Former US Soldier Shares Amazing Photos of 1964 Korea

Children in the Sajik-dong part of Seoul

We’ve shown you Korea in the 1940s, 1950s and its busy period of development in the 1970s. Now it’s time to peer through a window on Korea in the 1960s.

The following is a set of rare and candid photos taken in 1964 by Klaus Moser, a former draftee who served in Korea with the US Army. Klaus has agreed to let us share his photos with you on koreaBANG – but there’s something you can do to help him in return.

Klaus is keen on finding the children in the above photograph again. The photo was taken in 1964, in the Sajik-dong area of Seoul. If you can help, please contact us through the website. Thank you!

In Korean:

이 사진의 작가는 위 사진에 있는 아이들을 찾고 있습니다. 이 사진은 서울의 사직동에서 1964년에 찍은 것이며 혹시 이 사진의 아이들에 대한 정보를 아시는 분은 웹사이트를 통해서 알려주시면 감사하겠습니다.

Klaus was drafted into the US Army in 1963 after emigrating from what was then East Germany to the United States. As part of his tour of duty, Klaus was sent to South Korea for a year in 1964. Having just married, his wife joined him and lived with a Korean family in the Sajik-dong area of Seoul.

Klaus Moser in 1964

Klaus Moser in 1964

The following set of photos are an enchanting look at Korea through Klaus’s eyes at the time. Making most of two weeks of leave, Klaus makes his way from Seoul to the east coast by bus, on by train to Busan and, finally, by boat to Jeju Island.

Three years later in 1967, Klaus held an exhibition of some of his photos at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, NY. And it’s just as well he did. In 1971, a fire in his photo lab destroyed all his negatives of Korea but, luckily, the ninety-or-so prints from the Hudson River Museum exhibit survived.

“74 prints were chosen to create a booklet for friends and family, and are now featured here. Transforming the exhibit into book form presented a problem since each has its own flow and visual criteria” Klaus told us. “Frequently, I juxtaposed images to create cohesiveness and sometimes contrast.”

“The people of Korea, their culture (including their food), their humanity and their hardships left an indelible impression, which remains with me to this day­ – the reason I’d like to share these images with the viewer.”

“I imagine to the older Korean generation it might bring back old memories of how Korea once looked – and to the younger people of Korean immigrants who have never set foot on Korean soil, it might help them to connect with their heritage.”

If you have other questions about these photos or would like to obtain copies for personal or commercial use, please visit Klaus’s portfolio or email klaus[at]kmoser.com

As mentioned above, we’d really like to help Klaus find the kids in the headline photo. Please help us by sharing Klaus’s story and these photos with your friends!

