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[Eye Plus] Walking through early 1900s at Seoul Station

Crowds of daily commuters and tourists hopping on and off KTX bullet trains make it easy to overlook the old Seoul Station, which was restored to its former glory almost half a decade ago.

The red-brick Western-style building, which opened in 1925 during the Japanese colonial rule of Korea, no longer serves as a train station. In 2012, it was revamped into Culture Station Seoul 284, an exhibition space. 

Its turquoise Byzantine-style central dome is a stark contrast to its modern surroundings, including the adjacent new Seoul Station.

The building still houses Korea’s first Western restaurant, Grill, where coffee was first served cafe-style. Its immense popularity back then was possibly the beginning of the nation’s famed love for cafes.

At the moment, the restaurant serves as a venue for the exhibition “Coffee Society,” which highlights the evolution of the coffee culture here.

Visitors can travel back in time by enjoying coffee at the Grill and a nearby tea room. The exhibition opened in December and runs through Sunday. Black-and-white photos of Emperor Gojong (1852-1919), an avid coffee lover, are on display alongside old gadgets.

Before its restoration, the 9,202-square-meter building was mostly abandoned and forgotten by Seoul residents, after the new Seoul Station was launched with the KTX, Korea’s high-speed railway system, in 2004. It now attracts tourists and local visitors who desire to immerse themselves in history surrounded by the aroma of coffee.

Photos by Park Hyun-koo
Written by Jung Min-kyung