The Bukchon Plan


in English - Pages 18-23

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The Bukchon Plan (Cover) Introduction  
  You can see the original Korean text of these pages here You can also view an English language interview with David Kilburn about Hanok Preservation here (originally broadcast on KBSWORLD on October 1st 2010)  
Page 18

Chapter 2: An examination of Bukchon


Located between Gyeongbok Palace and Changdeok Palace, Bukchon is Seoul's oldest and most prestigious residential district.  Containing over 900 hanok buildings that have been preserved and many cultural assets and places, Bukchon is the only hanok village in Seoul.

The hanoks in Bukchon, built around 1930 in large numbers, have diminished since the regulations for the preservation of Bukchon were strengthened in early-1980, as the regulations relaxed after 1990.  Modern housing has risen up where the hanoks were demolished, damaging the scenery and surroundings of Bukchon.

This chapter contains the history of Bukchon and the origins of its prominence, from the beginning of the formation of the hanok village to the demolition of hanoks and the proliferation of urban development after 1980.  We will examine the numerous plans and efforts that were made to protect Bukchon, the present condition of Bukchon and the shape of the district as it changed through history.

Arial view photo
Page 19

1. Bukchon in history


Bukchon and the structure of Seoul

An ancient map of Seoul shows the city surrounded by mountains – Buk-ak mountain to the north, Mokmyeok Mountain to the south, Nakta Mountain to the east, and Inwhang Mountain to the west.  The cty walls joined together along the ridgeline, and the waterway flowed downhill, along the eastern side of the Changdeok palace walls, to become the Chungyechun River which flowed through the heart of the city

Ancient Seoul, or Hanyang, was a city laid out with respect to this topography.  First Gyeongbok Palace was built against Buk-ak Mountain.  To its lefthand side the Royal Ancestral Shrine was established and the Administration of Justice was established to its righthand side.  Changdeok Palace was set against Eungbong which was parallel to Buk-ak Mountain.

Nam Dae Moon road rose in a sloping curve from Nam Dae Moon located in the southwestern part of the capital.  Jongno (Oonjongno) ran from east to west parallel to Chunggyechon, making up the Joseon road system.  The roads that connected Jongno to Gyeongbok Palace and Changdeok Palace represented the street system.

Bukchon was located on the southern side of the mountain line connecting Buk-ak and Eung-bong (between Gyeongbok Palace and Changdeok Palace).  Located in the heart of ancient Hanyang, Bukchon has long been recognized as the most important residential district of Seoul.

The neighborhoods and waterways of Bukchon

A 1912 land registration map of the Bukchon district between Gyeongbok Palace and Changdeok Palace shows several lines of waterways flowing from north to south.  The neighborhood formed long and narrow along this north-south waterway.

Samcheong-dong, Sagan-dong and Sokyeok-dong were situated along (left right) the large waterway flowing along the east wall of Gyeongbok Palace. Further east, Hwa-dong and Anguk-dong and Songhyeon-dong were situated in the vicinity of 2 smaller waterways.

The waterways of Kahoi-dong, Gye-dong and Wonseo-dong run parallel to each other.  Among these waterways, the Joonhakcheon waterway that flows down from Samcheong-dong is a fairly large river.  This is one of the most important rivers in Seoul, beginning at Wonsa-dong Sinseonwonjeon and flowing along the wall of Changdeok Palace and passing through Changdeok Palace towards Whatryongdong. Each neighborhood formed around a waterway, with such place names as Jaet-gol, Maenghyeon-gol, Jaesaengweol-gol, Weol-gol, etc.  The neighborhoods and the areas in between were set on high ground, using the ridgelines as the basis for the borders of each administrative zone.  The territorial castle of each neighborhood whose limits were set by these ridgelines was an important characteristic of the Bukchon district.  As the city's population density rose and the waterways were reclaimed, the residential district infringed upon the ridgelines and their demarcations became unclear.  However, the territorial castles along the north-south line retained the names of their neighborhoods..

Page 20

Bukchon, the home of influential men

GyeongBok Palace is said to be in the geographical location with the best feng shui in Seoul, followed by ChangDeok Palace.  Since the northern side of Bukchon is elevated and the southern side descends, the district enjoys good sunlight and water drainage, as well as scenic surroundings from Namsan to the south.  Being in such an excellent geographic location, Bukchon has been the home of influential families since ancient times. During the Jae Dong era, the houses of the yangban (noblemen) from the eight provinces of Korea, the residences of officials serving in the government office during the Yookjo period and the homes of their servants were all gathered together near the Royal Palace. 

These historical facts can be confirmed in Hwang Hyun's "Maecheon Yarok" (Memoirs of a Thousand Events) vol. 1, which thoroughly recorded the events from the first year of King Kojong's reign (1864) to the 24th year of his reign (1887). This record has brought to light that the Noron (political party) lived in the area north of Jonggak, the main street of Seoul, and called it Bukchon, while south of Jonggak the area known as NamChun was inhabited by a mix of  Soron (political party)  and Samsek (political party). The Noron, who came to power over the King Soonjo, King Hunjong and King Chuljong, maintained their influence for nearly 150 years until the reign of King Jojong and made Bukchon their home.

