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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Seoul Mapo-gu: K-Popping District of Seoul and Korean Catholics Execution Site during late Joseon Period


Mapo-gu (Hangul/Hanja: 마포구/麻浦區) is a district located at Western Seoul-upon-Han, Republic of Korea. The district is bordered with Seoul Yongsan-gu and Seoul Jung-gu on East, DeogEun-dong Administrative Precinct, Goyang DeogYang-gu, Gyeonggi Province on West, Seoul Gangseo-gu and Seoul Yeongdeungpo-gu on South - separated with Han River and Seoul Seodaemun-gu and Seoul Eunpyeong-gu on North. The name "Mapo" comes from the name of an old ferry across the Han River, and can roughly be translated as "hemp ferry." The postal codes of Seoul Mapo-gu start from 03900 [1~3 Gayang Boulevard/Gayang-daero] to 04214 [1~13 Old Mallijae Street/Mallijaeyet-gil]. The passenger vehicle registration plate code for this district is 01~16 저(JEO) 1000~9999.

Seoul Mapo-gu is well known to Hongdae area, the place where the university students - especially from Hongik University and Sogang University spend their leisure and night life after hectic lecture period. Seoul-SangAm World Cup Stadium at 240 World Cup Road, Seongsan-dong 515-beonji is the home turf of FC Seoul in K-League Classic and Korean Republic National Football Team which became the opening venue of FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan in 2002. Furthermore, media broadcasting companies such as Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) are located at Digital Media City, Sangam-dong - along with K-pop label companies including CJ E&M, YG Entertainment, Woollim Entertainment, A Cube Entertainment and Star Empire Entertainment.

A nation which first occupies the Han River area gained supremacy in the period of Samguk Period. For example, a fraction of Goguryeo immigrants of Buyeo by descent moved south and built the country system by conquering and assimilating the existing native society, and the country was called Baekje. Baekje encroached on the field of activity of the existing people of Mahan and extended its power to a nearby political force through conquest, stood face to face with the pressure of Nangnang and Daebang Commanderies and a southward invasion of the northeast force in the time of King Onjo.

Goguryeo attacked Han River area changing the territory into the southern regions from the north, west coast and gained about 58 fortresses and 700 hamlets. Then, the forces of King Gwanggaeto the Great of Goguryeo advanced to Seoul-Hanseong about 40,000 armies and militias attacked the northern side of Baekje and gained 10 fortresses such as Seokhyeonseong, and Gwammiseong, which was lasted for four years. 20th King of Goguryeo, King Jangsu gained total control of Hanseong in 475 by encircling the fortress and killing King Gaero, 21st King of Baekje. The following year after the Siege of Hanseong, King Munju, son of King Gaero and 22nd King of Baekje moved its capital from Hanseong to Ungjin (present-day Gongju City, Southern Chungcheong Province).

Meanwhile, King Jinheung of Silla set up 10 militaries in midstream and upstream of the Han River in 551. The Silla forces advanced into the Han River basin came to be a basis of the domination of Three States and set up the administrative district to control the Han River area in 557. The Silla named a district with Seoul as the center Bukhansanju or Sinju and repeated the rule and abolition of the district several times. The meaning of Sinju includes the most important region for defensive reason, too. The districts of Seoul were renamed as Hanyang county instead of renaming Hansanju into ‘Hanju’ when King Gyeongdeok ruled in 757. Since then, Mapo area became the place where ships are harbored in Seoul from Yellow Sea.

However during the Turbulent Later Three Kingdoms period, Han River area became  the site of rivalry among local barons in the end of the Silla. Gung Ye, one of the Yang Gil’s men, among the barons submitted about 10 castles to the jurisdiction of Hansanju and appointed public office in 895, since then, this area came to be ruled by Gung Ye and formed a new kingdom which is called HuGoguryeo-Taebong (Later Goguryeo-Taebong).

