Sometime back we published an article titled ‘5 Outrageous North Korean structures' where we took a look at the amazing yet expensive buildings in the poverty-stricken nation.
Now, we turn our sights toward the North's prosperous neighbour.
South Korea, in such a short span of time has modernized its country while still holding on to its rich cultural history.
Much of this can be seen just walking the streets. Ancient temples and pagodas sit side by side with sprawling post-modern skyscrapers that pierce the sky.
In this article, we take a look at just five amazing buildings in South Korea;
5. War Memorial of Korea, Yongsan-dong, Seoul
While it's easy to see South Korea as the glistering metropolis it is now, it is also easy to forget the years of turmoil and tragedy that left the peninsula irrevocably split in two.
The War Memorial of Korea was built for that very purpose; remembrance of the past and the of many sacrifices that came before.
Originally the headquarters of the Korean military, the museum was built in 1994 to commemorate and provide a different perspective of the war that's largely been defined by Western news.
There are 13,000 items and over 100 weapons displayed throughout the six halls; all under different themes. There is even a combat experience room where visitors can vividly experience battlefield conditions.
4. Boutique Monaco, Seoul
Also called the Missing Matrix Building, this towering structure is located right in the heart of Seoul.
The total floor area is 54,859㎡ with commercial, community and cultural spaces occupying the lower levels. Floors 5 to 27 are offices.
It's a remarkable building made even more so by the fact that its unique shape was a result of compliance with structural laws.
The tower's floor space exceeds the legally allowed amount vertically so the missing matrices, represented by the gaps, were made to meet the maximum amount allowed.
The missing spaces have other purposes; they allow more natural light to enter and and offers an amazing view of Seoul.
3. Kyobo Tower, Seochu-gu, Gangnam, Seoul
Owned by the Kyobo Life Insurance Company, this unique landmark is one of the tallest structures in South Korea.
Having spent a long time in the conceptualising and design phase (1987 -1997), the building began construction in 1999 and was completed in 2003.
Kyobo Tower spans 25 floors above ground with a further 8 floors underground. Its total height is 117m and is a combination of public and private spaces.
Public space is on the ground floor, including the atrium and lobby while the rest are private office spaces reserved for the insurance company.
2. Bangju church, Jeju Island, South Korea
Built by Itami Jun in 2009, Bangju Church, also known as Church of the Sky was inspired by the bible story, ‘Noah's Ark'.
Situated in the serene and picturesque Jeju Island, the church takes the shape of an ark and rests upon a body of water with a simple wooden platform, lacquered and polished to a perfect sheen connecting it to solid ground.
Itami Jun is well known for blending traditional Korean architecture with contemporary design. The building is 663.25m2 and spans 3570.89m2.
In 2010, the church was voted first place in a Korean architecture competition.
The church overlooks the coast and Mount Sanbang which was how it earned the name, ‘Church of the Sky'.
1. Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul
Also known as Gyeongbok Palace, the royal palace was first built in 1394 by King Taejo; first king and founder of the Joseon Dynasty.
It was severely damaged by a fire in 1553 with costly renovations completing in 1554.
It was unfortunately burned down again during the Japanese invasion in 1592 and spent the next 273 years derelict and abandoned.
Eventually rebuilt in 1867 under the leadership of Prince Regent Heungseon Daewongun, it was a grand restoration with 330 buildings built.
Tragedy would strike again in 1911, when during Imperial Japan's occupation, ownership of the palace came under the Japanese Governor-General.
More than 90% of the buildings on the palace grounds were torn down in 1915 on pretext of an exhibition.
Restoration began in earnest in 1990 with further reconstructions concluding in 2010.
The direct translation of Gyeongbokgung is ‘Palace' (Gung) ‘Greatly blessed by heaven' (Gyeongbok). Despite the numerous adversities the palace faced, it is still standing now, for Koreans and tourists to marvel at.
With a long and storied history dating further back then the Middle Ages, South Korea is a wellspring of history and culture. With a country that has the resources and means to produce everything its people requires, South Korea can stand alone if it ever needs to.
It has tried to stay isolationist in the past but eventually saw the need to open its doors to trade and tourism.
Now, it stands as a glistering jewel in Asia; a giant metropolis balancing its cultural and traditional Asian ties with modern Western influences that have since permeated it.
Written by: Christopher Chitty
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