According to detailed statements from the land register of 1917 and the map of  Kyung-Sung (old name of Seoul) 1921, large plots of land in Bukchon were owned by men of influence during the time of flowering  and the Japanese occupation.  Kahoi Dong zone 1 was the joint property of  Park,Young-Hyo, Yeo,Heung-Min, Min,Yeong-Hui, and others.  Kahoi Dong zone 31 and Gye Dong zone 105 were owned by Yeo,Heung-Min and Min, Dae-Sik (the son of Min,Yeong-Hui).  One side of Kahoi Dong which included zone 26 and others was owned by Han Soo, a wealthy man and major stockholder of Han Sung Bank.  Even until the 1960s before serious development went under way in Gangnam, Bukchon was the most high-class residential district in Seoul and maintained a sense of esteem as a hanok district.

1840 Map Seoul 1840
Page 21

The etymology of place names in Bukchon


In 1396 King Tejo divided Hanyang's administrative districts into 5 parts – Dong-bu (East Section), Seo-bu (West Section), Nam-bu (South Section), Buk-bu (North Section), and Joong-bu (Central Section), and subdivided those 5 parts into 52 districts.  Bukchon, which is part of Buk-bu, is made up of Kahoi-bang, Anguk-bang, Jinjung-bang, Gwanghwa-bang, and Yangduk-bang.

These place names were preserved until the later period of the Chosun Dynasty, and thereafter went through many changes with the passing of time.  Today, the area is organized into ten legal villages and two administrative villages.  The name reveals the character and history of each village. The following is revealed in documents such as the "Manuscript of the history of village names" which shows how each village arrived at its current name.

Kahoi-dong: During the early Chosun period this was Hansung-bu Buk-bu Kahoi-bang District.  In 1914 parts of Menghyeon, Jae-dong, Dong-guk and Gye-dong were consolidated into Gyungsung-bu Kahoi-dong, which became Kahoi-jung in 1936.  In 1946 the name returned to Kahoi-dong.

Gye-dong: It is recorded in Dong-Guk-Yeo-Ji-Bi-Go, volume 1 Heo-Gua-Gong-Seo-Jo(reference book about geography,system and institution of Seoul in Chosun period) that the Jesengwon(oriental medical cente) was located in Buk-bu Yangduk-bang, which is now Jongno-gu Gye-dong.  In earlier times this place was called Jaeseng Dong after the medical center that was found there.  Later it came to be called Gyeseng-dong, of which Gye-dong is an abbreviated.

Jae-dong: Jae-dong, located between Seoul Jongno-gu, Kahoi-dong, and Anguk-dong, was also called Jaet-gol (Street of Ash) and Hwe-dong.  Named after the "jae," or ash, left after burning, Jae-dong is said to have been the site of violent killings during the Chosun, King Sejo era when ash was spread to get rid of the smell of blood.

Sagan-dong: The name of Sagan-dong came from a government office known as the Sagan-won which was located across the street from the Gun-Chun-Mun(east gate) of Gyeongbok Palace.

Anguk-dong: This area was named after Kim Anguk (1478-1543) a statesman and philosopher from the Chosun Dynasty.

Samchung-dong: This name came from Sam Chung Jun, a local resident who followed the 3 taoist principles of te-chung, ha-chung, and ok-chung. The area was also called Samchung because of the clear mountain view, clean water, and favorable public sentiment.

Songhyeon-dong: Songhyeon-dong was founded around the village of Songhyeon, also known as Sol Go Geh and Sol Jeh Rah.  Songhyeon was named after the pines that grew densely in the ridge between what is now the Korean Newspaper Co. and the housing facility for the US Embassy.

Sogyeok-dong: This place was named after Sogyeok-seo, where rituals of ancestral sacrifices were performed by Sam Cheong Sung Jin of Sam Cheong Jun.

Hwa-dong: During the Chosun era, a government official called Chang Won Seo who held flowering viewings lived in what is now known as Hwa-dong 23 Bun-ji.  Many flowers were grown there so the district came to be known as Hwa-dong, short for Hwagae-dong.  According to another rumor, Hwa-dong is an abbreviation of Hwagi-dong which was named after Hwa Gi Do Gam, a government institution which produced firearms in this area.

Wonseo-dong: This place was once known as Won Gol.  It came to be known as Wonseo-dong because it is located west of Chang Gyung Won

Page 22

The changes in the community names of Bukchon

Modern Era
Chosun Era


Part of Gye-dong


Yangduk bang



Jinjang Bang




Songhyeon Jung







The old sites of Bukchon

Bukchon was the stage of many historical events since the Goryeo period through the Chosun Period and the Japanese occupation.  There are many various places in Bukchon that have historic significance.  The following describes the origin, history and character of each place as revealed by historical documents.


Bukyoung Site: Wonseo-dong No.1, located outside of Changdeok Palace Heongbeokmoon Gate was called Bukyoung(north military camp) in a military training institution.  The site had been used as a military training academy and, later, a children's preschool.

