Soldier’s B&W Photos Capture Rare Glimpse of Seoul Rebuilding After Korean War

street photography korea han younsoo

Born in an area that is now part of North Korea, photographer Han Youngsoo's work gives us rare insight into how the country rebuilt itself after the Korean War. Fighting on the front lines as a young South Korean soldier, Youngsoo returned to an unrecognizable Seoul after the war ended.

Post-war Seoul, left devastated and impoverished, is the backdrop for Youngsoo's photography. Haunted by the horrors of war, he was stunned to see that “people lived on” despite hardship. The young soldier became a professional photographer, capturing street life in between editorial assignments. In doing so, he both created a historical record and healed himself.

“Though struggling with the multifaceted after-effects of the Korean War, the 1950s was a period of recovery,” Youngsoo wrote. “I was able to find hope watching cities and rural communities being rebuilt; in the bustling markets and the sparkling eyes of children, the laughter I had forgotten. Slowly but steadily I was recovering my own humanity.”

Captured between 1956–1963, the Korean photographer's work was rarely seen outside the country until now. Currently, the first major U.S. exhibition of his photos is on at the International Center of Photography until June 7, 2017 in Jersey City, NJ. The exhibition was organized in part by the Han Youngsoo Foundation, which works to keep the photographer's memory alive after his passing in 1999 and has published two books, Seoul, Modern Times and Once Upon a Time.

These rare photos of Seoul after the Korean War were rarely seen outside of the country until now.

street photography korea han younsoopost war korea han youngsoostreet photography korea han younsoostreet photography korea han younsoostreet photography korea han younsoopost war korea han youngsoopost war korea han youngsooseoul after the korean war han youngsooseoul after the korean war han youngsoopost war korea han youngsoo

h/t: [Vintage Everyday, The Guardian]

All images via the Han Youngsoo Foundation.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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