Trip to Mokpo
I heard that with the opening of the Honam High Speed Rail (KTX), it will take 2 hours from Seoul to Mokpo. A day trip seemed easy when I hurried in the morning. I walked the road with half expectations and half doubts. I met Mokpo with a light backpack and met her beyond my expectations. Instead of being greedy to see it all, I followed a tight schedule and took time to fill the day. Throw away what you have thrown away and feel the joy of accidental discovery. On the way home after the moon rose, Mokpo had a nostalgic name.
Text, photo by Park Eun-gyeong
A day trip to Mokpo facing yesterday
Mokpo is a city that opened its port in October 1897 by the decree of Gojong. The nature is different from Busan Port and Incheon Port, which were forced to open ports through a treaty with Japan. Mokpo Port is significant because it is an âindependentâ port. However, at the time, Korea was bound by international relationships where the influence of the great powers played a strong role. Eventually, Mokpo Port was developed on the initiative of Japan. Also, Japan took control of Mokpo metallurgy by setting up consulates almost at the same time as the opening of Mokpo Port and creating communal settlements of various countries according to their preferences.
More than 100 years have passed since then, but there are still many traces of that time in Mokpo. Just in time, this is a significant year that marks 70 years of Rangbok. The allotted time is only one day. Thinking about how to spend my time, I decided to walk carefully, looking into the curved past that I couldn't turn away from.
Mokpo Station â Mount Yudal â Mokpo Modern History Museum Building 1 (former Japanese Consulate) â Air Defense during the period of Japanese domination â Old Mokpo Provincial Office Library â National Route 1 and 2 Memorial â Lee Hoon-dong Garden â Yudal Elementary School (former public Shim Sang Elementary School auditorium) â Mokpo Modern History Museum Hall 2 (former Dongyang Chuksik Co., Ltd. Mokpo Branch) â Cafe Happy House (former Na Sang-soo House) â Ogori Cultural Center (former Dongbongwon Temple)
The beginning of a trip to Mokpo
I got off at Mokpo Station and got my way to Mount Yudal first. It is a 15-minute walk from the station to Nojeokbong, which is the main gate of Mount Yudal. At Nojeokbong, there is a story where General Yi Sun-shin covered the peak with burdock and made it look like Gunnyangmi when viewed from a distance, and destroyed the morale of the warlords during the Imjin War. Originally it was a single line with Mount Yudal, but now it is unfortunately divided into two due to Japan breaking the road to break the wind in Mokpo.
Mt. Yudal Nojeokbong
Statue of General Yi Sun-shin at the entrance to Mount Yudal
With Nojeokbong on his back, he began climbing Mount Yudal in earnest. Mt. Yudal, which is 228 meters above sea level, is a mountain that is not very high, and if you look at it, it's as cozy and unburdensome as the mountain behind Dongne. There are some parts that make you gasp, but an hour and a half round trip is enough, so it's a good idea to get around lightly.
Starting with a statue of General Yi Sun-shin, a song by Oh Po-dae, who once put in gunpowder and shot a gun to tell me when it's noon, and the singer Lee Nan-young, who sang âMokpo's Tears.â Then, after passing through a few gazebos, you reach a rock in the yard. There are 5 gazebos built on Mount Yudal. Every place you look at it has a different feel, and it's worth stopping by. Among them, Yu Seon-gak, which has the best view of Mokpo city, is more famous because it has a sign written by Haegong Shin Ik-hee.
Yu Seon-gak is more famous because it has a plaque written by Haegong Shin Ik-hee
A cool view of the city of Mokpo from below Gwanungak
The courtyard rock is on top of Guanyungak. It's called a yard rock because it's a large enough rock for ten adults to sit and rest. If you stand on a rock, you can see a mix of Kohado and Mokpo Bridge on the sea, and Mokpo city spreads out on the opposite side. Right in front of you is First Class Rock, the highest peak of Mount Yudal. The sight of strange rock formations rising into the sky is impressive.