Sahdohsi Site: This is Wonseo-dong No.206, and was once called Yomoolgo, a place where supply grains and sauces for the Royal Court from the first year of King Tejo's reign (1392).  This place was later renamed as Gongjunggo, Sahdohsi.  It was closed in the 19th year of King Gojong's reign (1882) and replaced by the Changdeokgoong Police Station in 1910.

Baek Heung-bum House site: This is Wonseo-dong No.9-5, and well represents the typical elements for moderate size Korean houses.  It is designated as Folk Collection No. 13.

Song Jin-woo House site: This is Wonseo-dong No.74,.  Song Jin-woo, born in the 27th year of King Kojong's reign (1890), was a politician active until 1945 and a revolutionary of the Korean Independence Movement .  He was one of the Forty-eight during the March 1 Movement..

Noh Soo-hyeon House site: This is Wonseo-dong No.75.  Noh Soo-hyeon was a leading figure in the Korean modern art world.  He set up his studio in 1944 and remained there until June 1956.

Park In-hwan House site: This is Wonseo-dong No.134-8, where Park In-hwan (1926-1956), a lauded modernist poet, had spent his childhood.

Im Gyu House site: This is Wonseo-dong No.54.  Im Gyu, born in the 14th year of King Cheoljong's reign (1863), was one of the Forty-eight during the March 1 Movement and a revolutionary during the Korean Independence Movement.

Page 23


Jeseng-won Site: Gye-dong  No.142-2 (now, the flower garden in front of the Hyundai building ), this place was established in a proposal by Jo Joon in the 6th year of King Tejo's reign (1397).  This place, along with Haemingook, East West Hwalinseo, received medicines from the country to treat the poor.

Kyungwoo-goong Site: Gye-dong  No.146, when the Gapsin Jeongbyeon coup d'etat broke out in the 21th year of King Kojong's reign (1884), Kim Ok-kyun, Hong Yong-sik, Bak Young-kyo brought King Kojong to this place where they organized the Reformist government.

Seokjeong-gol Spring well site: Gye-dong No. 25-1 this area is named Seokjeong-gol after its stone well, called the Boreom(15 days) Spring Well supposed because its water is clear for 15 days, and then cloudy for 15 days.  When the first foreign missionary, Father Joo Moon Moh of China, crossed the Yalu River on Dec 17, 1794, he hid in the homes of his followers in this area, including the home of the faithful woman and martyr Kang Wan Suk (Colomba).  He gave sacraments and spread the gospel.  He drank from this spring well and performed baptisms with water from the well. (Roman Catholic Church of Korea)

Yoo Sim Sa Site, March 1st Independence Movement commemorative site: Gye-dong No. 58 (in front of Seok Jeong spring well site), Yoo Sim Publishing Company, which used to be around this site, was where Prof.(? Master?) Han Yong-oon propogated the spirit of the March 1st Independent Movement among the students of the Jung-ang school.

Jung-ang High School: Gye-dong No. 1 site, this was a main support base for supplies and communications during the March 1st Movement.  The main building of the school (stone buiding built in September 1937, designed by Park Dong-jin) is designated Historical Site No. 281, the west building is Historical Site No. 282, and the east building is Historical Site No. 283.

Lee Joon-kyung (1499-1572) house site: Gye-dong No. 128, this was the home of Lee Joon-kyung who served as Prime minister in the reign of Sunjo during the Chosun era.  He lived humbly for a man of his rank and from afar his home looked more like a stock house.  So this site is nicknamed Dong-go after his Ho(pen name) Dong Go.  The whole area is also called Lee Dong Go site.

Yeo Oon-Hyung house site: Gye Dong No. 140-57 site, this is the home of Yeo Oon-Hyung, statesman and revolutionary of the Independence Movement.  He was a member of the assembly in the provisional parliament of the temporary government in 1919.  After liberation, he organized the Committee for the establishment of Korea.  Thereafter he was active as the head of the People's Labor Party before he was killed by a fatal gunshot wound in front of the Hyehwa-dong Post Office on July 19, 1947.

Bae Ryum house site: Gye-dong 72 site, Bae Ryum was an important figure in Korean oriental painting, whose works include <Choo >, <Yowon >, and <Sanjeon >.

Seung Moon Won site: This was once the site of the government office in charge of foreign affairs documents.  Yeon Liung-goon, King of Sook Jong, and his son Nak Cheon Goon, as well as Lee Jae-won, nephew of Heung Sun Dae Won Goon, lived here.  It is also called Gye-dong Palace because King Kojong briefly escaped to this palace during the Gapsin Jeongbyeon coup d'etat.

Hong Moon Gwan site: During the Chosun period, this government office was in charge of managing official documents, historical books and the Confucian classics, and advised the King when he sought consultation.

Gwang Sang Gam Gwan Cheon Dae:This place is Historical Site No. 296, is Gye-dong No. 140 site and distinguished from Gwan Cheon Dae established by Nam Goo-man in Changgyonggoong Palace

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