It had been a while since we visited the always fun, down-to-earth Jeollanam-do. I need to say the majority of my best explorations have taken place down in this southern province. I have not spent much time urbexing in Gangwon, Chungcheong, and Gyeongsang provinces, so I am biased. However, compared to my adventures in Seoul or Gyeonggi-do, it’s got the most diversity in abandonment sites. The Seoul metropolitan region is always bulldozing the old. At the same time, the development fever is slower, and it’s easier to come across places like defunct universities, hospitals, children’s discipline camps, and accessible empty elementary schools.
My wife and I visited Isaiah (his wife was on a business trip) for the weekend at the end of November. Isaiah always has some great locations lined up every time we go down, and he failed to disappoint once again. Our weekend consisted of two extensive explorations; the first being an abandoned university near the coast, and the second…. well, I can’t talk about that one anytime soon. It was a phenomenal experience, and I will write about that one day when the time presents itself.
For now, enjoy the pictures of _____ University. Another private university shut down in Korea for the usual reasons of corruption and embezzlement. It’s connected to a broader corruption case linked to one man Lee Hong-ha, a serial establisher of universities, hospitals, and high schools, and then lining his pockets with skimmed tuition and construction money. Lee embezzled over 100 billion won from his various ventures and has been sitting in jail since 2012. Isaiah has written many times about this guy in past Gwangju News articles. Lee’s corruption widely reverberates through the region even today. Even the second place we went to, the one I can’t discuss at this time, has a connection with Lee Hong-ha.
In my opinion, Korean university buildings are bland, conservative, and forgettable to look at that I usually sigh out, “Good God, this campus is a monstrosity.” I think I’ve explored six abandoned universities in total, and they are all pretty much either dull brown brick or gray concrete tiled rectangles. Korean universities are not picturesque, and I pretty much put no effort into getting external pictures of the places because of this. However, these campuses are worth your time because of all the great and fascinating stuff left behind.
This school is the fifth abandoned university Isaiah and I have explored in the Jeolla provinces. Most of them are sitting empty; the only one demolished is the Ssanchon Campus of Honam University. That one was sitting on land people were dying to redevelop into highrise apartments. The other four Isaiah and I explored are in the middle of nowhere, inconvenient locations for students who want to take a break from their studies and have fun in the city. Attending these universities is like taking a monk’s oath during meditation retreat season and becoming a Bodhidharma-like hermit.
Unfortunately, I can’t present many cool pictures of yearbooks or sports jerseys because the university’s name is prominently displayed to reveal the name and, ultimately, the school’s location.
Isaiah had visited the campus one time before for research purposes. For some reason, this campus was still functioning until October of this year. Was it the pandemic that finally killed it? How did it survive after Lee Hong-ha went to prison? I’m going to presume the government repossessed the school and auctioned it off to another group of investors that tried to keep the sinking school a float until this past October.
Let’s say it was about eighty-five percent abandoned. Despite its defunct status, life still goes on here, albeit faintly. A caretaker still attends to his duties in the guard post at the front entrance. Other hints include a fresh cigarette smell in one of the halls, someone (students?)blasting loud music from the top floors of another building, and people turning a classroom into a batting cage. This campus wasn’t an easy-going exploration; we had to keep our ears and eyes tuned to any sound. I’m sure that life will slowly fade away from this place over the coming months and years, making it more enticing for future visits to explore the parts we didn’t see on this day in late November.