Digital Humanities City: Restoration of Soonsung

“Digital Humanity City: Restoration of Soon-sung” explores a historical site—Hanyang Dosung (HD), the Seoul City Wall, as an architectural interface to the humanistic values of a city, Seoul.
Hanyang is an old name for Seoul, and Dosung for fortress wall. HD is 11.6 miles long and one of the oldest, most well-preserved fortress walls surrounding a big city with more than 10 million citizens. HD was built in 1396 during the Joseon Dynasty and functioned for 514 years, until 1910. It was built along the ridge around the city, to minimize the damage to nature, reflecting the Korean tradition of respecting the natural world. It was added to and rebuilt in 1422, 1704 and 1800, and different brick designs were used in its initial construction and subsequent reconstructions. HD already embodies the architectural history in its form during the entire Joseon Dynasty that lasted for 600 years. 

Purpose of the study

The project “Digital Humanities City: Restoration of Soon-sung” considers Hanyang Dosung as an architectural interface that embodies the history of the city and the stories of its people and unravels the hidden times and spaces behind it. This project brings Hanyang Dosung back to life through the humanistic values of the literature, philosophy, history and art spawned by the fortress wall’s 600 years and broadens the public's access to such content by using a location-based AR (Augmented Reality) mobile application that plays AR content on specific locations along the HD. This project provides humanistic knowledge in digital form and expands the range of visitors’ real-time experiences of HD by providing layers of information while they are at the site. The site thus becomes the interface to information. It reinvigorates the experience of HD. This project has three specific goals:

- The study uses a digital humanities approach to explore the intersection between information technology and humanities. It not only engages with digital reproduction of humanities content, but also tries to enhance human experiences of the city by incorporating different digital media technologies and providing integrated humanistic interpretations of the historical site. 

  • - The project democratizes humanities discourses by shifting the focus from written historical documents to artistic productions and human testimonials. More specifically, it is concerned with both historical facts and folk tales, and thus reconstructs grassroots memories as the subject of history.  This project functions as a platform for the bottom-to-top storytelling that has never been told in recorded histories of Seoul. 

  • - In doing so, this project restores the meaning of Soon-sung in multiple ways. In Korean, soon-sung can mean three different actions when we write them in Chinese while they sound the same in Korean. These Chinese characters all are pronounced as soon-sung, but they can be interpreted in three different ways.

  • - Soon-sung (巡城): Playing around the fortress wall, admiring scenery and making wishes
During the modernization process of Seoul, Hanyang Dosung was physically damaged and was symbolically separated from the lives and play of the people. It became a symbol of the past, although it still plays an important role in the lives of Seoul’s citizens located in the center of Seoul. This project aims at a humanistic reconstruction of Hanyang Dosung in ways that enable the lives and play of the people to be naturally combined with the function of Hanyang Dosung.

  • - Soon-sung (順性): original nature
The project restores the architecture of Hanyang Dosung in the form of augmented reality. There are six parts of Hanyang Dosung which were damaged and disappeared during the Japanese colonial period and the modernization process. The Seoul Metropolitan Government recognized the importance of Hanyang Dosung and initially planned the physical reconstruction of the site, but historians and cultural heritage experts opposed and insisted that physical reconstruction of the fortress wall would only undermine its authenticity. So, the government embedded small six copper plates inscribed with the words "Hanyang Dosung Soon-sung Road” on the damaged sites. We will visualize the lost parts of the fortress through the augmented reality program, and audiences can see the original appearance of the architecture through their mobile phones.

  • - Soon-sung (純性): pure nature
A city is a center of human life. However, a city can often become an empty concept that is separated from the lives of the people who make their homes there. This project uses folklore, literature and art as historical sources and provides a new perspective for understanding the city by bringing grassroots memories into research data. Through this process, “Digital Humanity City: Restoration of Soon-sung” restores the pure nature of a city that is by the people, of the people, and for the people.

Steps in the Development of the Project

The project will be developed through three steps:

• We will complete the research to understand the stories and histories behind Hanyang Dosung through six different humanities approaches: art history, literature, philosophy, sociology, urban regeneration and aesthetics.

• We will connect the past and the present of Hanyang Dosung by reinterpreting historical artefacts through creative perspectives and presenting the artifacts in digital forms, including a website and an AR mobile application.

• We will move beyond typical boundaries by inviting collaborations between scholars from different disciplines not only in the process of research but also on the forms of presentation.

Contemporary artists and scholars from different fields were invited to participate in this project, and each team is exploring the theme of its specialized fields and produce interactive AR videos based on their research. The AR videos will play themselves on specific places along the fortress wall (location-based AR) in a mobile application specially designed for this project.

We will have four channels; website that display the whole project research output and AR videos for those who cannot visit the site; mobile application that allows visitors to rediscover HD in new ways; we will have workshops such as tour program using the applications, artist talk, research presentation and performance; and exhibition that will present research output, and videos in an art museum.

Expected Benefits

This project considers a historic site not as a symbol of the past, but as an interface to a humanistic experience of a city. In so doing, it becomes a field of lived experience that actively engages with citizens’ lives and play. This enables the people to realize that they are subjects who are building the history of the city together and to understand the intertwined relationship between the city and their lives.
This project suggests the potential of digital humanities by addressing histories and stories based on a city through transdisciplinary approaches and by expanding the public’s access to such content by incorporating interactive AR components.
This project suggests a future educational model for humanities. The mobile application programs provide educational content which reinterprets the city's rich historical and cultural artifacts through the eyes of contemporary artists and specialists, providing a wide range of opportunities for young people to enjoy the humanities.


Primary Investigator (PI)
Jung E. Choi, Ph.D.

Hyun Ju Kim (ex-media)
Tae Eun Kim                
JiYoon Chun, Ph. D.
Jung Soo Han, Ph.D.
Kyoung Jin Hur, Ph.D.

Younsoo Kwack
Yeojin Kim
Jimin Yuk
Mijung Kim

Solhee Choi

Hyuk Kang
Hunsoo Kim
Jungmi Han

Research Assistant
Ki-Tae Kim
Kyungjoo Ha
Jinyoung Hong

Web & Exhibition Design
Imsang Ryuh