2019 was a year full of fantastic explorations. On New Years Day 2019, we started the year off right by exploring an abandoned university that curiously had an abandoned plane as well. Said plane was far more exciting than the university. This year was also where we finally saw a long decaying neighborhood that is in the process of getting torn down. We found a grandmother who was an avid art collector. Mr. Urbexpat and I would need multiple visits to capture the beauty of her home. 2019 was also the year I dedicated myself to traveling to more parts of Korea to check off places on my to-do list. I finally got to see the old girl’s high school in Daejeon, the Say Sue Me Slides in Busan, The Alps in Gangwon-do, and the Chinese Circus on Jeju Island. There are many more locations that I could list here, but these places immediately come to mine. If I forgot any, just take a look at past blog posts. With all sincerity, I can say that I found something of interest at every location I visited this year. Here’s to more surprising discoveries in 2020!
It would be pure foolishness to forget mentioning Nam Gwang Hospital. If I had composed a top-ten list, this would have tied for number one with today’s location, Roy’s House. For a brief moment in time, we had found a second Nightmare Lab. Now, as I write this, the hospital is being gutted and being prepped for demolition. All the artifacts we discovered are being in the process of being taken out and thrown out. Hopefully, they properly dispose of the cancer jars. I have no idea what they are going to do with the place. It’s been an eyesore and a magnet for vandalism since 2012. At least we still have our photos.
I’ve been sitting on Roy’s House since June. The story behind this place is worth a book (or academic article) in itself. I don’t know what medium or how Roy’s account will be presented, but I hope to see something come out of it. I can only give minimum details at this time as the research is still on-going. Know that the history of this place centers around a man named Roy.
Jon alerted our group that they had started the demolition with this colonial-era house. He has a friend that lives across the street from Roy’s House and gave him updates to the house. Apparently, the house had been abandoned for a few years. Jon was able to get in a few days before me and get pictures while the structures were still intact. Check them out here. I went in the early evening on a rainy day. It was the only time access would be possible. I circled the block a few times, waiting for workers to call it a day. Despite the poor pictures that came out, I was able to document Roy’s life for a few hours. Jon eventually joined me too.
Roy was a learned man. As is evident in the piles of books, magazines, and newspaper article clippings. He was fond of reading National Geographic, Newsweek, and Time Magazines. He read books in Japanese, Korean, and English.
We also found that Roy was a dedicated writer. As were most educated people were of his generation. We know about Roy because of his correspondences with friends, businessmen, and even the first president of the Republic of Korea, Syngman Rhee. Roy was born in South Jeolla Province in 1904. In 1922, he went to America to visit his father, who had immigrated earlier and to pursue schooling. Roy attended grammar school, high school, and university in Portland, Oregon. He kept carbon copies of the writings sent out as well as the letters he received. Roy liked to hold onto things, which provided us mountains of information but made it hard to maneuver around.
Roy’s house was huge. The older of the two buildings was had two stories and had something I had never seen in a Korean house ever: Tatami Mats. Tatami mats are a type of flooring in older Japanese homes. I never saw them in the modern houses that I visited in Japan, but I did see them in traditional buildings like temples and inns. This was on the top floor. At some point, Roy and the wife tried to modernize with a mixture of fake white brick and 70s funkadelic wallpaper. Perhaps they were trying to make the room less Japanese? It’s definitely a weird mixture of styles.
That it is folks, another year in the books. 2019 has been a fantastic year exploring Korea. I have some big plans brewing for 2020. Thanks to anyone who has followed along with my adventures.