Japanese General Government Building, Seoul

Japanese General Government Building, Seoul
Japanese General Government Building, Seoul
Korean name
Hangul 조선총독부 청사
Hanja 朝鮮總督府廳舍
Revised Romanization Joseon-chongdokbu Cheongsa
McCune–Reischauer Chosŏn-ch'ongdokpu Ch'ŏngsa
Alternative name
Hangul 조선총독부 건물
Hanja 朝鮮總督府建物
Revised Romanization Joseon-chongdokbu Geonmul
McCune–Reischauer Chosŏn-ch'ongdokpu Kŏnmul

The Japanese Government-General Building (often referred outside of Korea as the Seoul Capitol) was the chief administrative building in Keijo (Seoul) during the Japanese colonial rule of Korea and the seat of the Governor-General of Korea. It was a neo-classical building designed by German architect Georg De Lalande, and was completed in 1926. Although the building was later the scene of numerous important events for the Republic of Korea, housing first the National Assembly and later the National Museum of Korea, it was long felt to be a symbol of Japanese imperialism and was demolished between 1995 and 1996.



After Korea lost its independence to Japan in 1910, Seoul was made the Japanese colonial capital. It was decided in 1911 to erect a building in Seoul to house the Japanese administration.

The building was deliberately constructed inside the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace, the former Korean imperial palace, to obstruct the view of Gyeongbokgung from central Seoul and to legimitize Japanese rule, and all but 10 of the 400 palace buildings were demolished; further demolitions were prevented only by a campaign by Japanese intellectual Muneyoshi Yanagi. The new structure was a grey granite building with a copperplate dome. Its floorplan allegedly was set up in the form of the first character in the Japanese name for Japan, Nippon (日本). Architect De Lalande, who had lived in Japan since 1901 and had designed numerous administrative buildings there, died in 1914 and was succeeded on the project by Japanese architect Nomura Ichiro. Construction began on June 25, 1916 and the structure was officially opened ten years later.

The United States military received the Japanese surrender in Korea at the building. Later, in 1948, with the founding of the Republic of Korea, it served as South Korea's National Assembly until the present building was opened in 1975; President Syngman Rhee took the oath of office on its steps. In 1985, it became home to the National Museum.

For many years the building was Seoul's largest and most imposing; only in the construction boom of the 1970s did it begin to be dwarfed by adjacent office buildings and skyscrapers.


The issue of the building's future was opened after Kim Young-sam became president in 1993. In August of that year, he announced that it would be demolished, beginning in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and Japanese colonial rule, as well as the 600th anniversary of Gyeongbokgung. Plans were announced for a new National Museum. There was intense public debate on the issue, with Kim and other demolition proponents arguing that the building was a symbol of Japanese rule that had been built deliberately to deface Gyeongbokgung. Opponents countered that Korea, now a wealthy nation, was no longer troubled by such symbolism and that reminders of the Japanese era were needed; many opposed the move on the grounds of the expense incurred and the merit of the existing building (other Japanese-era buildings, such as the old Seoul Station and Seoul City Hall, are considered landmarks of the city). A proposal was made to move the building to a new site, although this would have been far more expensive than demolition.

Nevertheless, demolition began on South Korea's Liberation Day, August 15, 1995, with the removal of the dome. By late 1996, the building was completely gone. Today, the dome and several other recognizable pieces of the building can be seen at Cheonan's Independence Hall museum, as part of a monument to commemorate the history behind the building and its demolition.


See also

Coordinates: 37°34′39″N 126°58′38″E / 37.577393°N 126.97725°E / 37.577393; 126.97725

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