Seoul / How the Japanese occupation shaped the city of Seoul – Urban strategies

With the beginning of the occupation, the constructions described in the previous article, of monach-centered projects, became  impossible. Japanese instituted their own reforms to bring their vision of modernity in Korea to serve the expansion of their Empire and use Korea as a backup of resources. The main change was that instead of serving the Korean power, these improvements and spatial reogarnization served the Japanese emperor and treated the korean populations as his subjects and not as citizens anymore. These transformations mostly occured between 1910 and 1925 and permitted political and sociological changes.

The Gyeongbok Palace
The Gyeongbok Palace
Picture of the Gwanghwamun Door of the Gyeongbok Palace before its destruction (beginning of the 20th century)
Picture of the Gwanghwamun Door of the Gyeongbok Palace before its destruction (beginning of the 20th century)

Indeed all the urban transformations has been done in order to desacralize the Korean royal power and bring closer Korean and Japanese populations to finally assimilate the Korean culture. One of the strategies adopted by the Japanese government was to transform royal and sacred monuments into public space either parks or monuments  accessible to everybody without restrictions. Gyeongbok Palace which was built in 1394 and composed of 220 buildings has been almost entirely torn down. The buildings of Changdeok Palace has been burnt. Most of the representative building of the Joseon Dynasty were destroyed and replaced by equipments such as schools or banks. Even though, the Japanese Empire developed many infrastructure, the disparities in terms of development did exist. especially because the Korean and Japanese districts were easily distinguished and expatriate leaders petitioned to make road and infrastructures improvements around Honmachi, where their community was historically settled and which became the center of the transformations even if it wasn’t in agreement with the project imagined by the Japanese Empire to change the capital into a showcase for Japanese modernity on a larger scale.

Picture of the Japanese district Honmachi during the occupation
Picture of the Japanese district Honmachi during the occupation

 


References:

David I. Steinberg (1989) The Republic of Korea, Economic Transformation and Social Change, Westview Press
TODD, H. (2014) Assimilating Seoul: Japanese Rule and The Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945. Asia Pacific Modern. A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies

2 Comments on “Seoul / How the Japanese occupation shaped the city of Seoul – Urban strategies

  1. The harmony of a city to its citizen is always came from history. Any invasion in history included the destruction of mental symbol, to divide, to control the original groups. The difference between invasion and evolution can be distinguished therefore. Any other development is for the own benefit of invader.
    Knowing the influence of destructing own history, the value of it should be always valued again and again.

  2. it is interesting to see the conflict influence in Seoul by Japanese Architecture. But I’m more interested to know how Japanese architecture has change the public space architecture in more details. E.g the relation between public road path and Seoul/mix Japanese architecture? Also I want to know how those interesting moments from Japanese architecture had been inserted into Seoul architecture.

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