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.
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.
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