Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The flow of time The standstill of space The story of a people Reconnecting them to culture

Popular music titled, “You are a street singer” was playing in a salon, It was a time when modern boys and girls would prance around Gyeongseong, meeting at coffee shops and cafes You can still see traces of Suwon’s modern times that could only be viewed in old movies. I am writing a story of the time and place that is inspired by faded red bricks. 

Suwon began to develop in earnest at the time of the completion of Suwon Station of the Gyeongbu line was completed (1903). Since then, based on Suwon Hwaseong, the center of administration, culture and economy, buildings began to be erected one by one while boasting of their appearance. While walking along Suwoncheon stream, embracing the quiet and still view of Hwaseong, the modern buildings seize the steps of people passing by.

100 years of history flow along Suwoncheon stream
First, when walking from Hwahongmun to Paldalmun along the Suwoncheon stream, you can find a small church called Dongsin Church, which consists of an old white building. Dongsin Church is the oldest church in Suwon, built in 1900, and it is the place where the tombstone of Norimatzu Masayaz, the first Japanese missionary, is positioned. 
As a Japanese, the priest Norimatzu Masayaz felt guilty about the death of Empress Myeongseong after the Eulmi Incident, and devoted himself to missionary activities by establishing Dongsin Church in Korea using the incident as a source of motivation. He desired to be buried in Korea before his death, so his follower buried his remains at the foot of present day Mt. Gwanggyosan after passing away in Odahara, Japan, while on furlough in 1921. However, as the Korean Veteran’s Hospital was later built here position, the tombstone was moved to the back side of the church. 
There is Jongno Church near Dongsin Church, and it was the first Protestant church in Suwon which was started from a community of believers in 1899. They established the Bosidong Church (Former name of the Suwon Jongno Church) at 116 Bosi-dong in 1901, and moved to the Suwon Jongno intersection after 6 years in 1907. This is the present look of the church. When building this church, the exterior was decorated by piling up red bricks while installing a large window, and decorating the window again with stained glass. 

In addition, there is the Samil School and Maehyang Girl’s School nearby the Suwoncheon stream just like with the Paichai and Ewha High Schools of Seoul, and they are positioned alongside a wall at the foot of Mt. Jungposan in Suwon. The Samil Institute is a school affiliated with the church which was started by the American missionary W. Swearer (Seo Won-bo) in 1903 by gathering 15 boys. They used the church building to teach classes in the beginning, however, the school opened in 1923 under the name of Adams Memorial Hall as the believers raised a construction fund of 20,000 yen. 
Overall the building was built with red bricks, and the roof was constructed by a galvanized iron sheet covering after placing a wooden truss on the wall, and laying thick boards over it. The basement was built by piling up roughly trimmed rocks, and the walls of the 1st and 2nd floor were built with red bricks. The floor was decorated by installing wood plates between floors. The porch and the interior of the 1st floor of Adams Memorial Hall were reinforced by installing iron pipes to support the columns, and it was designated as a cultural asset in 2001. 
Maehyang School was also started by the missionary Scranton of the America’s North Methodist Church in 1941. It seems that the school name Maehyang was decided on because it was located in Maehyang-ri. The willow trees standing in a row along both sides of Suwoncheon stream, which flows in front of the Samil School and the Maehyang School, create a great view while harmonizing the old and red buildings. 
Again, when walking along Suwoncheon stream towards the chicken alley, you will reach Suwonsa, one of the 3 mission centers together with Dongnamgaknu. Suwonsa is called one of the 3 mission centers together with Gakhwangsa (Present day Jogyesa), the first mission center in Korea, and the Gangneung Mission Center, and Dongnamgaknu Suwonsa was a symbol of modern Buddhist urban propagation. This temple, which was established as Suwon mission center of the Yongjusa Temple in 1912, propagated in the city during the Japanese colonial era. 
Its name was once changed to Hwagwangsa in 1957, and now it is called Suwonsa. Geuknakdaewonjeon, the main sanctuary of Suwonsa, was built when the temple was founded in 1912, and it still looks the same even after 100 years. There is a lion-shaped statue to the left of the Geuknakdaewonjeon’s stylobate, and a dragon-shaped one to the right. As Suwonsa played a role as the cradle of modern culture, as well as urban propagation, the exhibition of Na Hye-seok, the first female painter in Korea, was held here place, and it provides residents with a place to rest. 

