Grieving South Korean women and an international observer seen during a communist uprising, 1948.

Read more: Korea Divided: Photos From the October 1948 Yeosu-Suncheon Rebellion |

Back in Time: Korea 100 Years Ago

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A few months back I posted a series of photos about China in the 1800s and 1900s. I am a huge photography and history fan and so I decided to do the same thing with photos from Korea! Korea has a very interesting history and undergone a huge transformation: the Korean Ware, separation between North and South Korea, development in the south and dictatorship in the North. You can find more related pictures in my Pinterest album 1900s Korea

Korean women going out (1904)

Retronaut – Korean women going out (1904)

“The inscription imprinted on the postcard in Japanese characters indicates an outing of ‘Pyongyang’ women.

The big objects over women’s heads were used to hide their face and to protect from sunshine or rain.

Empress Myeongseong (19 October 1851 – 8 October 1895)

Empress Myeongseong 1895

Also known as Queen Min, this lady was the first official wife of King Gojong, the twenty-sixth king of the Joseon dynasty of Korea.

After Japan’s victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, Queen Min advocated stronger ties between Korea and Russia in an attempt to block Japanese influence in Korea.

The Eulmi Incident is the term used for the assassination of Empress Myeongseong, which occurred in the early hours of 8 October 1895 at Okho-ru  in the Geoncheonggung, which was the rear private royal residence inside Gyeongbokgung Palace.


US-Korean Relations, 1883

US/Korean Relations 1883

In the 1900s, thousands of Americans came to Korea to work locals as officials in the Korean government, as Christian missionaries, as medical doctors, as educators, as businessmen, etc.

The earliest American company set up in Korea was the Gulf of America, which took over copper mines in Kapsan, near Mt. Baiktu, in the 1890s. The mines had been in operation since 1782 and the Americans modernized and expanded the mining operation.

Seduced by the Gisaeng 

Gisaeng were officially sanctioned Korean female prostitutes who worked to entertain officials and kings.

First appearing in the Goryeo Dynasty, kisaeng were legally entertainers of the government, required to perform various functions for the state. Many were employed at court, but they were also spread throughout the country.

These girls were carefully trained, and frequently accomplished in the fine arts, poetry, and prose, although their talents were often ignored due to their inferior social status.

Korea’s 1948 Yeosu-Suncheon Rebellion

Grieving South Korean women and an international observer seen during a communist uprising, 1948. Read more: Korea Divided: Photos From the October 1948 Yeosu-Suncheon Rebellion |

Grieving South Korean women and an international observer seen during a communist uprising, 1948 |

Two years before the Korean Civil War which divided the country into two, a brutal rebellion in the young Korean republic paved the way for the cataclysmic Korean War to come.

The Yeosu-Suncheon Rebellion, as it came to be called, took place in October 1948, when communist rebels — many of whom had been in the American-trained Korean Army — revolted against the (authoritarian) government of President Syngman Rhee. (

Korean War 1950 – 1953

Orphans during the Korean War

Orphans during the Korean War

The war between North and South Korea, in which the United States of America fought for the South, and China fought for the North, also assisted by the Soviet Union, resulted in the division of Korea at the end of World War II and from the global tensions of the Cold War that developed immediately afterwards.

The Korean War took a heavy toll—up to a total of 5 million dead, wounded, or missing, and half of them civilians.

During the Korean War, like in other wars, prostitutes were available and became more available the farther back from the front line a soldier was. Venereal diseases were a constant fear of the military, and many men contracted them.

More Photos of Early Korea

Which photo did you find most fascinating?

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Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

No Comments

  1. Stubert Chan on October 8, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Where is KPop !!!

    • lindalindsch on October 10, 2014 at 10:06 am

      kpop as we know it emerged in the 1990s! 🙂

  2. Gisele on October 8, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Very interesting! Thank you so much! The photo of the orphans is so heartbreaking.

    • lindalindsch on October 10, 2014 at 10:06 am

      yes, i can only begin to imagine how hard it must have been for these kids 🙁

  3. CrazyChineseFamily on October 9, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Love the first picture, the hats are just wonderful 🙂

    • lindalindsch on October 10, 2014 at 10:07 am

      i bet lots of ladies would totally rock this today as well 😀

      • CrazyChineseFamily on October 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm

        I imagine they would be really useful in packed busses, trains and so on 🙂

  4. Ri on October 9, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    This was really interesting! Thank you for the short descriptions explaining the first set of photos as well.
    I can’t say I “like” it the best, but the most impressionable one for me was the grieving South Korean women and the international observer.

    • lindalindsch on October 10, 2014 at 10:08 am

      yes, i like that picture as well! i think pictures tell more than 1000 words, so we can learn a lot from them!

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