Update: Buddhist Temple and 1930’s Hanok, Northern Seoul

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One moment you find a fantastic discovering in an abandoned neighborhood, such as an abandoned Buddhist temple or old hanoks that date back to the colonial era. If you’re lucky, you might get a few months to explore and photograph every nook and cranny these sites. You might even find evidence, or have colleagues that can provide insight into the building or area. Other times you only have a couple visits before a building is destroyed or drastically altered from the way it was left behind. For me, I only had one chance to visit the infamous Gonjiam Hospital before it was razed. Good riddance, though. It had become a popular destination for trouble. Taggers, unaware ex-pats, and vandals had turned this abandonment into a shit show.

Anyways,  I want to share a couple of updates that I discovered this weekend from exploring. First, I want to share some neat details I found checking in on this old hanok that I wrote about last week. I wanted to reshoot it from a different angle, so I got on top of the outhouse and discovered this fascinating piece of history.

大日本 = Great Japan
Another trip is needed to see if there any more of these rare, historically significant tiles.


I only checked these two tile stones, there might be more around the perimeter of the house, but the hanja reads 大日本, or “Great Japan.” The tile is also decorated with duel Hinomaru flags of Japan.  I was told by an expert that this particular tile is extremely rare and that they should be preserved as valuable evidence of Korea’s colonial past. I hope that the previous owner of this house has plans to salvage these blocks and not have these artifacts be lost to redevelopment. IMG_0649IMG_0648

Also, from my viewpoint, I discovered these attractive etched tiles, I am not sure if they are from the 30s as well, but I had ever seen intricate patterns like this on tiles before. The neighborhood in which this house is located is still in the early stages of redevelopment. I feel I have a few more visits before the end.

Unfortunately,  the end has come on the abandoned, dusty Buddhist temple that I discovered about a month ago. Scavengers came by since my last visit and took the statues and most of the taenghwa. One lone painting remains, covered up by an overturned board. People had ransacked the place; this was definitely not a case of representative monks and nuns coming by to retrieve the sacred objects for their order.

I feared the worst when I saw this scene.
Yep… all cleared out!



I was in awe that I forgot to shoot some videos of this place. It’s a perfect example of Buddha’s teaching of impermanence. It’s all a matter of time before that entire area is repurposed to meet the needs of middle-class families.

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