Utilization of modern buildings after the Japanese colonial era
Upon entering the printing alley of the south gate after passing Suwoncheon and changing direction, Bugukwon can be found on the opposite side of Suwon Church. Bugukwon is a building that was constructed during the Japanese colonial era, and it was the head office of Bugukwon, the company that supplied nurseries, seeds and farm equipment for the first time in Korea. After independence, it was put to a variety of different uses including a prosecutor’s office, offices of the Republic Party, and a temporary office of the Suwon District Court and prosecutor’s office. It was even once used as a private hospital after 1980s. The present day Bugukwon building, which was a private property, was on the brink of demolition in 2015, but the City of Suwon purchased it, and it is scheduled to be designated as a registered cultural asset. 
While walking straight towards the Paldal-gu Health Center after passing Bugukwon, you can come across buildings of the Suwon Family and Women Center. Here you will see two buildings constructed of red brick and concrete, and they were established when the construction of government buildings was booming after the Korean War. The main building that was constructed with reinforced concrete looks quite dignified as the exterior was finished with stones, and we can recognize the influence of Modernism Architecture, which was popular back then, in the proportion of canopy of the entrance, and the module of the windows.
It was used as a city hall building until the time when the city office moved to the southern area of Suwon in 1980. Then, it was once used by the Gwonseon-gu office, and at present, the Suwon Family and Women Center is using this building. The red building adjacent to it was the government office building of the City of Suwon which was built as a 2-story brick structure. It is a building with a nearly completely square-type floor and hipped roof, and the roof is tiled with cement material. Especially, the head jamb of the 1st floor window was decorated with bud-shaped ornaments, and that of the 2nd floor window was decorated by rotating a horizontal string course on the upper and lower surfaces. The details of each and every corner of the building create an atmosphere of art deco. 

Walking along this street, you will reach the Provincial Government Office of Gyeongi-do. There is an old building as well, that is located here. The old building of the Provincial Governement of Gyeonggi-do, which was built in 1967, is a concrete building with a long history. It is still being used today along with a newer building, and it still provides us with classical grace and dignity due to the traces of times. It is also a representative work of Kim Hi-chun (deceased), one of the veteran architects of Korea representing the 21st century. With regard to the exterior of the building, the frame of the reinforced concrete structure is exposed, and the exterior wall is covered with glass windows. As there is a terrace on all four sides of each floor, the business area is directly connected to the outside spaces. It is a “ㅁ’-shaped building with a courtyard in the center. This type of building was popular in the southern area in the 1960s, and it has an open design created by considering ventilation and lighting. 
Upon arriving at Suwon Station, the gateway to Suwon, after passing the provincial government building, you can view the railroad cultural assets which show the history and culture of railways of modern times. On the way to the Sepyeong underground roadway in the direction of Osan, you can come across two water towers, which resemble chimneys, on the right-hand roadside. The two towers standing alongside it were the facilities for supplying water to steam locomotives in the platform using the difference in elevation, after pulling up the water to the water tanks of the tower using a steam pump fueled with coal, since there was no water supply system back then. The water towers had been used until a time when UN forces began to use diesel locomotives in the 1950s. The bigger cement water tower mostly supplied water to local trains, and the red one was used to supply water to trains with narrow gauges on the Suin and Suyeo lines. 

Finally, there is Korea Silk Museum where you can learn about the history of Korea’s sericulture. Sericulture in Korea has a long history of approximately 5,000 years. There are well-known places for sericulture in each region of the country, and in Suwon, the Sericulture Laboratory (Former sericulture and insect department of the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences) has been researching this field since 1917. The building of the Korea Silk Museum was the place for research on making silk threads using cocoons since 1935. It opened as a museum on June 29, 1999, and the interior was renovated for exhibition purposes, however, the roofs and external wall show the characteristics of the factory and testing laboratory at the time it was constructed. 
After looking around the modern buildings, I somehow feel that something is missing. There are buildings managed as cultural heritages, however, most of them belong to private owners, were demolished or deserted, and are awaiting a restoration opportunity. I think these architectural heritages remember the life of Suwon citizens, while keeping their places in solitude for more than 100 years. It can be anticipated that the broken and erased stories of modern history could be preserved and shared with more people. 

* Part of the scripts are the writer’s personal opinion, which were reconstituted based on the content of the Research on Gyeonggi-do’s Architecture (2012~2013),and architectural evaluations may be different. This opinion does not reflect the official position of the foundation.