The Sites of the Busan Wartime Capital is a serial property consisting of nine component sites located in Busan, Republic of Korea. The nominated property is associated with a conflict on the Korean Peninsula known as the Korean War (1950–1953), the first proxy war of the Cold War era. The city of Busan provided a temporary seat of government for South Korea for the majority of the three-year conflict (it served for 1,023 combined days over the periods from August 18 to October 26, 1950 and January 4, 1951 to August 14, 1953). Following the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, the government of South Korea was transferred to Busan on August 18 after brief periods in the cities of Daejeon and Daegu (about three weeks and one month, respectively). After approximately two months, the government returned to Seoul. The seat of government was, however, shifted once again to Busan on January 4, 1951. It remained there until the signing of a ceasefire agreement in the summer of 1953. The nominated property offers exceptional testimony to this provisional seat of the government of South Korea as it was forced to expeditiously adapt existing facilities to fulfil the functions of a wartime capital, such as maintaining the operations of the government, providing support to displaced people, and facilitating international cooperation. The nominated property consists of nine components—five centering around architectural heritage and four areas respectively serving special purposes.
The nine components of the nominated property collectively meet the conditions of authenticity and integrity by superbly attesting to the functioning of the Busan wartime capital as it governed a nation in a time of war, sustained the war-torn lives of refugees, and sought international support for military and humanitarian needs. Among the nine component sites, three are associated with efforts at maintaining governmental functions during the war: the Temporary Presidential Residence, the Temporary Government Complex, and the Korea Meteorological Administration. Components related to the lives of displaced Koreans are the Ami-dong Tombstone Village and the Uam-dong Cattle Shed Village, which opened themselves to housing the refugees flooding Busan who were displaced by the war. The other four components evidence the cooperation between the United Nations and the South Korean government and its people as they sought peace. They are Pier 1 of Busan Port, the United States Embassy/United States Information Service, Camp Hialeah, and the United Nations Memorial Cemetery.
With the end of the Second World War, the Korean Peninsula was quickly subsumed into a new global order known as the Cold War. The geopolitical confrontation of the Cold War led to an armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Upon the sudden outbreak of the war, South Korean forces withdrew southward and constructed a final defensive line at the Nakdonggang River. The country was forced to make the difficult decision of moving the government to Busan to sustain its functions. At that time, Busan was the only deep-sea port in South Korea where large vessels with a capacity of more than 10,000 metric tons could dock. The city was equipped with maritime and overland transportation networks linking the city with areas across the Korean Peninsula and Korea with the rest of the world. Busan also had a robust local government and was institutionally and geographically well-positioned for seeking international assistance. The process of transferring the government to Busan was carried out swiftly and with a great sense of urgency. With invading troops advancing swiftly southward, the South Korean government had to be moved to safety, first to Daejeon and then to Daegu. Fifty-five days after the start of the war, it was transferred to Busan, the southernmost city in the country with the physical and institutional capacity to serve as a seat of government. To make the most of the existing facilities, the government was established at sites in Busan where transportation systems (Busan Port and Busan Train Station) were found and along the Daecheong-ro Road area where local government offices were concentrated.
The wartime capital in Busan mainly consisted of three spaces—the coastal area, the central area, and the mountainous land lying behind them. The coastal area centered on Busan Port where war assistance and humanitarian supplies were brought in to the city. Displaced Koreans also arrived in Busan through the port and stayed there to eke out a living and to seek information on missing family members. The central area for the capital was focused on Daecheong-ro Road, the main east-west street of central Busan that was connected to Busan Port and the Busan Train Station to its east. Existing local government buildings in the Daecheong-ro Road area was adopted to house functions of the central government. This area was also considered the social, cultural, and economic center of the wartime capital with markets and schools scattered around the area. Major commercial centers in the area included the Gukje Market (International Market) and Bupyeong Kkangtong Market (Bupyeong Tin Can Market). Bosu-dong Book Street provided people with access to a wide range of books during the war. Writers, dancers, musicians, and other artists arriving from across the country pursued their creative activities in this area. A wartime association of universities was launched to provide higher education to displaced university students. Approximately 80 elementary, middle, and high schools reopened under canopies erected in empty plots of land across the central area, along the coast, and through the mountainous hinterlands. Residential areas were constructed for refugees in the hills behind the central area and coastal strip. Areas along the coast and inland to the east of Busan Port were relatively level and accommodated relief facilities and other international cooperation organizations. South Korea’s wartime seat of government was able to carry out its functions urgently making use of the urban layout and infrastructure of the city that had been shaped since the opening of Busan Port to international commerce in 1876.
