Jukbyeon Lighthouse

IALA Heritage Lighthouse of the Year 2023 Nominee

Location: REPUBLIC OF KOREA - Gyeongsangbuk-do. Uljin-gun. Yongchugot.

Lighthouse Operator: Pohang Regional Office of Oceans and Fisheries, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries

Source: (photos as submitted to accompany nomination form submitted by the National Lighthouse Museum of Korea 2023)

Lighthouse Description and History

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by the National Lighthouse Museum of Korea in 2023)

Locational Characteristics of Jukbyeon Lighthouse

Jukbyeon Lighthouse is located at Yongchugot, Uljin-gun County, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, Korea. The name “Yongchugot” originates from the fact that the topography of the area resembles the tail of a dragon. With the signing of the Korea-Japan Treaty of 1876, Japan surveyed and measured the coasts and major points of the Korean Peninsula, and reported the findings to the Japanese government.

During this process, the Jukbyeon area emerged as a key location on the east coast of Korea. Situated at the midpoint of the Busan-Wonsan route, it was recognized as one of the economically and militarily strategic points of the East Sea. It made the Japanese military to install a watchtower in 1904 to monitor the actions of the Russian fleet. Jukbyeon Lighthouse is built on this site, where the watchtower used to stand.

Architectural Characteristics of Jukbyeon Lighthouse

Jukbyeon Lighthouse used a 4th-order rotating lens. However since a long cable with heavy weights on it had to hang down to 12m from the top of the tower to rotate the lens, so the lighthouse had to be built at a height of 12m or more. Furthermore, to illuminate the shaded area along the East Sea coast, the light had to be visible from a range of 19 nautical miles (about 35 km). Reflecting this requirement, a construction plan for a lighthouse with a height of 15.7m was designed.

To build a lighthouse that is 15.7m tall, diverse construction methods were considered to be used, including using bricks, concrete, etc. However, since Jukbyeon Lighthouse needed to bear the weight of the weights used in the rotating machine, along with the weight of lantern (200~300kg), the decision was made to use reinforced concrete.

According to a precision safety inspection conducted by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries in 2016, the estimated compressive strength of reinforced concrete structures over 100 years old shows a level that is similar to that of modern reinforced concrete structures. Considering that it was before the engineering relationship according to the ratio of concrete had been recognized, it can be deduced that concrete was mixed meticulously using the expert engineering knowledge about this construction material, a new technology at that time.

Technical Characteristics of Jukbyeon Lighthouse

For the rotating lense of Jukbyeon Lighthouse to rotate at regular intervals, a vertical weight way is required, in which the weights of the rotating machine can be in motion. Wooden drop tube and pulleys remain to this day, making it possible to see how the mercury bath rotating system works. It is one of the important lighthouse buildings of the history of aids to navigation, being able to guess the development steps of the surrounding mechanical devices related to the latern. The lense used when the lighthouse was turned on for the first time was the 4th-order Fresnel lens manufactured by Chance Brothers & Co. of Britain. The lighthouse had sent out a white flash every 20 seconds. In contrast to others that replaced lanterns to keep pace with the changes in technology, The tower of lighthouse still retains its original form.

At the time of construction, it is believed that this lighthouse used the fog bell as audible aids, but the electric horn currently in use was installed in 1994. Using an electronic amplified, it rests for 45 out of every 50 seconds, then sounds once for 5 seconds, and can reach a range of 3 nautical miles (about 5.5 km). The radio beacon was used from 1965 to 2004. The Differential Global Positioning System(DGPS) replaced it in 2003, and then the DGPS has been changed to Differential Global Navigation Satellite System(DGNSS) in 2012 to service various Satellite systems.

This lighthouse was built in 1910, during the darkest hours in Korean history, using the latest architectural technology at that time, and retains its original appearance and structure. Still in operation as an aid to navigation facility, it is a living historical and cultural heritage. The Lighthouse Park developed around the light tower is a favorite place among tourists visiting Jukbyeon.