Gung Ye moved to Gaeseong and pushed on Chungju and Cheongju after taking about 30 castles within the jurisdiction of Hwanghae Province and Hansanju. Then, he renamed Gaeseong into ‘Majin’ (the name of country was changed as Taebong in 911) and called the era name of ‘Mutae’. He moved the capital to Cheorwon County, Gangwon Province and expanded his power from south to Sangju, Northern Gyeongsang. At that time, Gung Ye had to cross the Han River to push into the south because there were current Gwangjang Bridge, Hangang Bridge, and Mapo Bridge. However, his influence was short-lived. In 918, four of his own top generals – Hong Yu (홍유/洪儒), Bae Hyeon-gyeong (배현경/裵玄慶), Shin Sung-gyeom (신숭겸/申崇謙) and Bok Jigyeom (복지겸/卜智謙) – overthrew Taebong and enthroned Wang Geon, one of Gung Ye's followers and the previous chief minister, of his nation, as king with his regnal name of Taejo. Gung Ye is said to have escaped the palace, but was killed shortly thereafter either by a soldier or by peasants who mistook him for thief.

The 27th King of Goryeo, King Chungsuk with Princess Jo Guk-jang visited to Hanyang in August 1325 and temporary palace was set up at the spot overlooking the Han River on the hill of Yongsan and stayed there. However, the princess passed away 9 days after she gave a birth to a son, Prince Yongsan 20 days later. Even though the queen died of the poor postpartum care because the temporary shelter was provided by the humid river, the spot has very important meaning in terms of the temporary palace that they used.

Rumors about the location of the temporary palace of Yongsan are ambiguous. The most reliable one among the rumors is that the location is near the north of the Han River Bridge and near Nanjido. Because the northern end of Han River Bridge was a strategically significant for the Joseon Dynasty Defense and the neighborhood of Nanjido was a place that a castle was built as a mountain in Joseon Dynasty period to light a signal fire from Yangcheon.

Meanwhile in the latter times of Goryeo Period, Japanese pirates appeared in Ganghwa Island, including the lower areas of Han River. The pirates threatened the marine connection and caused the residents to evacuate to the safest place. The Han River was used as marine transportation carrying the local taxes in Goryeo Dynasty, but the transportation was blocked due to the invaders. This situation had an effect on Gaegyeong (Gaeseong in the present-day DPRK) and a controversy over the relocation of Hanyang has been surfaced and effective two years after the fall of Goryeo Dynasty. The people who taken the initiative in opening a new Dynasty insisted the relocation of Hanyang where the earth energy is expanding from Gaegyeong and the issue was performed at once. Also, the need to deal with the old nobility’s opposition, who is formed with the Royal House of Gaeseong Wang as center along with Yi Seong-gye's accession to the throne, accelerated the will of the transfer of the new capital.

The first reason King Taejo Yi Seong-gye set up the capital at Seoul-Hanyang is the importance of the human geographical location parallel to the Han River. In the volume 1 of the Revised Augumented Survey of Korean Geography (신증동국여지승람/新增東國輿地勝覽) a writer says that the Han River is surrounded like one’s collar and belt in the south, the high hill is connected in the left side, and the wide sea surrounds in the right side.

Therefore, the lower reaches of the Han River in the western Mapo come to be included. The Mapo is considered as a major street to go Gaegyeong and it served as a base for powerful faimilies in the early years of Goryeo because the Mapo, a lower reach of Youngsan River, is the way to go to Siheung passing by the sandy beach.

Meanwhile, in the Saengrijo of Bokgeochongron in Taekriji (human geography book), Lee Jung-hwan wrote that the capital is moved to the Hanyang because marine transportation is convenient. Grains paid as tax in Korean Peninsula were gathered to the Hanyang and the place that the ships is able to be safely anchored was built because general necessities within a capital city are provided by ships through the Han River. The grains nationwide were provided through the 5 rivers of the Han River.

In January 1866, Russian ships appeared on the east coast of Korea demanding trading and residency rights in what seemed an echo of the demands made on China by other western powers. Korean Christians with connections at court saw in this an opportunity to advance their cause and suggested an alliance between France and Korea to repel the Russian advances, suggesting further that this alliance could be negotiated through Bishop Berneux. The Heungseon Daewongun seemed open to this idea, but it was possibly a ruse to bring the head of the Korean Catholic Church out into the open; upon Berneux's arrival to the capital in February 1866, he was seized and executed. A round-up then began of the other French Catholic priests and Korean converts.