Eight of the nine components of the nominated property are registered on a national or local heritage list in accordance with the Cultural Heritage Protection Act and are accordingly subject to government protection. The Temporary Presidential Residence is designated as a Historic Site at the national level, while the Korea Meteorological Administration, the U.S Embassy/U.S. Information Service, and the Officers’ Club (at Camp Hialeah) are listed at the city level as Monuments. A buffer around each of these four heritage sites has been designated as a Historic and Cultural Environment Conservation Area according to the Cultural Heritage Protect Act and are accordingly subject to development restrictions. The Temporary Government Complex, the United Nations Memorial Cemetery, and one building at the Uam-dong Cattle Shed Village are listed at the national level with the designation of Registered Heritage. Part of the Ami-dong Tombstone Village is designated as Registered Heritage at the city level. The process is underway to enter Pier 1 of Busan Port onto the Registered Heritage list at the city level. A series of education and experience programs are on offer to raise public awareness and appreciation of the nominated property. These programs are part of the efforts being made by the local and national governments and civic groups to contribute to the conservation and promotion of the nominated property.
The Temporary Presidential Residence was used as a home and workplace for the president and as a space for diplomatic efforts. This two-story building with a basement shows a distinctive style combining characteristics of Western and Eastern architecture. It was built in 1926 as the residence of the governor of Gyeongsangnam-do Province. Important policy decisions were made in this building and diplomatic meetings with the United Nations and its member states were held here during the war. It also served as a press center where the wartime government of South Korea provided briefings to journalists from home and abroad. The building is currently used as a museum commemorating the history of the wartime capital under the name Provisional Capital Memorial Hall.
The Temporary Government Complex accommodated the offices for the State Council (the highest decision-making organ of the government) and many other major government offices. This red-brick building rising two stories over the ground with a single basement floor displays a modified form of classical architecture. It was built in 1925 as the government offices for Gyeongsangnam-do Province. During the Korean War, many ministries and government agencies found a home in this building, which was already equipped with administrative facilities. As the main government complex, this building provided the backdrop of a series of important political, economic, and social events during the war. Programs and policies for displaced people were also prepared and implemented here. It is currently being used as a museum by Dong-A University.
The Korea Meteorological Administration carried out weather observations 24 times each day during the war, providing key information for military operations and humanitarian activities. The information it offered was also useful for those in the shipping and fishing industries and for refugees in general. This building is located on Mt. Bokbyeongsan, offering a bird’s eye view of Busan Port. The building was constructed in December 1933 to house a local branch of the Korea Meteorological Administration (known as the Busan Regional Office of Meteorology), which had been originally situated in Bosu-dong and transferred one kilometer eastward to this position in 1933. The four-story building is a reinforced-concrete structure in an expressionist style. The building is still used for meteorological observation.
The Ami-dong Tombstone Village was a neighborhood for refugees constructed over a public cemetery. This site eloquently demonstrates how desperate was the situation in which these displaced persons found themselves, but also how it was balanced by their tenacious will to survive. The Ami-dong Tombstone Village is located halfway up Mt. Cheonmasan. The cemetery over which this wartime neighborhood was formed was established in 1906 as a burial ground for Japanese residents. Upon the liberation of Korea in 1945, many Japanese citizens collected the cremated remains of their family members and returned to their home country, leaving behind tombstones and other memorial structures. With the outbreak of the Korean War only in a few years later, people fleeing to Busan used this space as a site for temporary housing. The retaining walls of the cemetery and other structural elements remain almost unchanged. People arriving to Busan during the war and their descendants still live in this neighborhood. Eight of the wartime houses have been preserved as a museum showcasing the life of displaced people during the war.
The Uam-dong Cattle Shed Village is another residential site used by refugees during the war. It is a peculiar form of housing in which former cattle sheds were converted into living space for multiple households by dividing each unit into sections. Maintaining their wartime function into the present, these cattle-shed houses clearly show how common people’s lifestyle has changed through the decades. The entire complex was originally constructed in 1909 as a quarantine area in which cattle were kept before being shipped to Japan. During the Korean War, cattle sheds and other facilities in this colonial quarantine area were used to provide shelter to displaced Koreans. One of the cattle sheds retains its shape from the wartime capital period, and the surroundings of the cattle sheds within the quarantine area—such as the alleys and wells—also maintain their state from the time. Some of the displaced Koreans who came here during the war and their offspring continue to reside here. Efforts are underway to transform one of the cattle sheds into a community facility.
