History of Namyeong-dong Anti-Communist Investigation Office
History of Namyeong-dong Anti-Communist Investigation Office
Namyeong-dong Anti-communist Investigation Office

The Namyeong-dong Anti-communist Investigation Office of the National Security Headquarters, located at 98-8, Garwol-dong. The so-called Namyeong-dong Anti-communist Investigation Office was built in October, 1976, as a five-story building above ground, extended to seven floors in 1983. Kim Chi-yeol, the name of the Interior Minister at the time of construction, is engraved on the cornerstone; whereas Park Jong-cheol, the name of the student tortured to death on these premises is etched on the copper plate in front of the entrance. The National Security Headquarters, the current National Police Agency, belonged to the Ministry of the Interior at the time. At the time of its construction, the signboard of the building was International Marine Research Institute. It was intended to hide from any passers-by the true identity of this site that shared a wall with Namyeong Station on Subway Line 1, as a space where violence and intimidation skirting the boundary between life and death were repeatedly and matter-of-factly perpetrated by means of water torture and electric shocks. Seasonal flowers bloomed in the carefully manicured garden. On the tennis court, the investigators that carried out horrific tortures played tennis to stay fit. The victims, dragged to the Namyeong-dong Office unnoticed and subject to severe tortures, had to fight the abject helplessness, with their whole being thrown into the abyss of fear, listening to the humdrum of subway trains coming and going.

On the Namyeong-dong premises, there are two auxiliary buildings, in addition to the Namyeong-dong Office’s main building. One is the AMD building, connected to the main building, where the analysis of communications intelligence was carried out, the other the Annex building that housed a machine room and a cafeteria. The AMD building is located alongside the wall of Namyeong subway station. Its positioning is said to have been intended to effectively block outside noise from seeping into the main building. To ensure security and further suppress noise, windows were not installed on the backside facing the subway station. The AMD and the main building are joined together on the third floor, and a similar spiral staircase in the connecting structure takes people into the AMD building. The space, deemed to have been both a communications analysis room and a darkroom, is structurally distinctive with its high ceiling and nested room-in-a-room layout. In the Annex building, a cafeteria and its kitchen are located on the 2nd floor, a pump room and an electrical panel room on the 1st floor. The Annex building is the only building with a basement, where quite a few remnants of the former machine room facilities can still be found.

Brief History of Namyeong-dong Anti-Communist Investigation Office
October 29, 1935
• 98 Garwol-dong subdivided into 19 parcels including 98-8 Garwol-dong.
• Garwol-dong 98-8 owned by Joseon Silk Thread Manufacturing Corporation.
February 5, 1957
• Hongjoong Heavy Industries Corporation returned the land ownership to the state according to the Act on disposal of property devolving upon the state.
March 10, 1975
• The landownership was transferred from the state to Hongjoong Heavy Industries Corporation but was reverted to the state yet another time.
• The ownership by Hongjoong, who had previously owned the land during the Japanese colonial rule, is viewed as the CIA's disguised maneuver to appropriate the land for their use.
1976• The order for the construction of the Namyeong-dong Office was issued by Kim Chi-yeol, Interior Minister and was awarded to the SPACE Group of Korea.
June 25, 1976• The ownership was transferred from the state to the National Security Headquarters of Ministry of the Interior.
October 2, 1976
• The construction started. The Namyeong-dong Office was run under the name of the International Marine Research Institute.
November 7, 1977
• The use of the Namyeong-dong Office was approved (19 parcels including 98-8 Garwol-dong)
November 23, 1977
• The Namyeong-dong Office took into custody Lee Young-hee, its first torture victim.
November 30, 1979
• A storage room was built on the 1st floor of the Namyeong-dong Office. With the area of 46.28, it was made of reinforced concrete and black bricks.
June 1981
• The Intelligence Division was replaced by the Anti-Communist Intelligence Division.
• The extension of the Namyeong-dong Office was designed and its construction started.
March 27, 1985
• Eighteen parcels of the land (including 98-9 Garwol-dong) were incorporated under 98-9 Garwol-dong.
September 4, 1985
• Kim Geun-tae, arrested due to the Democratic Youth Coalition incident, was detained for 23 days.
January 14, 1987
• Park Jong-cheol died from torture.
1991• The Anti-Communist Investigation Division of the Security Headquarters was changed to the Security Division of the National Police Agency.
July 29, 1992• The ownership of the buildings and the land was transferred from the Interior Ministry's National Security Headquarters to the National Policy Agency.
July 26, 2005• The Security Division of the National Police Agency was renamed the Human Rights Center of the National Police Agency.
August 2005• It was opened to pubic for the first time.
2007• The Park Jong-cheol Memorial Room and the National Policy Agency Human Rights Exhibition Hall were set up through remodelling.
• A considerable number of the 5th floor investigation rooms were altered in the course of their remodelling in the wake of the founding of the Human Rights Center.
July 21, 2008• A 15 square meter container shower room was newly built on the 1st floor of the Namyeong-dong Office.
January 16, 2019• The ownership of the buildings and the land was transferred to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety from the National Police Agency.
Project Client – Kim Chi-yeol

