My adventures around Yongsan Garrison

Contributor: Scott Forrey

Once at Samgakji we would be underneath the elevated traffic circle. There were seemingly hundreds of street vendors selling everything from soups and grilled meats, to plastic shoes and clothing, to bicycle parts…..It was dark and chaotic under the traffic circle, and quite exciting for a teenager…

Topic: Entertainment, People, Recreation, Yongsan Legacy
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In the early 1970s the Samgakji area was called Samgakji Rotary, because of the elevated traffic circle that routed traffic around Hangang Ro and the road that was known as the MSR (Main Supply Route, running between the two main Yongsan base gate entrances, numbers 5 and 10, between Samgakji and Itaewon).

My friends and I had a favorite walk on weekends and during summer vacation. I lived on a street that was then called 3rd Division Road, close to the 121st Hospital, Collier Field House, and Lombard Field.

3rd Div Road on South Post by Scott Forrey 1972

I would leave my front door, turn right, and walk up the hill to Gate 19.

Former Gate 19 Current Gate 14 by Scott Forrey in 1972

Leaving the gate, we’d walk down a short, tree-lined street to Hangang Ro. This little street, ending at the big grey Yongsan Post Office, was mostly small, poor houses, street vendors selling snacks (sesame candy, gum, squid, etc.), little shacks of corrugated tin, like my street now in San Pedro Las Huertas, Guatemala, and had none of the tall buildings I can now see in photos and on Google Maps. At Hangang Ro we’d turn right, and walk past flower shops, cafes, vendors selling those round charcoal bricks for ondol floors, and piles of oyster shells, heading toward Samgakji Rotary.

HanGang_ro, Yongsan Post Office by Scott Forrey 1972
Street Vendors by Scott Forrey 1972

As we approached there were some taller buildings, many with boarded up upper floors, and some showing damaging from the Korean War.

Once at Samgakji we would be underneath the elevated traffic circle. There were seemingly hundreds of street vendors selling everything from soups and grilled meats, to plastic shoes and clothing, to bicycle parts, there were antique shops, including one called Kim’s Antiques, where my parents bought a number of fine pieces of furniture, among them an apothecary chest with 90 small drawers that had once held herbal medicines (my daughter still has this piece). Here the buildings were multi-storied, grey, with bars (some were GI bars, I learned later, where problems would arise at night) on the street level and offices above. It was dark and chaotic under the traffic circle, and quite exciting for a teenager…

Then we’d turn right, heading east on the MSR, back toward the Yongsan main gates. On the right was the tall Korean Ministry of Defense building, and across on the left was the ROK Headquarters, where I actually got to enter one time with my father. I think that huge building is now the Korean War Museum. After a few more minutes we could either turn left into Yongsan Main Post, to catch a movie on post for 25 cents,

Main Post Theater by Scott Forrey 1971

or turn right onto Yongsan South Post, pass the officer’s Club on the left,

Officers Club by Scott Forrey 1971

the long curving driveway to the Hartell House on the right (where my little brother once took off the parking brake of my parents’ Buick and flew backwards down the hill, almost crashing into a taxi), then continuing to the high school and elementary school, cutting through the school back to our neighborhood.

Here’s a photo my father, William R. Forrey, took from the elevated traffic circle at Samgakji, during the 1972 monsoon flood. I think it is looking south down Hangang Ro toward the river. You can see the water level on the street below Samgakji.
Anyway, there are some of my memories of that area from about 45 years ago….