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More Heritage of Incheon

Korea Express Warehouse
Built in 1948, this red brick warehouse with a wood truss roof is now being transformed into an arts venue (along with the other warehouses in the area).

As penance for the lack of posting recently, I give you not one (see “Korean War Ruins of Cheorwon” below) but two photo essays.

No matter how many times I visit Incheon, it never gets old. I just love the place and its heady mix of exotic shapes and colors. Granted, not all Western visitors to Incheon — known historically as Jemulpo (or Chemulpo) — have been so enthralled with the place. One US Navy sailor wrote of the port in the 1890s:

It must not be thought from this that the other messes were lacking in anything, for each and every one conduced toward making the interior of the ship a picture, that once seen would never be forgotten. Chemulpo is a poor place to make liberties in, being cold and having no places of amusement. Several of the boys were frost bitten while in pulling boats. Coreans are very much like the Chinese, just as conceited and twice as dirty, if that is possible.

Hey, at least he spelled “Koreans” with a “C.”

Anyway, for a more detailed account of the city’s history and historic architecture, see this photo essay from 2007. This post includes Chinatown and the old concession areas, of course, but my primary destination was the Dong-gu area, with its old missionary schools, an old missionary home and a colonial-era water distribution plant.

Birthplace of Jajangmyeon

Old Gonghwachun

Old Gonghwachun

Gonghwachun Chinese Restaurant

The Gonghwachun, a two-story brick structure in Seollin-dong, used to be a Chinatown institution. It’s said to be the birthplace of jajangmyeon, that wonderful Sino-Korean dish based on the northern Chinese dish of zha jiang mian. From Dynamic-Korea:

Gonghwachun, a restaurant in Incheon’s central Seollin district, traces its origins back to about 1930, based on its tiles, square windows and fake facade which were meant to make it look like a modern flat slab building. Once the restaurant is officially designated as a historical site and the necessary repairs are made, an exact starting date will be finalized.

Nobody knows who or when anyone first served jajangmyeon, which are Chinese-style noodles, to Korean people. One thing which is certain is that Chinese immigrants, upon discovering the popularity of their food in Korea, began to set up shop with cheap, easy-to-make dishes for port workers. In 1905, the cooks at Gonghwachun were the first to add caramelized vegetables and meat to the traditional noodles mixed with Chinese black bean paste to please Korean taste buds.

Unfortunately, the restaurant has been closed since 1984, although a new Gonghwachun has opened up somewhere else in Chinatown. Repairs on the old site have been going on forever.

Jajangmyeon

This particularly nice bowl of jajangmyeon — actually, a “traditional Incheon jajangmyeon,” according to the menu — was consumed at Hyangmanseong (032-766-2916), an 80-year-old Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. Two thumbs up.

Fried Mandu

Everybody likes fried mandu, too.

Old Chinatown Gets a Facelift

Incheon Chinatown

Incheon Chinatown

Incheon Chinatown

Onggibyeong

If you compare the photos above with some of the ones I took in 2007, you’ll notice that many of the older restaurants in Chinatown have been, ahem, renovated. Quite sad, actually.

BTW, the last photo shows a shop selling Onggibyeong, dumplings baked on the walls of a big clay jar.

Old Home, Chinatown

Old Home, Chinatown

There’s enough colorful decay left, however, to still make Chinatown a pleasant place to walk around.

Incheon Chinese Zhongshan School (Old Qing Consulate Site)

Incheon Jungsan Chinese School

Cornerstone, Incheon Jungsan Chinese School

Plaque, Incheon Jungsan Chinese School

The Qing Dynasty set up a consulate on this site in the Year of Our Lord, Eighteen Hundred and Eight Four. Unfortunately, most of the old consulate was destroyed long ago — the Chinese school you see above was built in 1934. I couldn’t read what the cornerstone said — help from the Chinese literate would be welcomed — but the latter plaque was easy enough to read.

Like most Chinese schools in Korea, Incheon Chinese Zhongshan School is affiliated with the Republic of China a.k.a. Taiwan.

