Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A rare look at a Seoul's historic train station

A rare look at a Seoul's historic train station
June 8, 2009

The old Seoul Station (present)

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Information announced that it will temporarily open the old Seoul Station (Historic Site No. 284) from June 23 to 28 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). There will be tour guides to give a general talk about the site from 4 to 5 p.m. during that weeklong period, though in Korean language only.

The old Seoul Station, which opened in 1925, was designed by Professor Tsukamoto Yasushi of Tokyo Imperial University during the Japanese annexation of Korea (1910-45). It was partly built for military purposes, to help the Japanese Imperial Army to advance farther to the North to China and other regions. Korea’s first railway, from Noryangjin (just south of the Han River from downtown Seoul) to Incheon (then called Jemulpo) began service in 1899. The first railway bridge over the Han River was completed in 1900. Construction on Seoul Station began in 1923 to replace the smaller station at Namdaemun.

The first floor of Seoul Station served as a waiting room while the second floor was reserved for VIPs and a western-style restaurant and the basement was used for station offices. The first floor was made up of a large hall in the center with a Byzantine-style dome forming the upper roof. Sunlight flows in through the arched window above.

Picture of Seoul Station with new look for 2011

Much of the building was destroyed during the Korean War (1950-53), especially the ceiling of the central hall. After repair from the ruins of the war, the waiting room was expanded to service the Saemaeul-ho train in 1958 and was designated a historical site in 1981. Much of the functions for train operation were transferred from the basement in 1988.

Then in 2003 a brand new Seoul Station was constructed, taking over the role of the old Seoul Station completely. From then the Cultural Heritage Administration under the Culture Ministry was put in charge of the building, declaring the place to be available for cultural functions in July 2007. The building’s historical architecture, currently undergoing remodeling, is occasionally opened for art fairs and other functions alike. The station will officially re-open in 2011.

Those who want a guided tour service of the historical architecture should e-mail or call 02-3704-9454 (Korean only) from June 8 to 12. (Free phone interpreting service: 1330.)

Watch the video at Cultural Properties of Seoul

By Kim Hee-sung Staff Writer

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