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Different Feelings, Neighborhoods in Incheon
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Korea's Modernization Path

Incheon Open Port Trail along
Korea's modernization started in Incheon, the biggest port on the country's west coast. Let's visit Incheon Open Port Trail.
Let's start from Incheon Station, a historic site itself.
The country's first railway was launched here at Incheon Station on September 18, 1899.
The current station building was renovated in 1925.

Now Incheon Station is also the end of Subway Line 1. Come out of the station and you will see a lavish signboard for Chinatown across the street.
Visitors to Chinatown usually begin to explore the Incheon Station area by walking through stores lined up along this street.
We will visit a couple of significant facilities before getting on a tour of the Incheon Open Port Trail.

Look to your right when you get out of Incheon Station and you will see the Paradise Hotel which was once home to the British Consulate.
. While walking along the street, I used to try to imagine what the officials of the consulate from the British Empire were thinking while looking down at what was called Incheon Port from their offices up the hill. Korea was just a small country in the Far East Asia then.
Walk towards the Paradise Hotel from Incheon Station. Just a little farther from the hotel, you can see the Korean-Chinese Cultural Center on your left.
. Compared to the ordinary urban street between Incheon Station and the Paradise Hotel, the area around the center looks distinctively exotic.
The cultural center was built by Jung-gu Office in 2005. It features diverse exhibitions designed for visitors to see the cultural differences of two countries and deepen their understanding of each other's culture.
Opposite the center is Incheon Art Platform, a group of red brick buildings that were originally built on reclaimed land as warehouses when cargo traffic at Incheon Port began to increase.
Incheon Art Platform accommodates artists, launches exhibitions and holds flea markets with the purposes of helping artists based in Incheon with their artistic creation, exhibition and educational efforts.
Incheon Art Platform is definitely worth visiting just to look around various warehouse buildings and the former office building of Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha situated on a land of more than 8,200 square meters.
Now let’s set out on our journey through Incheon Open Port Trail. The first attraction along the trail is the Chinese-Japanese Settlement Boundary Stairs which serve as the demarcation line between the two countries' noticeably different architectural styles.
Incheon was Korea's third place that accommodated a foreign settlement following Busan and Wonsan. Foreign settlements were created for accommodating foreigners and boosting trade with their countries.
The Japanese settlement was established in 1883 followed by the Qing (China) settlement set up in 1884. The stairs situated between them are linked to Jayu Park.
At the top of the stairs is the statue of Confucius, which was donated by the city of Qingdao, China to Incheon Metropolitan City.
Enjoy the bird's-eye view of Incheon Open Port Trail from the stairs.
Besides the stairs is a Chinese style house whose green columns and a terrace draw pedestrians' attention.
It was completed in 1939.
A family currently lives there. It is a siheyaun in Chinese (a courtyard house in English) where multiple rooms surround a courtyard in the middle, a typical Chinese style house that encloses an open space within itself. It stands strong despite the fact that it was constructed almost eight decades ago. It was designated by Cultural Heritage Administration as a registered cultural heritage in 2006 for its historical value. Regrettably, the house is not open to the public.
Now let's look at the other side, the former Japanese settlement. At the entrance to the area is a construction site which was the home of the Daebul Hotel, the first Western-style hotel in Korea.
It was built 14 years earlier than the Sontag Hotel, its counterpart built in Jeong-dong, Seoul. The Daebul Hotel was occupied by visitors to Jemulpo (the old name of Incheon). Besides, many people suspect that coffee first began to be served to patrons in Korea at the hotel instead of the Sontag Hotel.
Records show that patrons were greeted in English and served Western dishes at the Daebul Hotel. An exhibition hall is going to be set up at the site of the hotel, and Incheon Open Port Trail will have another attraction.
In the midst of a line of Japanese style structures stands a Western-style church building called Gwandong Church which matches numerous Japanese-style wooden structures on both sides probably due to its arch type entrance and the classical architectural style of the entire building.
It is a beautiful structure particularly when its steeple is viewed against the backdrop of the blue sky. While the building is known to be built in 1954 with war-damaged bricks during the Korean War (1950-1953) with the assistance of the US forces stationed in Korea, some argue that there stood a Japanese church built by Japanese expatriates living in Incheon in 1908 at the same spot.
Japanese wooden structures are now used as cafes, stores and offices of Jung-gu.
A dry cleaner's is also quite impressive. All of the building have significant historical values.
For instance, alongside Gwandong Church is Cafe Pot R whose building is the only machiya (townhouse) in Japanese that still stands in the former Japanese settlement in the city. The structure was built in 1885 by Hiroike Desiro, a Japanese who founded a stevedoring company in Incheon and used the building as an office (1st floor) and an accommodation (2nd and 3rd floors) until 1945 when Korea was liberated from the colonial rule.
The interior of the cafe is as impressive as the exterior.
. The house is known for dishes made of red beans (pronounced 'pot' as in the cafe name 'Pot R') including pat juk (red bean porridge) and pat bingsu (shaved ice with sweetened red beans) in addition to Nagasaki Castella (Japanese sponge cake).
Currently, the first floor is used as the cafe while the second floor is used for diverse gatherings such as exhibitions and forums. The building is worth visiting particularly to those interested in Japanese residential architecture.
Besides, wooden structures, you can also see stone and brick buildings constructed in Western architectural styles to be used as major institutions as Dai-ichi Bank Incheon Branch, Incheon Branch of Japan's 18th Bank and Incheon Post Office during the modernization period that began with the opening of Incheon Port in 1883.
Currently, former Dai-ichi Bank Incheon Branch has changed into the Incheon Open Port Museum while former Incheon Branch of Japan's 18th Bank has been remodeled as Incheon Open Port Modern Architecture Exhibition Center. The buildings offer plenty to see indoors and outdoors.
Jung-gu Office is located in the middle of Incheon Open Port Trail. Visit it to get a map of the nurigil and a brief explanation about the history of the city. The building was built as the government office of Incheon-bu during the colonial period. Following the national independence in 1948, it was used as city hall until 1985 when city hall moved to the current building in Guweol-dong.
The last tourist spot to introduce is Hongyemun which is an arch type granite gate (around 13 meters high and 7 meters wide) with its top part shaped-like a rainbow built on the mountain side of Eungbongsan Mountain to serve as a tunnel. The robust stone gate has appeared in numerous TV dramas and movies.
It was built by a Japanese corps of engineers in charge of railroad construction during the colonial period between 1906 and 1908. Hongyemun was constructed with the purpose of expanding the residential area of the rapidly increasing Japanese expatriates in Incheon from Jungang-dong and Gwan-dong to Manseok-dong beyond Eungbongsan Mountain.
The construction period was lengthened when construction crew unexpectedly found an extremely huge rock. The gate is a significant proof of Japanese civil engineering technologies at the beginning of the 20th century. It was designated as Incheon Tangible Cultural Heritage No. 49 in 2002 for its historical values.
It is still surprising that Incheon has been the site where the country's so many 'first' incidents transpired.
Come to Incheon and be sure to walk the Incheon Open Port Trail to get acquainted with the city's proud heritage of diversity and international exchanges.