Westin Chosun celebrates its history in photosThe oldest hotel in Korea is celebrating its 90th birthday with a retrospective photo exhibition.
The Chosun Hotel, now called the Westin Chosun Seoul, first opened on Oct. 10, 1914, and quickly became a window from the hermit kingdom to the outside world.
The hotel was originally constructed as a four-story, red brick building with decadent luxuries such as silverware imported from Germany, linen from Ireland and Otis elevators (then called vertical railroads) from New York.
The hotel introduced to Korea the first elevator, ice cream and dance party. It was owned by a Japanese company and designed by the German architecture firm Goetheland.
The exhibition, which runs until Oct. 15, includes photos from 1914 onward. But the most enjoyable are the oldest images, from maps of downtown Seoul to fashionably dressed ladies dining inside the hotel. Many of the photos from 1914 were culled from hotel brochures, which also state room rates ― 11 yen (114 won) for a standard room.
“The exhibition shows not only our hotel’s history, but the history of Korea,” says Ahn Joo-yeon of the hotel’s public relations department.
For about half a century, Chosun Hotel was the only Western-style hotel in Korea. Prominent foreigners in Korea, such as Lieutenant General John R. Hodge, who commanded the U.S. forces in Korea until 1948, U.S. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Bob Hope booked rooms here.
Other guests included renowned Koreans such as Syngman Rhee, who ruled Korea from 1948 to 1960, and Dr. Philip Jaison, also known as Suh Jae-pil, who, as Korea’s first Western medical doctor, tried to reform public health.
After the Korean War, the hotel changed ownership several times. The co-owners in 1970, Tourist Service and American Airlines, rebuilt the hotel to a 20-story building that opened on June 1, 1970.
The hotel was renamed the Westin Chosun in 1979 after American Airlines sold its share to Westin Hotels & Resorts.
In 1992, Shinsegae acquired a 50 percent share from Tourist Service, and in 1995, bought the remaining 50 percent share from Westin Hotels & Resorts. Shinsegae decided to maintain a management partnership with former owner Westin Hotels & Resorts.
by Joe Yonghee