Baekje Hospital

The historic Baekje Hospital in Busan, originally constructed in 1922.

The former Baekje Hospital is a heritage building in Busan, the second largest city in South Korea. Built in 1922 by Choi Yong-hae, a Korean living in Japan, it is located in Choryang, Busan’s historic Chinatown. It was the first private hospital in the city but only remained in business for about a decade before the building was repurposed. Over the years the former hospital has been used as army barracks, police station, Chinese restaurant, wedding hall, and more. This was even the home of a consulate for the Republic of China (now generally known as Taiwan) at some point, probably long before diplomatic recognition ended in 1992.

A closer look at the fourth floor of the hospital. A fifth floor was removed after a fire in 1972.
The oddly-shaped entrance on the ground floor of the former hospital.
An old wooden banister.
A charred door frame.
On the upper floors of the former hospital. Everything up here has been stripped down to the bone.
Wandering through the abandoned parts of the old hospital.

I visited the former Baekje Hospital1 in 2016 while roaming around the area in search of traces of colonial architecture with this excellent blog as my guide. Most of the upper levels were stripped down to the brickwork, awaiting further renovations or perhaps ready for new tenants. The ground floor had already been transformed into Brown Hands 백제, a designer café that I ended up working out of for three days of my trip. At that time they were running an exhibition of sculptures by Wang Ji-Won entitled The Passion, several of which were activated by motion sensors. It was an interesting choice for the otherwise unaltered space, a collision of past and future.

The narrow entrance to the cafe on the ground floor.
Daylight seeping into the former hospital, now a highly atmospheric cafe.
Behind the bar at Brown Hands Cafe. Apart from its location in a historic building this was actually one of the better cafes I found on this trip to Busan.

In a few days wandering around Busan this was by far the most significant and interesting colonial building I managed to find. Unlike Taiwan, which is still home to many remnants of the Japanese colonial era, South Korea has expunged almost all trace of those tragic times. I wonder if this hospital was spared, in part, because it has more of a Korean pedigree.

I already cited it in the text above but I highly recommend reading Colonial Korea if you’re interested in the subject.

  1. For reference, the kanji printed on the sign out front is 百濟病院

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