Farm hut with owner

Farm hut with owner

Deckhand on ferry from Busan to Jeju Island

Deckhand on ferry from Busan to Jeju Island

Tiger shaped traditional court instrument

Tiger shaped traditional court instrument

Mother with child

Mother with child

Woman carrying water, Jeju Island

Woman carrying water, Jeju Island

Janggi players

Janggi players

Women offering fruit to bus riders

Women offering fruit to bus riders

Woman sleeping on train

Woman sleeping on train

Children in the Sajik-dong part of Seoul

Children in the Sajik-dong part of Seoul

Child performer

Child performer

Resting fishermen

Resting fishermen

Fabric market in Seoul

Fabric market in Seoul

Traditional court drummer

Traditional court drummer

Mother and her child returning from a trip

Mother and her child returning from a trip

Man in traditional outfit

Man in traditional outfit

Passengers on a local ferry

Passengers on a local ferry

Ornamental detail of a traditional musical instrument

Ornamental detail of a traditional musical instrument

A child without mother

A child without mother

Five country school girls

Five country school girls

Woman with child washing laundry, Jeju Island

Woman with child washing laundry, Jeju Island

Two women sleeping on a train

Two women sleeping on a train

Kitchen brassware display

Kitchen brassware display

Store opening banners, Seoul

Store opening banners, Seoul

Fetching drinking water

Fetching drinking water

Man in black coat

Man in black coat

Boy tending his cattle

Boy tending his cattle

Traditional court dancer

Traditional court dancer

Fishermen with net surrounded by children

Fishermen with net surrounded by children

Tradtional court musicians

Tradtional court musicians

Jeju Island coast formation

Jeju Island coast formation

Traditional court musician

Traditional court musician

Children's feet

Children’s feet

Members of the Seoul Philharmonic

Members of the Seoul Philharmonic

Country kitchen

Country kitchen

Volcanic sand on Jeju Island

Volcanic sand on Jeju Island

Young girl on the beach, Jeju Island

Young girl on the beach, Jeju Island

American and Korean soldiers during a meeting

American and Korean soldiers during a meeting

American and Korean soldiers during a meeting

American and Korean soldiers during a meeting

Children bathing, Jeju Island

Children bathing, Jeju Island

Seafood divers, Jeju Island

Seafood divers, Jeju Island

Communal baths

Communal baths

Woman carrying supplies

Woman carrying supplies

Market scene

Market scene

Korean woman at market

Korean woman at market

Four women

Four women

Traditional court musician

Traditional court musician

Vendor selling dried fish

Vendor selling dried fish

Countryside fabric store

Countryside fabric store

Korean street scene

Korean street scene

Korean street scene

Korean street scene

Girl carrying water, Jeju Island

Girl carrying water, Jeju Island

Two old women bathing on beach, Jeju Island

Two old women bathing on beach, Jeju Island

Korean countryside

Korean countryside

Child and hut near Sajik-dong

Child and hut near Sajik-dong

Ancient clothes irons

Ancient clothes irons

Korean folk drum

Korean folk drum

Old iron

Old iron

Children in front of fish store

Children in front of fish store

Countryside

Countryside

Seoul Philharmonic performing

Seoul Philharmonic performing

Rock formation, Jeju Island

Rock formation, Jeju Island

Outdoor stove

Outdoor stove

Village child

Village child

Unknown

Unknown

Detail of Korean house

Detail of Korean house

Entrance to Seoul market

Entrance to Seoul market

Water jug

Water jug

Breakfast, lunch, or dinner as served in a hotel in Jeju Island

Breakfast, lunch, or dinner as served in a hotel in Jeju Island

Working women with frames, Jeju Island

Working women with frames, Jeju Island

On the way to the market

On the way to the market

Young traditional flute player

Young traditional flute player

Vegetable seller, Seoul

Vegetable seller, Seoul

Child performer

Child performer

Between houses

Between houses

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

Rice field

Rice field

Shoemaker

Shoemaker

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

Girl grooming her younger sister

Girl grooming her younger sister

Men playing go-stop

Men playing go-stop

Fishermen at rest

Fishermen at rest

Seoul

Seoul

Nursing mother selling food

Nursing mother selling food

Watch store

Watch store

Man in a traditional coat

Man in a traditional coat

Basket maker

Basket maker

Market scene, Seoul

Market scene, Seoul

Dancers in old royal tradition

Dancers in old royal tradition

Farmers heading to work

Farmers heading to work

Portrait of boy

Portrait of boy

Fetching drinking water

Fetching drinking water

Man carrying metal pots on a frame

Man carrying metal pots on a frame

Child and shoe store

Child and shoe store

Got old photos of Korea? Want to share them with the world? Contact us! We’re particularly interested in documenting the 1980s. Go on, show us your mullets!

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  • Ruaraidh

    As someone born in the late 80s it’s always a strange feeling for me to think of how much life and technology has changed since my grandparents were my age. The feeling must be so much more acute for people in Korea, where the transformation has been even greater.

    Thanks for posting this, I really love these photos from the past.

    • http://www.koreabang.com James

      Thanks Ruaraidh. Speaking of the 1980s, that’s a period of Korea’s history we’d love to try and cover with one of these photo articles. Keep your eyes peeled.

  • http://wirthconsulting.org Theodore Wirth

    Most astonishing photo set. Especially since I watch all Korean films and in the Middle of ROAD NO. 1 drama.

  • K Koerner

    These photos are wonderful. What a priceless record of a particular time and place. It is not that long ago, and the changes since then are almost inconceivale! The loss of his negatives must have been heartbreaking for Mr. Moser.

  • The Acidic Hasidic

    there are pretty amazing photos… good luck finding these people

  • Chris Evans

    As a resident of the east coast city of Gangneung, I’m curious as to whether or not some of these photos were taken here, seeing as the photographer traveled from Seoul to the east coast before heading to Busan. Any idea if some of these pictures were taken here?

  • Brett Sanbon

    I love the caption for the picture of the meal… “breakfast, lunch, or dinner…”

    This will always be how I interpret Korean food. Hah!

  • Stories of butts

    Great photos, its always amazing to see the fast rate of progress Korea went through.

  • Paul M

    Even I get a feeling of nostalgia looking at these photos. I always find them quite sad as the beautiful buildings and street fronts have now all but disappeared.

  • lonetrey

    Looking through these pictures, I find it hard to understand life back then. Like Ruaraidh said, the last 20 years have changed everything about life.

    Definitely an interesting showcase of photos, and I hope Mr. Moser finds at least a few of those kids!

  • galap

    Some photos remind me of parts of rural China in 2012…

    • Brett Sanbon

      The same thought crossed my mind, and not in a demeaning way…. seriously, most of Hunan and surrounding areas looks just like these pictures. Its uncanny.