Pier 1 of Busan Port served as the primary gateway to Busan for both goods and people during the Korean War. The pier was constructed in 1912 as a modern port through which Korean goods were shipped out to Japan and Western products and ideas entered Korea. It was through this port that Korean expatriates returned home after liberation. With the outbreak of the Korean War, Pier 1 at Busan Port became the landing place for U.N. soldiers, displaced Koreans, military materials, and humanitarian supplies. When U.N. forces and Korean civilians were evacuated from the port of Hungnam in 1950, an incident known as the Hungnam evacuation, an enormous number of refugees were loaded on tank landing ships and commercial vessels. They reached the south at Pier 1 of Busan Port. The naming ceremony for a five-metric-ton ferry imported from Sweden, known as the Busan, was carried out here in 1952. In the same year, South Korea’s first cargo vessel for international trade, named the Korea, was put into service here. The site also provided a key source of employment during the war, offering much-needed income to displaced people. It is estimated that there were 62 cargo companies and approximately 20,000 port laborers at the time. International humanitarian assistance continued to be delivered into South Korea through Pier 1 of Busan Port through the years following Korean War, epitomizing the spirit of using international cooperation to overcome the hardships inflicted by armed conflict. Efforts are underway to transform part of this site into a history park and open it to the public.
The United States Embassy/United States Information Service served as a channel of communication between the United States and the South Korean wartime government. It also hosted discussions over international assistance and relief activities for refugees. The building is a reinforced-concrete structure rendered in the rationalist style. The three-story building with one basement level was built in 1929 to house the Busan branch of the Oriental Development Company. After liberation, the building accommodated a cultural center (known as the American Cultural Center in Busan) operated by the United States Information Service. When the government was transferred to Busan, the building became home to the United States Embassy as well as to the administrative office of the United States Information Service. In its function as the United States Embassy, the site played a major role in the political and diplomatic relationship between the United States and South Korea as well in linking the country to the United Nations and other parts of the world. It was the primary center for relief and reconstruction efforts after the war as well. The United States Information Service carried out programs related to international assistance and supporting refugees during the war along with its customary public diplomacy activities. The building currently accommodates a museum known as the Busan Modern and Contemporary History Museum.
The United Nations Memorial Cemetery is the only cemetery in the world dedicated to those killed in action fighting under the flag of the United Nations. The cemetery was constructed on public land in 1951 to accommodate the bodies of U.N forces that had been temporarily interred at multiple sites across the country. Approximately 11,000 members of the U.N. forces were buried here from 1951 through 1954. Among those participating in the Korean War through military or medical support, seven countries (Belgium, Colombia, Ethiopia, Greece, Luxemburg, the Philippines, and Thailand) have repatriated the remains of all of their nationals. Other countries have transferred the remains of part of their casualties. Currently, remains of approximately 2,300 people from 11 countries, including 37 Koreans, are resting in peace at this cemetery. This site maintains its original function today with additional burials taking place whenever the remains of U.N. soldiers are discovered. A global campaign known as Turn Toward Busan is underway that invites people to pay a one-minute silent tribute to those sacrificed for the cause of peace every November 11 while facing in the direction of the United Nations Memorial Cemetery. The main ceremony for this campaign is held at the site.
Camp Hialeah was responsible for U.N humanitarian assistance during the Korean War. The site was originally constructed as a racetrack in the 1930s. Starting in 1941, it was used as a training ground for Japanese soldiers and as a temporary detention center for foreign prisoners. Camp Hialeah, presumably named after the Hialeah Park Race Track in Florida, was transformed into a U.S. military camp after the liberation of Korea. During the Korean War, this base became a symbol of international cooperation by accommodating U.N. soldiers. On top of housing U.S. forces, Camp Hialeah also supported several U.N. organizations including the United Nations Commission on Korea, the United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea, the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency, and the United Nations Civil Assist Command Korea. These U.N. agencies carried out diverse activities such as medical assistance and housing construction in an effort to improve the war-torn lives of Korean people. This former military camp has been transformed into a public park known as Busan Citizens Park. Some of the facilities within the camp, such as the Officers’ Club, Non-commissioned Officers’ Quarters, Quonset Huts, and school, have been preserved and are currently used for education and exhibition. There remain elements of the wartime landscape such as guard posts and wooden utility poles, attesting to the history of Busan as the temporary capital of South Korea.