In June of last year, I was tipped off about the impending demolition of a Japanese colonial-era house I call Roy’s House. Before it’s razing, my friend and I discovered a lot of valuable historical artifacts left behind by the last resident of the house. It was sad to see such a historically significant home and its contents go to waste. Just one month later, in a popular tourist area of Seoul, I discovered these two pre-liberation era houses on accident. Here is house number one, a place I wasn’t able to get into. I don’t remember what brought me to the site, I usually try to avoid the area at all costs on weekends. There is a steady flow of tourists in this area, making it difficult to climb the fence into this old building. Even when the coast was clear, I was unnerved by the possibility of passersby. I came back numerous times to scale the fence but wasn’t able to fully commit myself to infiltration.
The house next door was another story. With a gentle push, I was able to get in and admire its architecture. Unfortunately, it was the only time I was able to get in. After that one visit, someone had done a magnificent job of tying the door together.
In October, I went back to finally scale the fence and see what was in the other building. I came upon this scene. Well, there goes my plans. In January, I went back to see the status of the second building and found that workers had stripped the hanok of everything except its support beams. I haven’t been back since, but I fear it will be something high-end, like a coffee shop, restaurant, or boutique.
Since discovering Roy’s House and these two buildings, I have been on the lookout for colonial-era buildings to explore and document before they are either modernized or razed. If I was pressed into answering the question, “What is your favorite space to explore?” I would say colonial-era structures are my favorite because they are difficult to find. Many like the colonial buildings explored in Naju have been transformed from numerous renovations, it’s hard to find their original beauty. I fear the buildings featured today not be recognizable when they are opened.