Korea's Religious Places - 3.5 Chungdong First Methodist Church, Seoul
|Understanding Korea Series No.6|
|← Previous||Korea's Religious Places||Next →|
|4)* Jeonju Jeondong Cathedral, Jeonju||5)* Chungdong First Methodist Church, Seoul||6)* Jeam-ri Methodist Church, Hwaseong|
Chungdong First Methodist Church (Seoul)
The Chungdong First Methodist Church is one of the oldest Protestant churches in Korea. Located in the heart of Seoul, on the west side of the palace districts (Gyeongbokgung Palace to the north and Deoksugung Palace to the south), Jeong-dong was the center of action in the late nineteenth century. Diplomatic missions from several countries were located in the area as were several churches. The Chungdong First Methodist Church was the first to build a chapel here.
There was a traditional Korean building, a hanok-style building, where the church began in 1885. By 1897 they built a Western-inspired building. A small building at the outset, by 1926 they were able to add wings to expand their worship space. Described as Victorian-style architecture, the church has been designated as Historic Site no. 256.
In the courtyard there is a bust of the founder of the church, the American pioneer missionary Henry Appenzeller (1858–1902). Appenzeller arrived with the first group of missionaries, including Horace Underwood (1859–1916), who went on to found Yonsei University. Early missionaries not only founded churches, but schools. Appenzeller was the founder of the Baejae School, which was not yet a university but initially a very important high school. Mary Scranton (1832–1909), who also arrived in 1885 and was associated with the Chungdong First Methodist Church, famously founded Ewha Girls School in 1886, which later became Ewha Womans University, the largest women’s university in the world.
Jeong-dong was the base for many foreign legations in the late nineteenth century as Korea was opening to Western countries. The Americans, British, Germans, and Russians had their respective legations (later called embassies) located in Jeong-dong. The American ambassador’s residence is still close by and the British Embassy and Anglican Church headquarters are also in the same neighborhood.
Today, access to Jeong-dong is by a narrow street that preserves the atmosphere and charm of old Seoul. The access to the Chungdong First Methodist Church is the little street that goes along the south wall of the Deoksugung Palace. In the neighborhood are the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and the headquarters for the Salvation Army Korea. Just beyond the Chungdong First Methodist Church is the Jeongdong Theater. Most of these institutions have deep roots in Korea’s early modernization era. And the Chungdong First Methodist Church was among the first of these historic sites.