The view of the city from Yadang Rock
On the rock wall at the bottom of the first tier rock, there is a statue of the Red Beopang statue and the statue of Fudomyo carved by Japan for their faith. It is said that Japanese people set up 88 Buddha statues around Mount Yudal and visited temples on pilgrimage. It is said that most of them are gone now, and there is almost only one left at the summit of Mount Yudal here, but I didn't feel comfortable because it felt like a scar from a battlefield.
Feeling bitter, I climbed to the top rock. Seated in an open space, the scenery of the city of Mokpo and the Archipelago Sea spreads out in full view. The quiet yet peaceful atmosphere softened my uncomfortable feelings a bit. It was much easier to walk down the first class rock alone.
Location 45 Nojeokbong-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do
Contact Nojeokbong Tourist Information Center 061-270-8411
Facing Pain You Can't Turn Away From
Mokpo Modern History Museum Hall 1 (former Japanese Consulate)
After descending from Mount Yudal, I went to the old Japanese Consulate located on the hill just below Nojeokbong. It is the oldest Western-style building in Mokpo, completed in December 1900. Following the Japanese Consulate, it was used as the Mokpo Board Office and Mokpo Provincial Office. After Gwangbok, it was used as Mokpo City Hall, Mokpo City Library, and Mokpo Cultural Center, and opened as the first Mokpo Museum of Modern History in 2014.
Mokpo Modern History Museum Hall 1
Wooden stairs and colorful chandeliers leading up to the second floor of the exhibition hall
The two-story red brick building is easy to see from afar. All over the outer wall, there are embellished with the Wook Il Ascending pattern, which symbolizes Japan. Entering the interior, you'll see a wooden staircase leading up to the 2nd floor and a gorgeous chandelier. It's like coming to a well-decorated set.
The exhibition hall consists of 1 floor and 2 floors. Each room has an exhibition space with over 100 treasured artifacts and materials. Land surveyors used by employees of the Japanese Dongyang Cheoksik Co., Ltd. in the 1930s, gramophones used by wealthy people at the time, and wooden refrigerators are eye-catching. You can also see miniature models of Mokpo Ogori in the 1940s, and fireplaces and mirrors used by Japanese people. A total of 9 fireplaces were originally installed, but now there are only 2 left, and it is said that the remaining 7 have been restored.
The exterior of the Mokpo Modern History Museum Building 1 clearly shows the decoration of Ukil's ascension
Exhibits at Mokpo Museum of Modern History Hall 1
Fireplace and mirror
At the back of the building, there was an air defense shelter built by Japan during World War II in preparation for war. When you go inside, you can feel the miserable situation at the time because it recreates images of the residents of Mokpo who were forcibly mobilized to dig a burrow. On the left side of the air defense lake, the old Mokpo Provincial Office library is very eye-catching. The Mokpo Modern History Museum building was built when it was used as the Mokpo Provincial Office, and is currently being used as a storage room for exhibits at the Mokpo Modern History Museum.
Old Mokpo Provincial Office Library
Location 6, Yeongsan-ro 29beon-gil, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do
Opening hours 9:00 to 18:00 (tickets and admission close at 5:00)
Day off every Monday
Admission fee: 2,000 won for adults, 1,000 won for youth
500 won for elementary school students
* View the air defense lake behind the building and the former Mokpo Government Office library together
The largest Japanese-style garden in Hunan
Lee Hoon-dong Garden
After visiting the old Mokpo Provincial Office library, I headed to Lee Hoon-dong Garden. It's a five-minute walk from Mokpo Modern History Museum Hall 1. When I go down the stone stairs in front of the Modern History Museum to the garden, I see a large monument on the left. It is a monument showing that this place was once the starting point of National Route 1, which ran to Sinuiju, and National Route 2 leading to Busan.
If you walk about 200 meters from the monument, there is Lee Hoon-dong Garden in the alley on the right. It is said that a house built by Japanese people in the 1930s was owned by a member of the National Assembly from Haenam after the liberation, and then bought and decorated by Lee Hoon-dong, the founder of Joseon Fireworks in the 1950s. It is known to be the largest private garden in the Honam region.
To explore the garden, you must first stop by the Seongok Memorial Hall next to the garden and get permission. The Seongok Memorial Hall, named after him, is a cultural space built by the teacher's children to honor Lee Hoon-dong's 88th birthday, or Mi-su (). Inside, modern and contemporary art collected by Lee Hoon-dong and his children are on display.
Statue in Lee Hoon-dong's garden
After a quick tour of Seongok Memorial Hall, I went to Lee Hoon-dong Garden. The garden was as beautiful as rumored, and it was much larger than expected. The timeless stone lanterns and pagodas were mixed with 113 types of trees, and I felt a sense of beauty. Originally, there are no flowers in Japanese-style gardens, but it is said that Lee Hoon-dong Sun later planted camellias and cherry trees all over the place while refining the garden.
The garden was decorated with an entrance garden, a courtyard garden, a forest garden, and sponsorship. When I look up at the back of the house from Imcheon Garden, which is surrounded by a small pond, I see the first pavilion I met on the way up Mount Yudal, âDaehak-ro.â After taking a look around the pond, I headed back to the circle. The large lawn with a bust of Chairman Lee Hoon-dong looks like a small park. I could see the old city center of Mokpo from below.
Location 63 Yudong-ro, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do
Opening hours 10:00 to 5:00
Day off every Monday
Contact Sungok Memorial Hall 061-244-2529
Choi Seung-hee dances and a Korean tiger protects
Yudal Elementary School (former Public Shim Sang Elementary School auditorium)
This time, I crossed the street and went to Yudal Elementary School on the right. I wanted to see the auditorium of the former public Shim Sang Elementary School, which was a Japanese educational institution.
The auditorium was built in 1929 with 2 floors above ground. It was also the place where world-renowned dancer Choi Seung-hee performed a performance to commemorate the opening after completion. A huge crowd gathered at the time, but it is said that Koreans were completely blocked from entering. Currently, it is used as a warehouse for storing books, chairs, etc.
Old Shim Sang Elementary School Auditorium
There is another attraction at Yudal Elementary School other than the old Shim Sang Elementary School auditorium, which is none other than the Korean tiger. A national tiger caught in Yeonggwang Bulgapsan Mountain in 1908 was bought by Japanese people at the time, made stuffed, and then donated. The tiger is in the building next to the auditorium of the former public Shim Sang Elementary School, in the hallway in front of the Academic Affairs Office.
Arin's history in pictures
Mokpo Modern History Museum Hall 2 (former Dongyang Cheoksik Co., Ltd. Mokpoji Branch)
I went back to the alley opposite Yudal Elementary School and arrived at Mokpo Modern History Museum Hall 2. The Mokpo Modern History Museum Hall 2 is the building of the former Dongyang Cheoksik Co., Ltd. Mokpo Branch, which was built in 1921. Dongyang Cheoksik Co., Ltd. was a representative economic expropriation agency during the period of Japanese domination, and branches were set up in transportation hubs such as Mokpo, Busan, Eiri, Daejeon, Daegu, Wonsan, Pyongyang, and Sariwon. In particular, it is said that the Mokpoji branch here was notorious for collecting the most sharecropping fees in the country.
Currently, the first and second floors of the building are filled with photographic materials showing at a glance the period of Japanese domination. Most of the scenes show Mokpo's old appearance and Japanese atrocities, but some of them are so cruel that a separate warning is attached.
Exterior view of Mokpo Modern History Museum 2
Next to the stairs on the first floor, there is still a large safe that was used at the time. It is said that the large room that sat behind a heavy iron gate was once all filled with gold. After Gwangbok, it was also used as a lock-up for the Navy Gendarmerie.
At the back of the stairs, there is a protrusion carved with âHakko Ichiu ()â, which means âthe whole world is one house.â It is a pagoda built in 1940 by Jiro Minami, the governor at the time, to encourage participation in the war. It is said that they were recently discovered during the renovation of an elementary school playground and moved there.
A panoramic view of the interior of Mokpo Modern History Museum 2.
A large safe used at the time of the Mokpoji branch of the former Dongyang Chuksik Co., Ltd.
On the second floor, there were photographs with themes such as the final appearance of the Joseon Dynasty, the stolen homeland, Japan the invaders, and Japan's invasion of Asia. After looking through the exhibits, I hurried out of the building. Facing a painful history that was left naked in photographs was more distressing than I thought. I wanted to quickly get away from that place where speed was gray on the outside and feel comfortable.
Location 18 Bun-hwa-ro, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-
Viewing hours 9:00 to 18:00
Day off every Monday
A cafe where past and present intersect
A house full of happiness (formerly Na Sang-soo's house)
I was rummaging through the map to see where to go, and music came from a house that I could see on a diagonal line. Seeing that the Japanese-style roof tiles were still alive, it was clear that the Jeoksan house was there. When I checked the sign on the wall, it was a cafe called âA house full of happiness.â I was curious about the interior, and I wanted to take a break, so I went inside. Above all, I liked the name.
A house full of happiness
The moment I walked through the small yard and walked into the room, the old-fashioned and elegant atmosphere caught my eye. The past and present intersect beautifully in the space converted into a cafe without damaging the structure.
I took a seat by the window and ordered a cup of tea. Salads, bread, jams, etc. were prepared for travelers at the center table. It wasn't a taste that had been neglected. The same was true of coffee. A dazzling light poured in from the window that captured the hours that had been turned on and on. As the name suggests, it was enough to fill me with happiness.
Location 63 Yudong-ro, Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do
Opening hours 11:00 to 22:00
The first and third Mondays of the day off
Japanese-style temples left in Korean residences
Ogori Cultural Center (formerly Dongbonwon Temple)
I sat in a cafe for a while and fully enjoyed the warmth of the space. Outside the window, the late afternoon sun was shining yellow. I hurried out and headed towards Ogori. Ogori was a border area between Japanese and Korean residences during the Japanese rule. Japanese people lived in the Yudal-dong, Daeui-dong, Jungang-dong, Seosan-dong, and Manho-dong areas southeast of Ogori, and on the other hand, Joseon people lived together at the foot of Mount Yudal, such as Manhojin, Bukgyo-dong, and Jukgyo-dong on the northwest side of Ogori.
I chose the Ogori Cultural Center as my destination and walked slowly. Every alley where large and small Japanese-style buildings, including the old Hwashin Department Store (Kim Young-ja's studio) and Gapja-ok hat store, remained like a stuffed artifact. Some buildings were left unattended with broken doors and collapsed tiles, while others were living a new life by changing their signboards.
After passing through Ogori, I arrived at the Ogori Cultural Center. It is an old Dongbonwon Temple Mokpo Byeolwon building, and I was impressed by the large, steep roof unique to Japan. A Japanese-style temple built in a Korean residential area was significant, he said. However, it was kind of sad that the reason was for missionary work. The building was acquired by Mokpo Central Church after the liberation and was used as a church until recently. It was interesting that the Buddhist temple was converted into a church building.
Ogori Cultural Center (former Dongbonwon Temple Mokpo Byeolwon building)
As soon as the sun set, the lights began to sparkle around Ogori. Unfortunately, I had to finish my trip with the traces of the people of old Mokpo nearby, such as the Mokpo Youth Center, Bukgyo Elementary School, and Yangdong Church. A visit to Dasungumi Village in Ongeum-dong, which I had decided to visit at least once, also promised the next time.
As I headed back to Mokpo Station, I was stunned for a short time. However, knowing that my current regret would be an invitation for a second trip, I got on the train home with excitement.