Incheon, Gateway to Korea
- onNovember 11, 2014
- Vol.5 Autumn 2009
- byOh Junghee
1. Black Flower
Kim Young-ha, Munhakdongne Publishing Corp.
2004, 356p, ISBN 89-8281-714-X
2. The Diary of Kim Gu
Kim Gu, Dolbegae Publishers
1997, 472p, ISBN 978-89-7199-255-5
The city of Incheon occupies a strategic point of entry into Korea on the Yellow Sea, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. Currently known for Incheon International Airport, Korea’s most well-known airport, the city was also the site of the Battle of Incheon, a decisive move led by General MacArthur in the Korean War.
As of 2009, the population of Incheon stood at 2,750,000, making it the third largest city in Korea behind Seoul and Busan. But as recently as 1883, when the port of Incheon was forcibly opened by Japan and the West, it was just a small fishing village with just over 2,000 residents. The population increased by over 1,000 in just 120 years after the port opened, and the small fishing village was completely transformed into a modern city. As a result, Incheon accompanied the glory and shame of Korea’s modern history more than any other city. It was both a foreign concession under Japanese, Chinese, and western powers, and the port from which many Koreans left as migrant workers. Kim Young-ha’s novel Black Flower depicts the lives of those people who left as migrant workers from Incheon. People left their hometowns and flooded to Incheon in the hopes of finding work building the harbor and railroad. Even prison convicts were mobilized to help build the harbor. Special facilities were needed to enable commercial ships to enter the port, where tide levels vary dramatically. Kim Gu, who played a leading role in the founding of the Republic of Korea and who was also known by his pen name Baekbeom, also labored in Incheon before escaping prison. In his biography, The Diary of Kim Gu, he captures the appearance of Incheon in the early days of the opening of the port.