Kim Chi-yeol was born in Dalseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do, on September 15, 1921. After graduating in September 1943 from the Department of Law at Chuo University, Japan, he passed the administrative examination for high-ranking civil officials of the Japanese Government-General of Korea in July 1943 and the Japanese Bar Examination in April 1945, respectively. Returning to Korea after its liberation, he began his career in prosecution with Daegu District Public Prosecutors’ Office in 1946. He served as deputy chief prosecutor of District Public Prosecutors’ Office of Busan, the provisional capital city during the Korean War, before moving on to Seoul District Public Prosecutors’ Office as deputy chief prosecutor in September 1954 and to the Ministry of Justice in the capacity of deputy minister for criminal affairs in September 1956. Kim was promoted to the chief prosecutor of Seoul District Public Prosecutors’ Office in 1958, a few years before turning forty. Ousted in September 1960, from the post in the wake of the April Revolution, he spent 10 years practicing law. In January 1970, he was appointed deputy director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA). On his watch, the kidnapping of Kim Dae-jung took place in August 1973, followed by the announcement of the “Europe-based Korean Spy Ring Incident.” In December of the same year, he took the reins of the Prosecutors’ Office as the nation’s 13th Prosecutor General. In April 1974, while he was in office, the “Committee for Re-establishment of the People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP) Incident” took place. Appointed the 37th Interior Minister in December 1975, he focused his efforts on the rural housing improvement campaign, taking charge of the Saemaul Undong Center (New Community Movement). In 1976, he created the Namyeong-dong Anti-Communist Division under the National Security Headquarters, and went on to divide the latter’s Special Investigation Unit into Team Sajik-dong (SIU1) and Team Singil- dong (SIU2), SIU1 tasked with conducting investigations specially ordered by Park Chung-hee. He became the Minister of Justice in December 1978, and left the post on December 13, 1979. In the space of a decade, from when he joined the KCIA as deputy director to when he retired as the Minister of Justice, he stayed at the very core of Park Chung-hee’s political inner circle. In view of his leadership unfurled in the key organizations buttressing the regime, it is not hard to see why the Anti-Communist Division was set up. It should be noted that, taking over the Ministry of the Interior, Kim, a former KCIA deputy director, founded the organization in sole charge of anti-communist investigations as a means of upholding Park’s “October Yushin” dictatorship with the use of the police, and then commissioned the most renowned architect at the time to design the building tailored to such purpose. That he put a lot of significance on this construction project is manifested in the fact that he took care to have his name and job title carved on the building’s corner stone. A Park Chung-hee loyalist, Kim was removed from his post by the new military faction who had seized power by staging the 12.12 Military Insurrection after Park’s death on October 29, 1979.

