Korea's oldest hotel celebrates centenary

Korea's oldest hotel celebrates centenary

October 9 marks an important milestone in Korean hotel history as The Chosun Hotel (currently 'The Westin Chosun Seoul') celebrates the 100th anniversary of the opening of its doors on Oct. 10, 1914.

As the country's oldest hotel, the establishment is one of the most iconic structures in the local hospitality industry and represents a long line of pioneering efforts to create fine luxury hotels in the country.

The construction of the Gyeongbu railway line in 1905 led to an increase in freight and passenger transport, both domestically and internationally, and the demand for hotel accommodation in Seoul began to grow.

At the time the original four-story, 52-room Chosun Hotel was built in the early 1900s, it was considered to be the epitome of affluence for its modern, Western-style design.

Nestled in Sogong-dong in the heart of Seoul, The Chosun Hotel was the first hotel in the city to have an elevator, French restaurant and buffet, and to offer its guests ice cream. It was also the first to host a dance party.

The hotel's rich political history has also made the Chosun Hotel one of the most significant lodging establishments in the country.

After the end of the Japanese occupation of Korea in 1945, the US military occupied the hotel and Gen. John R. Hodge made the Chosun its official residence.

Shortly afterward President Syngman Rhee, the country's first president, changed the hotel's official English name to The Chosun Hotel from The Chosen Hotel (the Japanese pronunciation).

The original Chosun featured the hotel's popular royal suite Room 201, which was mainly reserved for royalty from Japan and Europe during the colonial period.

Also referred to as the "Imperial Suite," the room was most famously occupied by Dr. Jae-pil Seo (Philip Jisohn), who lived in it for nearly a year from July 1947.

So was an influential figure in Korea's independence movement and the founder of the first Korean newspaper in Hangeul.

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, the Chosun was briefly taken over by the North Korean army.

However, despite the massive political turmoil and widespread destruction of infrastructure, the hotel was one of the least-damaged buildings in the city during the war.

Over its century-long history the Chosun has played host to an endless number of VIP guests and dignitaries, from presidents to politicians and celebrities.

Former US Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, General Douglas MacArthur and Marilyn Monroe were all Westin Chosun guests.

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