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
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.
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.
Everybody likes fried mandu, too.
Old Chinatown Gets a Facelift
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.
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)
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
This Incheon design company uses a renovated colonial-era warehouse as its office. Nice, isn’t it?
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.”
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
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
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
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.