red chimney/tower that reminds me of a medieval castle that brings me back. The disappearing cross combined with the fading blood-red paint that leaves me feeling ill at ease, yet filled with curiosity. I have been back numerous times just to reshoot the tower/chimney because it is so unique and compelling. I have never seen a church building quite like this in my explorations in Korea.
While most of the structure lies in rubbles, the lone room left that standing offers strange, conflicting clues to the previous resident. Medicine in assorted forms littered the floor, giving the impression an elderly person or pharmaceutical salesperson lived here at one time. Tacked to the wall was a university class schedule dating back to 1992. On top of that, was this a house that doubled as a church or vice versa?
For most explorers, I will say that this church is worth visiting if you are in the area. However, if you are drawn to the blood-red chimney as much as I, I would squeeze it onto your Gwangju exploration itinerary.