Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A visit to the Seoul Museum of History

I visited the Seoul Museum of History a few weeks ago. It's strange that it took so long considering that it's just down the street from the Gwanghwamun intersection and it's marked by a big streetcar in front.

The site used to be the lost palace of Gyeonghuigung, demolished by the Japanese during their occupation. By the time Korea got around to restoring its palaces, decades of urban development around it had made restoration impossible, similar to the much smaller version of Deoksugung we find today.

I was actually drawn by the now-finished exhibit of portraits of Moscow over various historical periods.

The Museum of History is free to visit, as this sign says, though recent news reports have suggested it's free because it also functions as a public relations vehicle for redevelopment projects in Seoul.

This North Korean propaganda flyer from the Korean War warns South Korean soldiers of their fate: "if you fight for (President) Syngman Rhee, this will be your reward!" It depicts a well-off Rhee with his Italian wife and their dog.

This 1965 newspaper front page headlined "Heading to Seoul without a plan" helps to explain how the population of Seoul went from 2 million to 10 million from 1950 to about 1985.

These are public toilets on the Cheonggyecheon, maybe.

The underpass underneath the Gwanghwamun intersection is under construction in this picture. Note the now-demolished residence of the Japanese governor general in the background where Gwanghwamun now stands.

Bus tickets from the 1970s elicit shocks and laughter today. Sadly, they're still a reality in Toronto.

This poster explains that phone lines can get crowded just like roads. Koreans make longer phone calls on average than Americans or Japanese, it says, urging Koreans to make shorter phone calls.

The sticker(?) on the right says "a happy family is a planned family". Fifty years ago, Korea had a birth rate of 6 children per women. Thanks to family planning, that number is now 1.3 children per women, one of the lowest numbers in the world. We should be careful to make predictions about the future based on current trends.

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