    • http://www.matthewsawtell.com Matthew A. Sawtell

      Thinking of southern GuangDong Province… those places not pretty much paved over for factory space.

  • Brett Sanbon

    I never realized how much Koreans enjoyed wearing white until I saw pictures of after the Japanese occupation.

    • Shawna

      My bf told me the average Korean would simply wear white hanbok. Those “historical” dramas I love to watch are totally inaccurate!

      • Kochigachi

        well so is American, European and Japanese historical dramas, very inaccurate indeed. Koreans called themselves White clad people and during Joseon period with highly Confucius doctrine society encouraged commoners to wear white fabric colored cloths. It represented purity & clean. Also, colors represented caste system in Korea, darker the colors more higher ranks such as dark purple.

    • Ashley Kim

      It wasn’t that Koreans “enjoyed” wearing white. They were too poor to have other options at that time. Only rich people with money were able to afford colorful fabrics.

      • Brett Sanbon

        Thanks Ashley, but Koreans were forbidden from wearing white during the occupation (at least part of it). There were multiple recorded incidents of Japanese soldiers enforcing the “no white” rule by destroying the clothes with black ink.

        Though, I wont disagree with your claim that colors were too expensive for common citizens~ I dont know how much more colors cost compared to white Hanbok.

        • Brett Sanbon

          [Sorry, I posted withought finishing my thought]

          …..compared to white Hanbok. I was just joking about the difference in clothing between the time of the Japanese occupation and after.

          • http://www.seoulentourage.com Oliver B. Wu

            I agree with Brett. I learned that White represented the color of Chosun and Japan prohibited it during occupation.

      • harvz

        I quite fancy the term 白衣民族 (백의민족). Has a poetic sound to it.

  • Mirror On the Wall

    Most of the pictures taken were of the Jeju-do Island, which was a complete backwater back then before it was developed into a tourism place. Even back then, it was one of the most poorest parts of Korea. Part of my father’s side of the family were from Jeju Island, and my grandfather used to raise pigs that would eat the shit from the outhouses. They also spoke a peculiar form of Jeju dialect. By the mid 1960′s, the city of Seoul was already well on its way to being developed, and the people from the rural areas were flooding in. The standard of living gap between Seoul and the rural areas were probably already quite pronounced.

  • 미대협

    I’ve got about 550 photos from my grandfather taken in ’53 all of which are in color. I’ve been trying to share them with the history of war museum in Seoul, but they haven’t seemed interested… :\

    • Priscilla

      I really hope you get to share them with the public; please keep them well preserved.

    • Gyong-woon Aoh

      I am a Korean on international trade business. 55 years old. I was impressed by the photos here. I think that other photos from 1953 (cease of fire for the miserable war) in your posession can be impressive for Koreans. I know some cases of what Korean government or NGOs related to history, the war inclusive can be interested in the photos and even could watch a TV program that some months ago that an American Korean businessmen was travelling for collection of such photos in order to publish very valuable books dedicated early this year.

      So, it will not be wasting of your time if you can keep checking with the right government or non governmental bodies in Korea. I might be a voluntary helper for it if you need my assistance, leaving my email address here along my salutaion, All the best, I will get my fingers crossed.

    • Danny

      Scan and upload them yourself! Do it for South Korea and the world.

  • http://koreanselfstudyisntlame.blogspot.com/ Matthew

    simply an amazing collection. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • http://www.koreabang.com/2012/pictures/former-us-soldier-shares-amazing-photos-of-1964-korea.html Elizabeth

    These are some of the most beautiful photos I’ve seen of Korea. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the soul of Korean culture captured in this way. It’s amazing to consider how much Korea changed over the following two decades.

    Are these photos available for purchase?

    • http://www.koreabang.com James

      You can contact Klaus and ask him via the link in the article.

  • http://jeffreymillerwrites.com Jeffrey Miller

    These are some amazing images providing a window on Korea’s past and how the country has come since then.

  • Priscilla

    Closer to the beginning of these photos, there’s one of a boy, titled “a child without a mother”; Although his arm covers most of his face, it appears he is probably a racially mixed child- This little boy’s weary and homeless appearance is paralyzingly painful to me. There were many abandoned and suffering mixed raced children during those periods at certain cities and towns, and they were looked upon with much scorn and harsh words were not spared toward them. I wonder how he is, if he is still living.. I can’t get myself to look at this picture again.

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  • Jaclyn

    This link has been shared on Facebook from many Korean adoptees, internationally. I work with the biggest international Korean adoptee organization (adoptee-run non-profit organization), I am guessing some of these children in the photo were orphans during that time…it’d be absolutely amazing if Mr. Moser is able to find these people.

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