Former Meeting Hall of Old Qing Consulate

Just below the school is a former meeting hall from the consulate — it’s all that remains of the old Qing diplomatic compound.

Seollin-dong Chinese Row House

Seollin-dong Chinese Row House

Seollin-dong Chinese Row House

Probably built in 1939, this Chinese row house is the best preserved of Chinatown’s old Chinese dwellings. It’s all the more precious now with the row houses on Chinatown’s main drag being renovated beyond recognition.

Chemulpo Concession Steps

Chemulpo Concession Steps

These steps used to divide the Qing concession from the Japanese concession — as you can see, the stone lanterns on both sides of the step are done in different national styles.

Old Japanese Concession

Old Japanese House and Gwangdong Church

Japanese House

Former Incheon Branch of Juhachi Bank

Former Incheon Branch of 58 Bank

Former Incheon Branch of the Dai-ichi Korea Bank

We’ve seen this buildings before, so there’s no need to recount their history. If you’d like to do that, check out this post.

Remains of Daibutsu Hotel (?)

OK, this might not seem like much, but it may be all that remains of the Daibutsu (Daebul) Hotel, Korea’s first modern hotel, although the good Professor Son says that’s clearly mistaken and that it was the part of the Muratami Rigging Shop. Muratami was apparently a wealthy man — he had his brother set up a hardware shop in Sinpo-dong, and he had his fingers in Incheon’s seafood market. He acquired a lot of land, too, apparently kicking out the Koreans living there in the process.

Now, about the Daibutsu Hotel, old photos of which can be seen here. The hotel was built in 1888 by Hori Rikitaro a full 14 years before Seoul got its first Western style hotel, the Sontag Hotel, in 1902. It was designed for Westerners coming to Korea. Unfortunately for the hotel, the opening of the Seoul-Incheon railway eliminated the need for inbound travelers to stay in Jemulpo, so demand dried up. In 1918 or 1919, it was sold to a Chinese, who turned it into a Chinese restaurant, the Chung Hwaloo Chinese Restaurant and Bar, another place credited with inventing jajangmyeon. Sadly, despite the historic importance of the building, it was torn down in 1978.

The Giho Ilbo has an interesting piece — by Professor Son, no less — on Incheon’s old hotels and inns.

Former Incheon Office of Nippon Yusen

Former Incheon Office of Nippon Yusen

Former Incheon Office of Nippon Yusen

Founded in 1885, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha — today one of the largest shipping companies in the world — took over coastal shipping in Korea in 1895 (initially in trust of Korea’s first shipping company, Iwoonsa), eventually dominating the shipping in Incheon. The office was built either in 1895 or 1933 (I bet the latter), and is surrounded by period brick warehouses. Unlike the surrounding bank buildings and public offices, this was purely a company office. Used as an office by several other shipping companies before and after independence, it is now empty and undergoing restoration, having been registered as a cultural property.

Korea Express Warehouse

Korea Express Warehouse

Korea Express Warehouse

This brick warehouse with a wooden trust and slate roof was built in 1948. Until recently, it was still used as a warehouse, although it appears it and several other old brick warehouses in the area are being restored for use as an art gallery, a heartening reutilization of early modern architecture.

Old Red Brick Building

This Incheon design company uses a renovated colonial-era warehouse as its office. Nice, isn’t it?

Songhyeon Service Reservoir Control Room

Gate, Songhyeon Service Reservoir Control Room

Songhyeon Service Reservoir Control Room

Songhyeon Service Reservoir Control Room

Moving on to Incheon’s Dong-gu district now, we visit the Songhyeon Service Reservoir Control Room. Completed in 1908, this round concrete structure housed the valves that controlled Incheon’s water supply. It was part of a larger system, designed by a Dr. Nakajima, that linked the Seoul and Incheon water supplies. The primary reservoir was in Noryangjin, with service reservoirs in Incheon, Yongsan and Seoul.

The roof reads manyun baengnyang, which means, “If it flows 100 times, it shines 10,000 times.”

Dong-gu, Incheon

This hill on which the old control room is located used to be a slum. It’s looking a lot nicer now, but there’s a museum up there dedicated to its less affluent history.