Several factors contributed to the Heungseon Daewongun's decision to crack down on the Catholics. Perhaps the most obvious was the lesson provided by China, that it had apparently reaped nothing but hardship and humiliation from its dealing with the western powers - seen most recently in its disastrous defeat during the Second Opium War. No doubt also fresh in the Heungseon Daewongun's mind was the example of the Taiping Rebellion in China, which had been infused with Christian doctrines. 1865 had seen poor harvests in Korea as well as social unrest, which may have contributed to a heightened sensitivity to the foreign creed. The crackdown may also have been related to attempts to combat factional cliques at court, where Christianity had made some inroads.

As a result of the Korean dragnet, all but three of the French missionaries were captured and executed: among them included Bishop Siméon Berneux, as well as Bishop Antoine Daveluy, Father Just de Bretenières, Father Louis Beaulieu, Father Pierre-Henri Dorie, Father Pierre Aumaître, Father Martin-Luc Huin - all of whom were members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, and were canonized by Pope John Paul II on 6 May 1984. An untold number of Korean Catholics also met their end (estimations run around 10,000), many being executed at a place called Jeoldusan in Seoul Mapo-gu on the banks of the Han River.

In late June 1866, one of the three surviving French missionaries, Father Félix-Claire Ridel, managed to escape via a fishing vessel, thanks to 11 native converts, and made his way to Chefoo (today known as Yantai), China in early July 1866. Fortuitously in Tianjin at the time of Ridel‘s arrival was the commander of the French Far Eastern Squadron, Rear Admiral Pierre-Gustave Roze. Hearing of the massacre and the affront to French national honor, Roze became determined to launch a punitive expedition against Korea. In this, he was strongly supported by the acting French consul in Peking, Henri de Bellonet.

On the French side, there were several compelling reasons behind the decision to launch a punitive expedition. These had to do with the increasing violence against Christian missionaries and converts within the Chinese interior, which after the Second Opium War in 1860 had been opened up to westerners. As Korea was a vassal state of China, the massacre of westerners and Christians in Korea was seen within the context of anti-Western behavior in China by diplomatic and military authorities in the west. Many believed a firm response to such acts of violence was necessary to maintain national prestige and authority.

In response to the event, the French chargé d'affaires in Beijing, Henri de Bellonet, took a number of intitiatives without consulting Quai d'Orsay. Bellonet sent a note to the Zongli Yamen threatening to occupy Korea, and he also gave the French Naval Commander in the Far East, rear admiral Pierre-Gustave Roze instructions to launch a punitive expedition against Korea, to which Roze responded: "Since [the kingdom of] Joseon killed nine French priests, we shall avenge by killing 9,000 Koreans." Thus, the Byeongin French Invasion on Korea was commenced in response of Korean Catholics killings by Joseon Dynasty.

The District Office is located at 212 World Cup Road, Seongsan-dong 370-beonji with its postal code: 03937. The mayor of this district is Park Hong-sup (Minjoo Party). In the other hand, Lawrence Roh Woong-rae and Son Hye-won (Minjoo Party) served as the district assemblymen for 20th Session of Gukhoe (2016-2020). Lawrence Roh represents Seoul Mapo-gap (1st Electoral District that covers Gongdeok-dong, Ahyeon-dong, Dohwa-dong, Yonggang-dong, Daeheung-dong, Yeomni-dong and Sinsu-dong), while Son Hye-won represents Seoul Mapo-eul (2nd Electoral District that covers Seogang-dong, Seogyo-dong, Hapjeong-dong, Mangwon 1~2-dong, Seongsan 1~2-dong, Yeonnam-dong and SangAm-dong). Seoul Mapo-gu consists 16 administrative precincts (행정동) on 26 legal precincts (법정동) as shown on the map below (in Hangul and Hanja).