Scholar explores deep history of Seoul’s Donam-dong

The poster for Suk Ji-hoon's upcoming Royal Asiatic Society Korea lecture / Courtesy of RAS Korea

Northeastern Seoul’s Donam-dong of Seongbuk District is a typical Korean neighborhood. The area primarily consists of apartment complexes and various types of older housing, along with a few schools, including a women’s university. Initially situated outside of Seoul, it was located not far from Hyehwamun Gate.During the 1910–45 Japanese occupation, it housed a ranch owned by Hirayama Masazu, a Japanese Catholic. The area became the site of a massive complex of traditional Korean houses, or “hanok,” in the 1930s.”There isn’t much left physically, other than the roads and the basic terrain of the area,” scholar Suk Ji-hoon told The Korea Times. “But the reason why the Donam-dong area has a strong Catholic presence is actually quite connected to the Hirayama Ranch.”

Suk will give a lecture for the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) Korea on Tuesday, titled “Dairy Farm, Catholic Film Epic, and Hanoks: The Life and Times of Hirayama Masazu and the history of Donam-dong: a tribute to the late Peter Bartholomew.”Hirayama Masazu stands out as a fascinating figure for Suk: “ostensibly a dairy farm owner and the biggest producer of cheese in colonial Korea, Hirayama was also a restaurateur, Catholic apologist, philanthropist, film producer and a spy,” he described in an online invitation to the lecture.When asked for more details on Hirayama’s espionage history, Suk remained a little vague, wishing instead to save it for the lecture.”His Catholic faith allowed him to visit some parts of the area that was in the middle of international conflicts at that time, which I will elaborate on in my lecture,” he said.Suk plans to screen excerpts from the 1931 epic film “The 26 Martyrs of Japan,” which had been filmed partly at the ranch belonging to Hirayama, who was one of the film’s producers, having invested a large amount of his money in its making. It is a silent film that tells the story of the 1597 martyrdom of 26 Catholic priests and laymen 슬롯놀이터 in Japan.

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