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  • 작성자 사진Kim Min-ji

[History] Negative Heritage Located at a Crossroad

No. 155 / Dec 6, 2021

Not all cultural heritage inspire national pride. There are also cultural heritages that reminds people of a painful history, which we call negative heritage. “Negative heritage” in Korea was mainly created by colonial rule. A representative example is the Japanese Government-General of Korea. The demolition, which had been planned since the Rhee Syng-man administration, was delayed due to problems with technology and cost. In 1995, when Kim Young-sang came to power, a total of 11.7 billion won was invested in its demolition. However, not all negative heritage sites have been demolished. Seoul Station is still in use. Is it better to preserve this piece of negative heritage or demolish it?

Immediately after liberation, the opinion that the Government-General of Joseon should be demolished was overwhelming because it was built to crush the spirit of Joseon by blocking the front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the place where the king had political affairs. In the 2000s, urban regeneration policies using underdeveloped facilities became popular, as part of which modern historical landscapes related to colonialism also emerged as conservation targets. The old Seoul Station symbolizes the exploitation of the Japanese colonial era. After the opening of the Korea Train eXpress (KTX) in 2004, its operation was suspended with to the establishment of the current Seoul Station Private Capital Station; in 2011, it was reborn as a complex cultural space called “Culture Station Seoul 284”. Various cultural events, such as exhibitions, performances, and workshops are held here. The fact that modern culture and arts can be seen in old buildings with historical value is mentioned as a precedent for the use of negative heritage distinct from existing cultural facilities.

According to Lee Yeon-kyung, a researcher of Regional Humanities and Information Convergence Research Institute at Incheon National University, “inconvenient heritage” is drawing attention in academia recently instead of the expression “negative heritage”. This implies the possibility of being transformed into a place that performs meaningful functions like the old Seoul Station with the intention of not locking historical thing in a negative framework of “negative”. History continues, so the value judgment of the heritage can change at any time. In the previous generation, public opinion insisted that the negative heritage should be destroyed, but there is a strong perception today that painful history should be preserved to recall the painful period. The issue of the removal and preservation of negative heritage is not an area where a clear answer can be easily determined. Why do not you look for examples of other cultural heritages that have been disputed between demolition and preservation and summarize your opinion?


By Kim Min-ji, AG reporter

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