Reason For Nomination

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by the National Lighthouse Museum of Korea 2023)

Intrinsic Heritage Interest of the Lighthouse

Jukbyeon area used to be called “Jukbin” for its abundant bamboo trees around the beach. The name eventually morphed to Jukbyeon, which has been passed down to this present day. Since ancient times, the region has been an important military location. During the Silla dynasty, there used to be a castle intended to block Japanese pirates, and a beacon fire site here during the Joseon dynasty. At the beginning of the 20th century, a maritime surveillance watchtower was installed by the Japanese military to monitor actions of the Russian fleet. Later, what is now Jukbyeon Lighthouse was built on the site where the watch tower used to be. Turning on its light for the first time in 1910, this facility is still fulfilling its mission as a manned lighthouse 110 years later. The value of Jukbyeon Lighthouse as a historical and cultural heritage include: ① Authenticity Value (excellent state of structure and preservation) ② Historical and Symbolic Value ③ Rarity Value

Authenticity Value

Built in 1910, the light tower of Jukbyeon Lighthouse is a white octagonal concrete structure with four stories (15.7m in height) and was considered a high-rise building during the early 20th century when tall buildings were rare. It used a 4th-order Fresnel lens. The lense rotated by driving the mechanical device that raised and descended the weights all hung on the end of a cable that was would around a drum with in the clock-work located at the base of the pedestal that held the lense. It applied the mercury bath rotating system device that turns the lense as the weights go straight down to the height of two floors (12m) while rotating the cogwheel. Accordingly, the light tower was built to a height of 15.7m in consideration of the rotating device, and was made using reinforced concrete to safely bear the weights.

According to the precision safety inspection of Jukbyeon Lighthouse conducted by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries – the Ministry in charge of aid to navigation – in 2016, the estimated compressive strength of the light tower’s concrete structure was shown to be at 20 MPa, which is higher than the specified compressive strength of 15 MPa, confirming that it had a similar level of strength to the concrete structures of the 1990s. This is amazing considering the fact that the “Water-Cement Ratio Theory,” which identified the engineering relationship between water-cement ratio and compressive strength in concrete was set by Duff A. Abrams in 1918. Jukbyeon Lighthouse was built in 1910, when performance design based on estimated design compressive strength of concrete was not available. It can be deduced that Jukbyeon Lighthouse was built using meticulously mixed concrete under the supervision of professionals with engineering knowledge about this construction material, a new technology at the time.

The precision safety inspection carried out in 2016 also examined the corrosion status in major structures of the lighthouse. Its findings revealed that there were hardly any signs of carbonation in the main walls, and that the lighthouse could continue to function without major repairs. The fact that a construction which is more than 110 years old only showed signs of light carbonation signifies that it possessed a closed-room structure in which it is difficult for CO2 to spread inside the concrete. It can also be inferred that it was built with excellent durability even when compared with modern concrete. Furthermore, although the thickness of internal reinforced concrete structures was stipulated as 30mm at the time, the inspection confirmed that the lighthouse was designed and constructed to have a thickness of 40mm. This was probably because Jukbyeon Lighthouse was an offshore structure that needed to withstand a harsh marine environment, and therefore was built under a thorough plan in terms of compressive strength as well as durability.

Historical & Symbolic Values

At the time of its construction, the ceiling on each floor of Jukbyeon Lighthouse was decorated with Korean plum flower emblem, a symbol of the Korean Empire. These were installed in accordance with the operatinal regulations of the Korean Empire custom office. The symbol of the plum flower represents Korea’s national sovereignty and autonomy. The plum flower emblem at the ceilings of each level inside the lighthouse are identical to the decorations used at Seokjojeon Hall of Deoksugung Palace, a representative moden architecture of the late Korean Empire. A former lighthouse keeper at Jukbyeon Lighthouse recalls, “The Taegeuk patterns were overlayed to the ceilings between 1985 and 1991.”

The history of Jukbyeon region and Korean modern history show remarkable similarities. After the ports opened in 1876, Jukbyeon captured attention as a commercially and militarily strategic location on the east coast. The abundant fishery resources attracted a mass migration of Japanese fishermen at that time, leading to the settlement of a Japanese fishing village. A sardine boom in the 1930s brought many changes to this area. Thanks to the revitalization of sardine fishing which lasted for about 10 years from 1930 to 1940, the secondary industry developed, and Jukbyeon advanced as the largest port city in Uljin County after the 1930s. During the 1950s, refugees from Hamgyong-do Province settled here and female divers from Jeju Island came during the 1960s. The Jukbyeon 4 ri area, which is a village located near the lighthouse, is often referred to as the “United Nations General Assembly” because of the people who came from all over the country, spanning from Hamgyong-do Province to Jeju Island. People migrated here in search of financial prosperity or to escape difficult social situations in the process of modernization and established a new community. With opening the ports at the end of the 18th century, Korean modern history also underwent large and small changes caused by the influx of foreign powers. This resulted in relocations, wars, and refugees, and could be called a self-portrait of the history of the Korean peninsula.


