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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Heijo Photo Collection

by | January 28th, 2012 | 07:00 am
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We pass along this amazing collection of 26 digitally preserved photographs taken in Heijo (now Pyongyang) in the early 20th century.  Thanks to Korea Peninsula Through the Lens for making these photos available to us.  We also thank the USC Digital Library, The Maryknoll Mission Archives, and The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection for preserving and bringing these photos to the public.

The images all presumably draw from the era of Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.  The 10th picture indeed shows a Kindergarten graduation in which Japanese flags are shown in the background.

The pictures provide a glimpse into North Korea before Kim Il Sung and the Kim family regime.

The text below is taken from descriptions included in the KPTL special issue.

“The University of Southern California Digitial Library presents a wealth of historical photographs, oral histories, moving images, maps, documents, physical objects, and other materials owned by USC and collaborating institutions.” (USC Libraries) Two of the collections featured in the digital library, The Maryknoll Mission Archives and The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection, contain various photos taken in Heijo (now known as Pyongyang) in the early twentieth century. This special issue features many photos from those collections.

Woman working in fields, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1930-1950. Photograph of a woman carrying her child on her back working in a field. Next to her is a woven basket. Bordering the field is a stand of trees. (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Girl carrying child, Heijo, Korea, 1939. Photograph of a girl carrying a baby on her back. She smiles at the camera and has her fingers interlaced behing her back to help support the child. (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Family, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1930-1950. Photograph of “5 generations in the faith. Tjyang – 82 yrs, John Tjyang – 64 yrs., Stephen Tjyang – 42 yrs, Joanna Tjyang – 24 yrs, Martha Ri – 10 mos.” The little girl holds an apple. (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Kindergarten children, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1940. Photograph of a group of smiling kindergarten boys and girls in Heijo. (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Girls playing in snow, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1940. Photograph of sixteen smiling school girls rolling snowballs. “. Snow When school leaves out at Heijo. The girls roll up great piles of snow” (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Convent altar, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1939. Photograph of “Christmas altar & crib at the convent of the Native Sisters at Heijo.” Two Sisters kneel in front of the convent altar decorated for Christmas. To the left of the altar is a nativity scene behind which stands an evergreen tree. A Chi-Rho adorns the altar. (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Panning water, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1930-1950. Photograph of a man “panning water from one level to another.” Straddling the water source, the man is using a bowl to move the water. (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Shoemaker, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1920/1940. Photograph of a shoemaker working outside in front of a brick building. “Shoemaker comes to the house.” (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Kindergarten graduation, Heijo, Korea, 1938. Photograph of “Kindergarten graduation Heijo Japanese Mission 1938.” Father Joseph A. Hunt, MM, stands in the center of the group of graduates and their families. Standing on the far left and far right of the group are two Maryknoll Sisters. Two Japanese flags adorn the entrance to the mission house. (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Farmers and oxen team, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1930-1950. Photograph of four male farmers sitting in a field with a team of oxen used for plowing standing behind them. (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Christmas play, Heijo, Korea, December 21, 1938. Photograph of “Kindergarten children group December 21, 1938 Christmas play Heijo Japanese Mission.” The group is gathered around a Christmas tree. In the front row are children dressed as angels, the Holy Family and one of the Wise Men. Standing behind the rest of the class are seven Maryknoll Sisters. The fourth Sister from the left is holding a violin. Standing to the right of the Christmas tree is Father Joseph A. Hunt, MM.(The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Boys with puppy, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1939. Photograph of two smiling boys sitting outdoors on a set of stairs. Between them is a puppy with one white paw. (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Rolling a snowball, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1940. Photograph of “Heijo kindergarten teacher helping her pupils make a snowman. (Sister St. Paul de Chartres)” (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Two girls, Heijo, Korea, ca. 1930-1950. Photograph of “two first communicants, Heijo, Japanese Mission.” Each girl wears a traditional Japanese kimono and a white veil adorned with flowers. (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Photographs of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, Maryknoll, New York, 1912-1945. East Gate, Pyeng Yang, Korea, ca. 1920-1940. Photograph of “East Gate of ancient walled city of Pyeng Yang.” (The Maryknoll Mission Archives)

New Pyenyang High School, [s.d.]. The Centenary has given this new school, which helps allieviate crowding to some extent. Pai Chai and other high schools are being similarly helped. Pyenyang H.S. principal Kim Tuk Su has an M.A. degree from Columbia University of New York City, USA. He was a student in a Pyengyang primary School, fifteen years ago. Despite all that has been done, it is estimated that if all schools, mission, government, and private were filled to capacity, no more than one-tenth of school age children would be able to attend. (The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection)

Boy’s dormitory room, Pyengyang High School, [s.d.] Fourteen boys crowded into one dormitory room for sleep and study, show the need for more space in Korean schools. Thirteen hundred boys applied for admission in April of 1922, but only two hundred could be admitted. (The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection)

Congregation in Pyengyang, [s.d.] (The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection)

Kija’s tomb, Pyeng Yang, [s.d.]. Characteristic round earthen mounds marking graves can be seen on practically every hillside. Sage Kija is mentioned in the Chinese sacred writings and is venerated as the founder of Korean civilization. Kija came to Korea in 1122 B.C. (The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection)

View of Pyengyang, [s.d.]. In this district, the Methodist Church has a boys’ and a girls’ high school, 26 primary schools for boys, 12 primary schools for girls, total enrollment of 2,200. There are also three kindergartens and a school for the deaf and blind. Primary school children will sit more closely together to afford room for newcomers. Koreans themselves give more than two-thirds of the support needed for these primary schools, about $750 a month. The city center has a population of about 60,000 in a metropolitan area of about 1,100,000. (The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection)

Hall Memorial Hospital, Pyengang, [s.d.]. Hospital supported jointly by Methodists and Presbyterians, each furnishing a missionary doctor. Missionary doctors supported by two Korean physicians, two Korean graduate nurses, and one missionary nurse. In one recent year, 20,000 dispensary patients were treated and 600 operations were performed. In Pyengyang, there is also the Women’s Hospital and Dispensary operated by The Women’s Foreign Missionary Society. The Hall and Women’s Hospitals minister to a population of 1,100,000. (The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection)

The Seven Star Gate, Pyeng Yang, [s.d.]. The gate name refers to the “Big Dipper” constellation, meaning North Gate. Where walls are pulled down for electric car lines, some of these gates are being preserved as historical monuments. The first shots of the land fighting at the beginning of the Russo-Japanese war were fired from the top of this gate. (The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection)

Anchor stones, Pyeng Yang, [s.d.]. For centuries, it was believed that the Pyeng Yang was a boat floating in the waters of the two rivers which make almost an island of the city. Out in the fields at some distance from the city, are these two great stones which are thought to moor the city in some fashion to prevent the city from floating away down the river. Another interpretation is that the stones are the masts of the floating island city. (The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection)

Beautiful scene in North Korea., [s.d.] (The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection)

Spirit house on hill above Haiju, [s.d.]. Many spirit houses are beautifully situated. To the left of this house is the far sweep of sea; to the right, the Haiju mountains; below the valley and city of Haiju. On the day when this picture was taken, there were offerings on an altar, and a throng of women who surrounded a whirling sorceress and her assistants who were beating upon drums and cymbals. Four years later, this same spirit house was partly in ruins and deserted except for the sorceress and a few women who came to make sacrifice. (The Reverend Corwin and Nellie Taylor Collection)