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Old photographs and family histories: The Seo (서 or 徐) Family of Daegu, Korea in the 1930s

In keeping with a previous post about my wife’s relative, 서상돈 (Seo Sang Don), here are a few more pictures for those interested in such things. These are from my wife’s family albums and they depict the Seo family in Daegu in the 1930s and 1940s.

Seo (서 or 徐) family of Daegu, Korea, circa 1934.

The family enjoyed some degree of status judging by their attire (the tuxedos alone signal that). The older gentleman sitting in each of the photographs is the son of 서상돈. In the pictures from the 1930s he is wearing clothing befitting a certain status within Korea at that time.  In the picture from the 1940s, much of the family’s attire has taken on a much more Korean bent.

Seo (서 or 徐) family of Daegu, Korea, circa late 1940s

Terribly sorry about the big gap of space there, but I was proving too impatient to edit these photographs after scanning them. The picture below is (I am guessing) from the same photography shoot and there is some more extended family in this one, including my wife’s grandfather (in glasses, far right).

The final image is from the 1940s with the same location and most of the same people. This is post-liberation in the interim period between the end of World War II (and Japanese rule) and the beginning of the Korean War in June of 1950. According to my sources (my wife), one of the brothers (I want to say the man in the very back on the top far left) was taken back to North Korea during the war.

My wife’s mother is in the arms of her grandmother off to the right along with her grandfather (the man in glasses in the back row). He was a professor at Hanyang University (한양대) and historian.

Also of note in this photograph is the young Cathy Hardwick. She is a fashion designer in New York City and has been quite successful over the years. She can be found in the middle row, sixth from the left (not counting the baby).

I would be hard pressed to find media descriptive in its simplicity. A straightforward family portrait at the crossroads of so much history. Regal and modest; old and new; escaping from (Japanese occupation) and on the cusp of (the Korean War) so much turmoil.

I found this on Oh My News! and I am fairly confident this is Seo Sang Don’s house, still preserved in the heart of downtown Daegu. I ask my few dedicated dear readers to compare this house with the house that acts as the backdrop of the very first picture in this post. Is it the same? I think I want it to be, but I am not sure.

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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