Built in 1926 during the Japanese colonial regime, Dongdaemun Stadium and Sports Complex stood in the heart of Seoul for 82 years. It survived the Korean war and witnessed the darker hours of military dictatorship. The stadium was also a place of leisure to many Seoulites and was a cradle and a sacred ground for amateurs and youngsters who would eventually turn pro. Now-famous baseball players such as the former Major Leaguer Park Chan-ho and the current Major Leaguer Ryu Hyun-Jin once aspired for success in this field of dreams.
In 2007, the-then-mayor of Seoul Oh Se-hoon decided to demolish this historic site as part of his political pitch called “Design Seoul.” And the stadium was to be replaced by the “Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park,” designed by British architect Zaha Hadid. It was torn down rather quietly, without much opposition, and approximately 500 millions dollars of tax money was poured into this project. And the rich narrative and history embedded in the place were lost forever.
I had attended a middle school that had a baseball team and had fond memories of the place. Fortunately I was able to document the very last days of Dongdaemun Stadium in the summer of 2007, while they were still playing high school games. These pictures are an incomplete record, a fragment of the 82-year history, but they are also a starting ground for discussions and investigations that are to follow the opening of Dongdaemun Design Plaza in 2014.
These pictures and more, coupled with writings of a renowned Korean baseball writer Kim Eun-sik, eventually became my first book of the same title.
A selection of my photographs were also published in Lonely Planet Magazine Korea and LUEL.
© 2007 Jun Michael Park. All Rights Reserved.