Architect – Kim Swoo-geun

Kim Swoo-guen was born in Cheongjin, Hamgyeongbuk- do (then Hamgyeongnam-do), in 1931. He enrolled in the Department of Architectural Engineering at Seoul National University in 1950. With the outbreak of the Korean War, however, he smuggled himself out of Busan to Japan, where he went on to graduate from Tokyo University of Arts with a BA in Architecture. Studying under Takayama Eika at the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design at Tokyo University, Kim, teaming up with Park Chun-myeong, won first prize in the design contest for a National Assembly building to be constructed in Namsan, and subsequently returned to Korea. This design project, having taken off during Syngman Rhee’s regime and continued after his ousting following the April Revolution (1960), was brought to an abrupt halt at the final stage of the working design due to the May 16 coup (1961). Despite the project being scrapped, thanks to his acquaintance with Kim Jong-pil, he was awarded with a majority of the government-led construction projects that represented the reign of Park Chung-hee in the 1960s, such as Walker Hill Hotel, the Freedom Center in Jangchung-dong, Sewoon Plaza, Yeouido and Han River development projects, and Buyeo National Museum. Little is known about how he came to undertake the design of the Namyeong-dong Anti-Communist Investigation Office, but his connection with the political circle at the time appears to have worked in his favor. He also designed the KCIA building; in the aftermath of Park’s death, however, the construction was not used as originally intended. He seemed to have landed the Namyeong project due in large part to his cosy relationship with the 60s’ ruling political elite, such as Kim Jong-pil.

Designing Horror: Namyeong-dong Anti-Communist Investigation Office
Designing Horror: Namyeong-dong Anti-Communist Investigation Office

In the dead of the night, the people, blindfolded, were manhandled into a car and taken to Namyeong-dong. They passed through the front gate, seized by the most dreadful fear. The double-layered steel gate, heavy and machine-operated, guarded the entrance. Those who remember the time thought that they had been taken to an army base since they felt as if the whole world were reverberating with some metallic and tank-like sound. The rear entrance solely for detainees’ use, built on the opposite side to the front entrance, remains hidden from view of the main gate. The design was a deliberate decision to completely conceal the nature of its use. The detainees’ entrance is connected to the spiral steel staircase that led exclusively to the 5th floor where nothing but the investigation rooms were located. Eyes covered, they had no inkling of which floor they were taken to. The noise from the steel staircase amplified their fear, its spiral design causing them to lose their sense of space. For this reason, some of the torture victims would testify that they had been dragged to an underground room.

Investigation Rooms

Unlike other conventional investigation rooms placed underground, the Namyeong-dong investigation rooms were located 5 floors up above ground. Each door of the rooms was marked in small numerals by room number only, devoid of any floor designation. Since the doors were all identical in size and color, those under questioning, even when they managed to fling themselves out of the room, ended up at a loss in which way to escape. The rooms were arranged in a zigzag order along both sides of the hallway. As a result, one couldn’t see the room on the opposite side even with their door opened. Probably all one could only hear were screams traded along the length of the hallway. All conditions of the investigation room were controlled from the outside. The dimmer switch installed in the hallway enabled adjusting the brightness of lighting as well as managing its power supply. On each door was fixed a tiny lens through which to watch the inside from without, but not the other way around. The monitoring of the investigation rooms was conducted in the office on the third floor via a surveillance camera mounted on the ceiling of each room. The walls were covered with perforated wood boards in order to absorb sound. The fluorescent tubes on the ceiling was protected with a wire mesh panel, the desk and the chair secured tightly on the floor. This setting was contrived to obviate any likelihood of sudden actions by a detainee amid harsh interrogation. Seen from outside, the windows of the fifth floor alone looked unusually narrow and elongated. Once inside, one can clearly understand the reason for the particularity of their design. The dimension of the window, its width hardly enough for a human head to stick out through, made it impossible for torture victims to escape or harm themselves. They could see the ray of sunlight coming in through the window and hear the subway trains shuttling back and forth; but they could not escape or cry out for help. These facilities indicate a level of intricacy inconceivable for something built in Korea during the 1970s. The entirety of the flawless design was aimed at accomplishing one single purpose.

