Korea and their cities mapped: the CIA and the US Army

Historical maps of Korea before 1960s are mapped by foreign organizations such as the CIA and the US Army, and these maps are available at the Map Collection from the Perry-Castañeda Library at the University of Texas in Austin. Quite surprisingly, such maps are not found available on South Korea’s governmental websites.

Topography Map of Seoul by the US Army: NJ 52-9 [verso] Soul [Seoul] and Vicinity; Inch’on and Vicinity
Seoul 1946: Entire Map (7.6MB) from “Kyongsong or Seoul (Keijo) Kyonggi-do (Keiki-do), Korea”, original scale 1:12,500 (1st Edition) U.S. Army Map Service, 1946.
Pyongyang 1946: Entire Map (8.1 MB) Original scale 1:12,500 (1st Edition). Army Map Service L951 1946.
Korea 1:250,000 (4th Edition)
Seoul, Series L552, U.S. Army Map Service, 1950-

The maps range from detailed topography to military-based thematic maps of the entire Korean peninsula and their major cities such as Seoul. Some were drawn as early as 1912, but by a French book publishing company, Hachette & Company. One can imagine that the presence of foreign forces and the amount of detail mapped made Korea difficult to establish as a country prior to the Korean War. Their territory is completely understood, infiltrated and dissected by a stranger. Then it might also be possible that this led to a strong desire of creating a much more symbolic and national identity after the North and South became divided.

Seul and Environs 1912 from Northern China, The Valley of the Blue River, Korea. Hachette & Company, 1912

The amount of detail throughout the various editions published by the US Army chronologically maps Korea from the cities to nation-level sectors to the entire Korean Penninsula. These maps, although classified at the time, welcomed officers to make corrections, translations, and annotations on the existing documents, especially for the glossary. These maps were never returned to either the Korean governments after the war, although it may also be possible that the Korean governments had never acknowledged such detail.  Perhaps this historical mapping relationship had enforced the nationalism that South Korea had to establish as a country itself with its own industrial technology to map their country instead of letting foreign forces inside again, such as Google Maps.


See related post: https://asiancitiesresearch.online/seouls-historical-war-map-1946/


Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. Korea Maps. – UT Library Online. Accessed December 2, 2019. https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/korea.html#detailed.html.

1 Comment on “Korea and their cities mapped: the CIA and the US Army

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.