One thing I forgot to mention in my last post on the Gyeongju Cultural Center (경주문화원) is that the Center’s website has a great archive of old, black and white photos of Gyeongju. Unfortunately, the website’s only in Korean, which makes it a little tricky to navigate, plus they’ve disabled hard links. So, to get to the archive, go to the Center’s homepage: www.gjucc.or.kr. Roll over the tab in the top right of the main page labeled “Publication발간자료.” Two options will pop up directly underneath. Right click on the option on the right called “경주의옛사진.”
From here you can browse through several hundred photos spread out over 10 pages. There are lots of old photos of local historical sites, like Bulguksa Temple and Cheomseongdae Observatory along with scenic shots of farms and mountains. There are also pics of old buildings in the city itself, like the City Gates and Gyeongju’s first movie theater, most of which are long gone or have been swallowed up by the downtown’s concrete jungle. It’s a shame they weren’t able to save more of these old buildings in Korea’s mad rush to modernization in the last 50 years.
What impressed me even more than the buildings and scenery are all the people in photos. There are lots of pictures of folks hanging out in the street, vendors in the markets and farmers working the fields. They’re usually dressed in traditional peasant garb or occasional old-fashioned western clothes and there’s not a cell phone or designer label among them. These scenes would not be out of place in an old Kurosawa film (if he ‘d been Korean, perhaps) and show just how drastically Gyeonjgu, and Korea as a whole, has changed.
I can’t seem to find much information on who took each photo or when they were shot (it doesn’t help that my Korean’s terrible either). All I can find is location of the photo that’s been labeled in Korean at the top left. I’m going to guess that most of the archive goes back to the Japanese Occupation (1910 – 1945) as the mountains are completely deforested and many of the signs are in Japanese. But, whatever the case, it’s pretty interesting to flip through the archive and see how different Gyeongju was just a few generations ago. As a teaser, I’m reposting a few of the photos here so you can get an idea of what the archive’s got in it. Enjoy!