There are two particular houses I present to you today. Both hanoks offer different stories. One had been lived in until recently and was the home of a university professor. It was still fit for living. The other had been vacant for years. It was as if the people took the essentials and left for good. Both residencies were found in a small patch for redevelopment in the Gyerim-dong-dong area of Gwangju. These places might be gone now. It was November 2019 when my friend and I checked it out.
I’ll start with the Professor’s House. This hanok was probably considered well-to-do thirty or fourth years ago. It was spacious and roomy on the inside and out, unlike most abandoned hanoks I’ve been in. Fortunately for us explorers, we were left with a lot of artifacts to go through. It turns out one of the residents was a chemistry professor at Chonnam National University from its beginning in 1952. He was a very well rounded man. Pictures found show him skydiving. Many commemorative pennants of hiking events littered the floor indicate his love of communing with nature. Take a look at the wide passageway. I’ve never seen one this broad before. The Professor had a lovely house. It’s sad to see a home of this quality get razed. This place had been well tended to and cared for. The other hanok I will show later is more typical in how I find them in Gwangju. Let’s take a look at some of the Professor’s possessions. Spewed out on the floor, we’re all commemorative pennants from hikes long ago. I think the earliest one I found was from the late 1960s. I would have loved to take more pictures of individual ones, they were so eye-catching, but there were so many to rummage through. We round a bunch of Buddhist cassettes along with a towel with Bodhidharma’s likeness on it. At the same time, I saw some Christian imagery as well. He might have been an open-minded, spiritual person, or maybe he was a man who passively accepted religious material. I’d prefer the former, as he seemed to be a learned man. t Pictures were scattered all over the floor, yet the only picture I have of the Professor is ready to go up on an airplane and jump out. Seemed like an awesome guy. On to the next Gyerim-dong house, that is the polar opposite of the Professor’s house in numerous ways. Said home is a smaller, typical hanok built in the 60s or 70s. The place was cluttered and had been abandoned for years. The lone calendar read August 2015.
Accessibility through the front was difficult as the weeds had taken over. High levels of dust and grime have accumulated, making this place (IMHO) a mask-required exploration. Our first impressions as we climbed over from a house next door. The most exciting find was this hanbok. It’s always sad finding discarded traditional garments like this. Taking a peek into the window, of once was a child’s room, you will see that it’s piled in clothes. You cannot see the floor.
Further skimming of the surface, we found baby pictures and this cupping device. It still baffles me when people abandon their child’s photos. Next time I’m in Gwangju, Mr. Urbexpat and I will check back in with these two places. Hopefully, they will still be standing.