Investigation Rooms (509)

Room 509.  It is the only investigation room on the fifth floor preserved as it was. Barely larger than 3 pyeong (9.9m²), the room has a seating toilet bowl, a wash basin, and a small bathtub, all exposed to view, on one side. A bed, a desk and two chairs are placed in the remaining space. On January 14, 1987, Park Jong-cheol, a Seoul National University Student, who had been taken to this room, was killed during atrocious water torture. The police attempted to cover up the incident as an accidental death caused by shock, making an unheard-of and ludicrous assertion that they had only slammed the desk with a “bang” and the student had collapsed with an “ugh.” The efforts of many people to uncover the truth about his death, however, brought to light the fact that Park had been tortured to death and the existence of the Namyeong-dong Anti-Communist Investigation Office as well. Nowhere in any of the other 5th-floor investigation rooms can their original appearance be found, as, in the aftermath of Park’s death, the bathtubs were removed, the red tiles replaced. On the same floor, there was one room whose floor color was different from that of others. Some torture victims called it the “red room” since they thought that its walls and floor had been all red. However, Room 504, the room in question, has not been preserved with its original state intact, and since there is no way to corroborate this memory, one can only guess it to be the “red room.”

Apart from Room 509, there remains on the 3rd floor another investigation room preserved close to its original state. Its basic layout, too, is similar to its 5th floor counterparts. But this room, dark with little sunlight even in the daytime, has a far greater square footage and a larger bathtub than the typical others. It is reported that electric shock torture, not to mention water torture, was perpetrated in this spacious room. Extra space was needed to install the so-called “Chilseongpan”, a piece of wide  wood board to which a supine person was strapped with the body connected to the electric wires.

The Hours of Namyeong-dong

Up until the late 1990s, the Namyeong-dong Office was still used for investigation. It was not until the year 2005 that the Human Rights Center of the National Police Agency was established here and the building ceased to function as a venue of investigation. In order to present a revamped image of the police as guardian of human rights, multiple exhibition rooms and a human rights violation report center were set up as well. Regarding the Center’s exhibitions and administration, however, more detailed reports are not available. Their traces only remain strewn in various corners of the building. On a snowy December day in 2018, the Center was moved from Namyeongdong to Hannam-dong. Ever since, it has continued to engage in variety of activities, including hosting the Korean National Police Agency Human Rights Film Festival.

None of the past records about the Namyeong-dong Office could be obtained from the National Policy Agency. To our surprise, though, a trove of the building’s floor plan and other architecture-related resources was retrieved as they had been left in the Annex building’s boiler room unattended as if being discarded. Whether they were deliberately left there or simply tossed out, there is no way to find out. Now the Namyeong-dong Office is returned to the public, bearing intact the traces of its earlier time that were accumulated as its signboards changed to AntiCommunist Division of the Security Headquarters, Security Division of the National Police Agency, and then Human Rights Center of the National Police Agency. It has become a citizens’ task to honor this place now as a site of keeping democracy alive. The Korea Democracy Foundation is taking part in that endeavor.

The Democracy and Human Rights Memorial Hall

National Museum of Democracy and Human Rights

The so-called "Namyoung-dong anti-communist interrogation office building" is a place notorious for tortures of democratization activists in the 1970s-1980s. Ironically, the building has been used as the police human rights center, owned by the Korean National Police Agency, since torture facilities there were shut down. In the end, the KDF took over the responsibility to manage and operate the building in December 2018 taking the initiative in founding the Democracy and Human Rights Memorial Hall. 

The “National Museum of Democracy and Human Rights,” will be the place to commemorate the history of democratization movement and appreciate the values of democracy and human rights. 

"National Museum of Democracy and Human Rights" is scheduled to open in 2024.