28 Vintage Photos of Korea Before the North-South Split

October 29, 2015

The separation of the two Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, isn’t an event that happened in a flash and developed into two opposite countries as you can see in the present. The land where these countries stood had experienced division since the early years of the Common Era with the Three Kingdoms: Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla dominating the states after the disintegration of Gojoseon, Korea’s first kingdom.

After more than a century, one of the three kingdoms, Silla, expanded rapidly by occupying the Han River basin and uniting the city states. Later, the kingdom’s armies attacked Baekje in 660 and Goguryeo in 667. These attacks resulted to the birth of a Unified Silla.

After 267 years, the unification fell and Korea became separated again into three kingdoms. The entire Korean peninsula became united under one government during the ruling Goryeo dynasty by 936 which lasted until 1392 when the Joseon Dynasty was established. The united Korea under Joseon Dynasty maintained a stable economy and a peaceful life until the beginning of invasions from Manchuria to the full occupation of Japan.

Fast forward to 1943, Russia, Britain and the USA agreed to make Korea “free and independent” after the invasions during the Second World War. On August 9, 1945, Soviet tanks entered northern Korea from Siberia and declared war on Japan. The surrender of Japan after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and the collapse of Nazi Germany, with fundamental shifts in global politics and ideology, led to the division of Korea with the United States holding the southern half of the peninsula and the Soviet Union administering the north.

North Korea has lived under communist dictatorship while South Korea lived in democracy. The differences between the two are obvious until now but the idea of a peaceful reunification remains an idea no one can see happening in reality soon.

However, there are old photographs that still exist and serve as windows to the past. So here are  some from a thousand images taken from Pyongyang to Seoul that’ll give us a slice of Korea before its 38th parallel separation.

Aeryon Hall, Pyongyang, North Korea – ca. 1910

Photo Credit: Moravius

Photo Credit: PROMoravius

Cheomseongdae, Gyeongju, South Korea – ca. 1920

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea – ca. 1920

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Two people taking a break sitting on dangganjiju (Buddhist stone structures) – ca. 1914

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Dongdaemun, Seoul, South Korea

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Pyongyang, North Korea – ca. 1910-1930

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Seoul, South Korea – ca. 1899 – 1900

Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Great East Gate, Seoul, South Korea – ca. 1930

Photo Credit: Moravius

Photo Credit: Moravius

Taedongmun Street, Pyongyang, North Korea – ca. 1910

Photo Credit: Moravius

Photo Credit: Moravius

Yongmyong Temple, Pyongyang, North Korea – ca. 1930

Photo Credit: Moravius

Photo Credit: Moravius

Sogwang Temple, Kangwon, North Korea – ca. 1920

Photo Credit: Moravius

Photo Credit: Moravius

Bank of Korea, Seoul, South Korea – ca. 1910

Photo Credit: Moravius

Photo Credit: Moravius

Dongdaemun (East Gate): ‘Originally called ‘Heung-injimun’ (‘Gate of Uplifting Mercy’) – ca. 1904

Photo Credit: Moravius

Photo Credit: Moravius

Pavilion in Gyeongbuk-gong, Seoul, South Korea – ca. 1882

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Outside the old palace wall around Seoul, looking toward Nam San – ca. 1882

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Jangseung or Spirit totems

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Grass house on a hill

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Church during the Early Japanese Colonial Period

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Botandai, Morandae, Pyongyang, North Korea

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Rear Standing Rock Beach, “Sea Diamond Korea”

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Geunjeongjeon Hall, the throne hall at Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul – ca. 1900

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Communal wells – ca. 1904

1st streetcar in Seoul – ca. 1890

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Young women play on a seesaw – ca. 1931

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Korean girls with umbrellas/parasols – ca. 1900

Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Along the Han River at Yung San, a logging town near Seoul – ca. 1903

Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Playing traditional Korean chess called janggi – ca. 1903

Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Pounding rice in Seoul – ca. 1903

Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)

Photo Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob)