The School of Antiques, Jeollanam-do

Scroll down to content

Timing is everything in urban exploration; One day, you hear about a must-see location from a friend, but regrettably, workers demolished it by the time you make it out there. I never saw the legendary Okpo Land before its end, but in one way, I’m glad it’s gone because of the negative attention brought by legend trippers.

Other times you stumble upon a place like Namgwang Hospital at the right time and experience one of the greatest abandonments in all of Korea. Unfortunately, you never know when a redeveloped neighborhood or abandoned building will be torn down or repurposed. Isaiah and I only had a weekend to investigate the former Seowon University Hospital before workers began removing the cancer jars, old medical equipment, ambulances and prepping it for its razing.

Then there are the moments where you catch a glimpse of a site at its end. I was fortunate to see the legendary Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital before it met its demise. When I visited in 2017, the sight of spray paint and other damage caused by vandals was a bit of disappointment. Of course, I found bits of interesting artifacts but Gonjiam at that point was overexposed and mercifully put to rest in May 2018.

I had heard of today’s featured location a lot since I first got involved in urban exploration in 2014. So Isaiah and Lex’s telling of their discovery and subsequent exploration of this former school-turned art/antique storage unit made an imprint on my mind. The two were able to go inside on their initial visit, but Isaiah returned in 2019 to find it locked up, which dampened my hope of perusing whatever interesting cultural artifacts lay beyond its doors.

Fast forward to the last weekend of May this year; we had just left the Boot Camp for Brats, thinking we already had a great exploration day. But, to our delight and surprise, we happened to be cruising on the highway that bisected through the path of the school. We made a quick U-turn to see the demolition and destruction in progress.

It’s all theory, but on the left side is a photo that shows that the hallway extended further long ago; now the doorway only leads to a steep drop and a world of pain. On the right, is a street view image of the school’s side. The owners had patched it up with colorful tarps to beautify it.

The school mainly had been cleared out of stuff; only a few pictures remained, including banners with images of musicians like ABBA and Korean musician Kim Jeong-ho. Workers had ripped out the floorboards, exposing the ondol heating system. An headless and armless Kwanseum Bosal sat on a pedestal, still meditating in a full lotus position. The head and the hands on the floor nearby. Plus, I found the oldest Gold Star television in Korea not sitting in the contemporary history museum or nostalgic pop-up art installation.

There wasn’t much to note in the upstairs classrooms except for the remains of display stands, which further cements the idea that the previous owners used this place to show off art and modern cultural relics.

Around the school perimeter, we found other gems discarded as junk like a shattered Jijang Bosal and giant cartoon rendering of a boy in school uniform. Not much remained of the School of Antiques, but at least I got to see a semblance of the place. Who knows, maybe the owners are gutting the school to turn into a bougie cafe?

ADDENDUM: The following pictures are of the next destination we explored after the School of Antiques, the remnants of an old army base. Most of the old military property has been turned into an equestrian center; the area we explored remains untouched on the outskirts of the riding center. The highlight of this neglected patch is the North Korean (?) Chinese (?) or Communist super force (?) plastic soldier cut-outs hidden in the brush and old foxholes throughout the property, one even being used by farmers as a scarecrow.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: