Tag Archives: History

Seoul: Past vs. Present

While Seoul grew rapidly from the ashes to become a metropolis, this city lost much of its uniqueness and beauty, in particular, a set of organically linked traditional buildings. Two miniatures at the Seoul Museum of History showed stark contrast.


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Seoul became the capital of a sovereign nation in 1945, with Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, and three years later, it was upgraded to “Special City” status. However, the city was plagued by poverty as refugees poured in from North Korea and masses of ethnic Koreans returned to their homeland from overseas. Making matters worse, the Korean War broke out in 1950, and soon the city was in ruins. After the war, economic development returned, and Seoul began to transform into a huge, modern metropolis. The construction industry advanced steadily with the pressing need for more water mains, sewage systems, roads, subways, housing and schools to accommodate the explosive population growth. Streets were laid in the area south of the Hangang River, and the boundaries of the Seoul metropolitan area continued to expand. The ‘Miracle on the Han River’ brought industrialization, economic growth, democratization, and governmental decentralization to the nation.

(1945 – 2002, Period of Rapid Growth Seoul, Rising from the Ashes to become a Metropolis)


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Traditional building with a modern twist in Korea

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Toronto has many traditional buildings with a modern twist. The house previously used for Rotman Designworks studio was a good example. From the outside, it was a plain three-story house. However, it had interesting modern flavors inside: boards were installed on the white walls, desks and chairs ran on wheels, and newly installed toilette were clean.

I searched for compatible Korean examples for the past couple of years and finally found a right one. It is a small resort called Gurume (“into the clouds” in Korean). It opened July in 2014 at Andong, about 4 hours drive from Seoul. Kimchimari, a blogger, said

it consists of 7 different historical Korean homes with their ages ranging from 200-400 years old. Each home has been relocated from their original location to the resort as vacation villas for people to experience first hand how Korean scholars lived centuries ago.

I stayed a night at one of the historical Korean homes and enjoyed its traditional – and modern aspects. As for the traditional aspects, I enjoyed the rich scent surrounded by the wood materials, cool breeze naturally created through the middle space of the house, and the soothing sounds from the nature with the super-bright moon shine at night. As for the modern aspects, I loved everything about bathroom; a newly installed basin, a shower with high water pressure, and the Aesop shampoo. I found that although I want to travel in the past and enjoy tradition, I do not want to sacrifice the convenience the modern society provides. When marketers and designers aim to create a unique experience either by putting nostalgic flavor to the common products or by adding modern twist on the historically preserved concepts, they should focus on how modernity can eliminate inconvenience.

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