Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fortress Wall Neighborhood: 이화동 Ehwa-dong

A few weekends ago, just before 장마 (rainy) season began, we took a newcomer to Seoul up for another day of exploration of the Seoul Fortress Wall that I blogged about a month or two ago now. Since I'd been before, we decided this time it would be a day more for photography since the yellow dust made my photos come out so miserably the first time around. 이화동 makes a great place to take photos, and to take the same route as me, you should start from Dongdaemun, going on the high road along the fortress wall which starts across the street from Dongdaemun gate.

First we walked up to 낙산공원, Naksan Park again and caught a few interesting sights on the way up.

창고앞 주차금지
Or, "Don't park here or we'll puncture your tires."
Don't mess with this guy...

The old falling down houses in this neighborhood always impress me the most. It's hard to believe you're in Seoul when walking through this neighborhood.

Finally, we got to Naksan park and decided to double back through the park and head down through 이화동 but before we left, we came across this little garden with a long history. It's called Hong Deok's Garden and it belonged to the caretaker of a prince many many years ago during the times of serious Chinese influence in Korea. The prince had to go to China for many years before he became King and he was able to take along a woman named Hong Deok as his caretaker. She kept a garden there and cooked him many wonderful meals, as when they returned to Korea, he gave her this garden so that she could continue to grow cabbage to make the kim chi he so dearly loved. And, now, still to this day, the garden is kept up to remember Hong Deok's beloved cooking.

Then, from there, we made our way further inside 이화동 and stumbled across a little part of town where many buildings have been painted. I've never heard of this place, but apparently it's on the tourist map because we passed quite a few Japanese here snapping photos before jumping back into their tour vans.

To follow the same course we did, start from Dongdaemun station and follow the high side of the fortress wall which starts across the street from Dongdaemun gate. Follow the trail up to Naksan Park. Then head down the stairs to the left toward 홍덕이밭  or Hong Deok's Garden. From there just wonder through the streets of 이화동 (Ehwa-dong) and see what discoveries you make! It is quite close to Daehakno, so you may want to stop over there too and check out the theater district too!


  1. Nice pictures.

    There are a number of tragedies of such neighborhoods. One is that they are slowly disappearing, such that eventually there will be few privately owned buildings left at all from the decades in the middle of the 20th century. So much institutional memory lost.

    The second is that there is no good reason for there to be "old falling down houses" like that. I lived in a house a bit farther down line #4 that was about as old as that in your fifth picture. The difference was that the owners had (mostly) planned to live in their larger homes instead of moving out to apartments and so they kept them up.

    Sadly, though, that house disappeared when the new owners got greedy and knocked it down to build a cookie-cutter four-story flat, and the entire neighborhood is scheduled to be razed to make room for mid-rise apartments in the next couple of years.

  2. This is why I feel the need to document places like this... The entire two blocks next to me were completely razed and my own old neighborhood which I love to death is slowly being eaten up chunk by chunk by various apartments complexes. The truth of the matter is that most Koreans have no desire to live in a place like this... it's only for those who can't afford better. And that's a pity because there is so much beauty to be found here.

  3. chinese influence huh.. culturally there have been a lot of things passed down from China but I think ever since the Silla period Korea has been very close to China. (Silla got help from Dang-nara-aka China Dang dynasty to conquer Goguryuh and change Korea from 3 countries to 1) Although it's a love and hate thing since China was so huge Korea couldn't really make them all that mad so they likedt okeep the Chinese happy. The reason why they sent the princes was to have them acknowledged. Koreans even at that time sent royal families and rich people for study abroad, just like Korean students do now to English-speaking countries. That also may be a part of the reason.

    As the princes stay there, China would see the prince's political perspective, if that guy will keep peace with China once he becomes a king and etc. Then they acknowledge that and send the prince back and then the prince becomes recognized as an actual Crown-prince.

    Well, I like your blogs and pictures. For the run down houses, a lot of them are in Jae-gye-bal area, meaning their places will be broken down and rebuilt to what we see in Seoul now- all modernized tall apartments and such. It's sad because the residents don't get compensated very well and lose their homes and are threatened by the housing companies. If you are good at reading Korean, I recommend 신과함께 (with God) in Naver Webtoon website. the author covers a bit of the life of the residents living in a Jae-gye-bal area.

  4. I've been reading some webtoons lately, I'll check it out. It sounds interesting. As the neighborhood directly next to me was completely razed last year for one of the "뉴타운" projects, it's a definite interest to me. If you can't tell, I'm a lover of old neighborhoods. Lately we've been looking in to the possibility of even getting our own small hanok style house (or something old and cool) to live in. Prob won't happen for many years, but we'd love to run a guest house in an old place in Seoul... if it's not bulldozed, that is...