Main Hall, Changyeong Elementary School

Main Hall, Changyeong Elementary School

Main Hall, Changyeong Elementary School

Drawings, Changyeong Elementary School

Built in 1924, the Main Hall of Changyeong Elementary School is pretty typical example of colonial era school construction — a long, symmetrical buildings with Dormer windows. The entrance, with its arch, has a nice medieval feel to it. The school itself was founded in 1907 as Incheon’s first public school.

Main Hall, Yeonghwa Primary School

Main Hall, Yeonghwa Primary School

Main Hall, Yeonghwa Primary School

Korea’s first modern elementary school, Yeonghwa Hakdang — originally part of Naeri Methodist Church —was founded as a school for girls in 1892 by Margaret Josephine Bengel Jones, a music teacher at Ewha Hakdang and wife of Methodist missionary and Korea scholar George Heber Jones.

Jones was a rather interesting dude — from Wikipedia:

Jones, who grew up in Utica, New York, is notable as the first Protestant missionary in Korea who took an academic approach to the research of Korean religions. He arrived in Korea in 1887 as a Methodist minister; while there, he not only made major contributions to the spread of Christianity in Korea, but also founded three academic journals: The Korean Repository, The Korean Review, and Shinhak Wolbo (Theology Monthly). He also played a significant role in encouraging Korean migration to Hawaii; of the first ship of Korean migrant laborers bound for Hawaii to work on sugar plantations there, which departed on 22 December 1902, more than half came from his church in Incheon. In July 1907, he was the subject of a murder attempt; Yale University professor George Trumbull Ladd (Marmot’s Note: a.k.a. Ito Hirobumi’s Buttboy) attributed the attack to opinions Jones had expressed in an article he wrote about the suppression of a Korean riot, in which he praised the Japanese police. In general, Jones had a high opinion of Koreans but not of Korean culture; in particular, he wrote high praise for Korean migrants in Hawaii, attributing their success in their adopted land to their liberation from “the oppressive weight of past tradition, language, [and] association”.

Now, back to the school. Of course, Pai Chai Hakdang and Ewha Hakdang were older, but both of those were middle school-level schools. Yeonghwa Hakdang, on the other hand, was the first Western-style elementary-level educational institution. It started out with just three boys and two girls, but soon gained a reputation as one of the best schools in Incheon. At the time, students studies from 8am to 4pm, learning Chinese characters, Korean literature, Bible, geography, English and math.

The schoolhouse above dates from 1910, when the school moved to its current location.

Incheon Christian Welfare Organization

Incheon Christian Welfare Organization

Incheon Christian Welfare Organization

Incheon Christian Welfare Organization

Incheon Christian Welfare Organization

Incheon Christian Welfare Organization

Built like an 18th century English home, this red brick residence was used as a residence by Methodist missionary women from the United States active in Incheon in the late 19th century. It is amazingly well preserved. Interestingly, the designs used in the windows and doors are said to resemble those used in Joseon-era seowon and temples.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • dinkus maximus

    great work marmot. what do you do to make your colors so bright? how much post editing to you do in photoshop? It almost seems like you batch-edit and up the contrast/saturation a nudge.

  • CactusMcHarris

    Thanks for the quote from the 물개, Robert. It’s a reminder of what fine citizens we of the USN were in the Land.

    Those were great photos. The red brick and colorful decay get me every time. The composition of old and new is nice. The arches on the school’s entrance and the area above the former Japanese office’s front door are pretty cool.

    Do you know why the ’100 times’ character on the water control building sign is in such a different (almost prehistoric, like the back of a tortoise shell) style than the rest of the characters on the sign?

    BTW, buttboy, although a great Scrabble word, is a little over the top, no? Well, I guess ‘object of pederasty’ is a little literary.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    Robert, don’t know if you knew this already, but when I saw this I thought of you: Old Photo of Seoul blog

    It’s another one of those Dong-A Ilbo reporter blog, and it’s fascinating.

  • Sonagi

    Do you know why the ‘100 times’ character on the water control building sign is in such a different (almost prehistoric, like the back of a tortoise shell) style than the rest of the characters on the sign?

    I believe all of the characters are written in the 篆書, or seal style. The character for the number 100, 百, looks different because it uses few strokes.

  • CactusMcHarris

    #4,

    Thanks for the information. I understand about the number of strokes (and let’s hope we all do, for that matter) but the way it’s splashed out – whether coincidentally as the central character or no – is to me very reminiscent of ‘scratched out’ or ‘splayed out’ style, bordering, dare we not offend anyone, on something old-fashioned/primitive.

    I never have had a good grasp of characters – 300 was my best back in the day – but it (百) appears to be written with a flourish different than that of the other three characters.

    Since you know about these sorts of things, is there a word in Chinese that identifies a four-character idea that often means a proverb or folk sense of some type? I’ve looked for one in Korean and not found it, but there’s got to be one.

  • dogbertt

    Sa ja seong eo

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    四字成語

  • Sonagi

    @Cactus:

    Seal style is an old form that was used for engraving.

    The Sino-Korean terms for four-character sayings are 고사성어 (故事成語), or more precisely, 사자성어 (四字成語).

  • Sonagi

    Everybody likes fried mandu, too.

    Not everybody likes fried mandu. Too greasy. Chinese jiaozi is much better. There are restaurants that specialize in freshly handmade jiaozi with a menu that changes daily like the soup dujour. And don’t get me started on Korea’s sick and twisted version of 炸酱面.

  • Sonagi

    In 1905, the cooks at Gonghwachun were the first to add caramelized vegetables and meat to the traditional noodles mixed with Chinese black bean paste to please Korean taste buds.

    Either China’s own 炸酱面 has changed or the cooks in Korea were skimping on the ingredients because every single bowl of 炸酱面 I ever ate in China included ground pork and diced or shredded veggies, usually carrots and zucchini or cucumber and sometimes bean sprouts.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    And don’t get me started on Korea’s sick and twisted version of 炸酱面.

    You blaspheme.

  • JW

    아니…..자장면을 욕하는건 한국사람들 욕하는거랑 다름이 없잖수. 누님..너무 혹하세요. ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

  • CactusMcHarris

    Thank y’all for the education.

    Sonagi,

    I think that gyoza is tastier than yakimandu. Have you had good gyoza? It would have to be great jaozi to beat it.

  • R. Elgin

    This is a really fine pictorial narrative. I enjoyed it tremendously.

  • yuna

    No matter how many times I visit Incheon, it never gets old.

    Is there anywhere in the world that you’ve visited so many times it’s now got old?
    Long Island?

  • H. Lagenberg

    萬潤百流 = manyun baengnyang?
    That last character is yu or ryu… or am I missing some esotheric piece of turtleshell here?

    Very informative pics and stories. Your wide angle lens has been causing me headaches ever since you bought it (OK, so I stop looking and poof! headaches gone, I know)… Especially looking up to buildings the distortion is pretty disorienting, if not a bit ugly. You might try to get some higher viewpoints now and then, or go less wide in some cases. Just a thought.

  • Sonagi

    아니…..자장면을 욕하는건 한국사람들 욕하는거랑 다름이 없잖수. 누님..너무 혹하세요. ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

    Old-timers like me still refer to it as 짜장면. Love those distinctly Korean tense plosives. The 옥편 pronuciation for 炸 as it refers to fried food is 찰. I wonder if those innovative chefs in Incheon’s Chinatown changed the pronunciation to 짜 when they put the meat and veggies back the bowl.

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  • Koreansentry

    I love 짜장면, but it’s junk food full of unhealthy stuffs.

  • vince

    There are dozens or more different versions of 짜장면 in China. Especially if you count everyone’s Mom’s version. My favorite is from 新疆省 with thick, chewy, handmade noodles, fresh whole red peppers and strips of beef or lamb.

  • chiang

    Incheon Chinese Zhongshan School (Old Qing Consulate Site)

    i feel like just yesterday but is been 24 year already since left the school. i feel like i can still feel it that im in school. miss good old days.