Jukbyeon Lighthouse has completely maintained its original appearance, from the day its lights were lit up in 1910 to this present day. It is still operating as a manned lighthouse, passing down the operation method it has inherited.

Judging from the current status of construction and information on the history card of Jukbyeon Lighthouse, it appears that no major architectural changes took place during the Japanese colonial period(1910~1945). After Korea’s independence in August 1945, 80% of aids to navigation were destroyed. During Pacific War, aids to navigation were recognized as important military facilities, and at times were destroyed due to bombing by The Allied Forces. It is also presumed that some were destroyed by the Japanese retreating after the independence of Korea. When the Korean government was established, there were 44 lighthouses (19 manned, 25 unmanned) carrying out normal operations. Jukbyeon Lighthouse is on record as one of the manned lighthouses functioning at the time, indicating that it maintained its operations without major changes, even after Pacific War and Independence. For a period of about three months (July ~ September 1950) during the early days of the Korean War, Jukbyeon Lighthouse was seized and managed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea(North Korea), DPRK military. With the Republic of Korea(South Korea), ROK military’s “Battle of Pohang-38 Line Advancement” in mid-September 1950, it is believed there was an engagement with the DPRK military stationed at the lighthouse when the ROK military broke through the Uljin-Jukbyeon-ri line around September 28. As a result, the lantern and lantern room were damaged. Even though the range of the lighthouse was reduced, Jukbyeon Lighthouse continued to serve as aids to navigation during the Korean War. In 1951, the lantern was replaced, and the lantern room was restored as an emergency measure. In 1959, the light tower and ancillary facilities were repaired, greatly transforming the area around the lighthouse. Until the late 1980s, regular repairs were carried out, such as maintenance of lantern room and painting the tower. The lantern room that was installed at the time of construction was used until replaced when a renovation was done to the light tower and lantern room in 1991. Since the 2000s, no overall architectural changes have been made to Jukbyeon Lighthouse.

The tower of Jukbyeon Lighthouse still retains its original appearance from the time of its construction, and the lighthouse also continues to operate as a manned facility. The tower was recognized as a valuable historical relic and was designated as Gyeongsangbuk-do Monument (Local Cultural Property) No. 154 in September 2005. Meanwhile, taking the year 2003, which is the 100th anniversary of the first lighting of the modern style lighthouse in Korea, as a turning point, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries organized the Lighthouse Cultural Heritage Committee to preserve and utilize this aids to navigation with historical value. After conducting a basic survey, on December 18, designated 23 lighthouses including Jukbyeon Lighthouse as “Lighthouse Cultural Heritages.”

In the wake of the “Incheon Declaration” adopted at the 19th IALA Conference in 2018, the Korea government has proceeded with the Comprehensive Research of Lighthouse Cultural Heritage since 2019. During the research study of Jukbyeon Lighthouse in 2020, the research team conducted thorough measurements of the lighthouse and created elevation, cross-sectional view, and floor plans using a 3D scan method in preparation for future conservation and maintenance efforts, and generated photographic records of the lighthouse taken from various viewpoints.

Public Access and Education

Jukbyeon Lighthouse was designated as Gyeongsangbuk-do Monument No. 154 in September 2005 under the name “Uljin Jukbyeon Lighthouse.” Uljin County, where the lighthouse is located, carried out a comprehensive maintenance project from 2015 to 2016, and the entire surrounding area was turned into a park. A leisure and recreation space that can satisfy both residents and tourists was developed by utilizing diverse cultural resources including the beautiful natural scenery around Jukbyeon Lighthouse, the port, and an open drama set.

As one of the points included in the Lighthouse Stamp Tour operated by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and the National Lighthouse Museum, Jukbyeon Lighthouse is a place where people can make memories while they visit the lighthouse to receive the certification stamp and take a tour of the surrounding areas. Currently, Jukbyeon Lighthouse is the central axis of Lighthouse Park, and is recognized as the must-see spot for visitors. Within the Jukbyeon Marine Aids to Navigation Management Office compounds where Jukbyeon Lighthouse is located, there are facilities such as electric horn and GNSS reference station in addition to the light tower, which harmonize with the grass lawns and sculptures to create an atmosphere unique to Jukbyeon Lighthouse.