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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Old KWP Cheorwon Office: Dark Side of Cheorwon after Korean Division in Moo-ja Year (1948)


The former Cheorwon office of the Korean Workers' Party (Hanja: 舊朝鮮勞動黨鐵原廳舍), located at Gwanjeon-ri 3-2 beonji, Cheorwon-eup, Cheorwon County, Gangwon Province - is one the most powerful and painful reminders of Korea’s national division.

Constructed in Soviet style using Soviet building techniques, this concrete edifice was erected in 1946 to serve, as the name would suggest, as the regional headquarters of the KWP. The KWP, of course, is North Korea’s ruling party, and the Cheorwon area — located as it is north of the 38th parallel — originally fell under North Korean administration. Then came the Korean War, and when the armistice ending the fighting was finally signed in 1953, South Korean/UN forces controlled Cheorwon after some brutal fighting in the so-called “Iron Triangle a.k.a Cheor-ui Samgak/철의삼각”.

The area where the ruins of the KWP office are located used to be the downtown of a fairly large town — before the war, Cheorwon was a major road and railway hub. During the war, however, the town was wiped off the map. And it was never rebuilt — Cheorwon’s downtown is now located quite some distance away, while the old downtown is nothing more than scattered ruins in the rice paddies. It’s all very surreal.

You have to give Soviet-style engineering credit, though — the KWP office managed to survive relatively intact, even if repeated artillery bombardment caused the roof to collapse. The bullet marks on the walls testify to the building’s violent history, although only part of it — to even build the structure, the North Koreans forced contributions from local residents and mobilized forced labor (although only KWP members were allowed to work on the interior). It’s said anti-communists were tortured and killed here as well. In the trench behind the building, there are many skeletons were found along with bullets and wires used in execution.