Guest Post: Urban Exploration in South Korea

I'm a fan of urban exploration. Citizen in the Temple gave me the chance to crawl around some righteously weird places and I decided to take the scouting footage and make little urbex videos from it. Specifically, I made videos on The Columbia Yacht Club in Chicago and the old Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, know, that mall from the Blues Brothers? Ziggy Chicano, a very talented friend from film school, is currently living in South Korea. She had the opportunity to test out her Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera at an old psychiatric hospital. I edited her footage, gave it a first grade-level color polish and asked her to write something about the experience. And so we have the following story...

Ziggy Chicano

Most people call me Ziggy. I am a life-long filmmaker and student of the craft. Always lots to know, never enough to keep me happy so I am on an adventure in South Korea as an English teacher. While I am here I express my love for film by shooting shorts and videos with my students using English. Adventures aren't fun if you can't test yourself and this adventure at a hospital gave me many memories.

The place is called Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital in the small city of Gwangju, South Korea. It has been abandoned for almost 20 years. When I was invited to go on a photo outing I was told it was an abandoned hospital. The night before my friends clarified that it used to be a mental hospital. The doors shut in 1996 after patients mysteriously died and the head doctor fled to the states. Gonjiam was dubbed one of the most haunted places in South Korea and CNN claims it was one of the freakiest places in the world... If you believe in that folklore.

Who invited me on this adventure? Two good friends of mine: Jason So and Kevin Young. You can find Jason's photographs at his blog, He is the strong, unafraid type so I felt comfortable that I would be safe. Bloggers and adventurers who visited Gonjiam in the past provided easy to follow directions. 37.362433, 127.33474 . Just type these coordinates into Google maps and it'll lead you right there. We found our way using public transit. The entire trek took us about two hours including the walk to the hospital from the bus stop. 

Upon arriving at the gates, you have to walk through someone's backyard, up a hill, across a tiny river and follow what used to be an uphill driveway. Then you are at the steps of the hospital. That is where the adventure begins. The place is really "tore up." There is a lot of broken furniture, random items on the floor, debris, dirt ..let's just say it's in really bad shape. Although I was scared, I really enjoyed the aesthetics of the place. If you were to see this in a movie, I'd say great job to the set designer. Since this is not a set, nerves and the fight-or-flight response kick in. However looking back, after leaving the building unscathed, it was a great adventure...although no amount of money could make me stay in that place overnight.