From Old Tobacco Processing Plant to 'Culture Factory C'

Take a look at the historical moments of the old tobacco processing plant and the story of its re-establishment as a cultural space

By Cheongju Craft Biennale

Cheongju Craft BiennaleCheongju Craft Biennale

Built in the 1940s, the old tobacco processing plant in Cheongju is being used as a venue for biennales, starting with the Cheongju Craft Biennale in 2011. It was once the largest tobacco processing plant in Korea, employing over 3,000 workers. It occupies approximately 100,000m2 of building space on approximately 132,000m2 of land and was operated in three sections: the production plant, raw material factory, and warehouse. It produced 20 billion cigarettes a year, making it a space of life and hope for the people of Cheongju through industrialization. It ceased operation in 2004, and although tobacco is no longer produced there, it became the first place to start producing culture, exporting culture, and creating a global community through culture.

Birth of The old tobacco processing plantCheongju Craft Biennale

Birth of the Old Tobacco Processing Plant

Completion ceremonyCheongju Craft Biennale

The old tobacco processing plant in Cheongju started in 1945 as a factory complex where leaf tobacco was stored. It was constructed in the order of the east-side warehouse, redrying room, and old tobacco processing plant. The tobacco plant in Cheongju played a most significant role in the Korean economy.

60s commemorative photo of employeesCheongju Craft Biennale

At the time of construction of the Tobacco Plant, heating and the plant and the drying process were carried out with coal. We can see coal storage and coal boiler chimneys from photographs.

Tobacco leaf manufacturing workCheongju Craft Biennale

Process of Removing Veins from Tobacco Leaves At that time, there was a problem with the quality of the cigarettes as the veins of leaves were also inserted. Due to the hard and pointed properties of the veins, there were problems with quality such as tobacco falling out from the ends of cigarettes and leaf veins poking holes through the paper. So the veins were removed and the quality of the tobacco was improved, but the veins were later put back into the cigarettes because the they make the cigarettes taste better.

The National Tobacco Making Contest 1Cheongju Craft Biennale

At that time, the process of making cigarettes was mostly manual, unlike the present time, and therefore required seriously fast hand work.

The National Tobacco Making Contest 2Cheongju Craft Biennale

The Cheongju Tobacco Plant won first prize at the National Cigarette Rolling Competition, which was held to promote production among skilled cigarette rollers, and it rewarded the plant workers who participated in the contest with a vacation.

Inside the old tobacco processing plantCheongju Craft Biennale

After tobacco production became automated, there were no more production jobs being hired for; however, in the beginning stages, there was a production department at the Cheongju Tobacco Plant, and many male and female workers performed mainly manual work.

50s estimated packing a cigarette without filterCheongju Craft Biennale

In the 1950s, the Cheongju Tobacco Plant produced plain, paper-rolled cigarettes without filters.

60s middle-aged machines, work place in cigarette without filterCheongju Craft Biennale

The image in the middle is a manual plain cigarette rolling site. The container over the person’s head supplies cigarette rolling paper, and there is a cigarette storage container to the right of the person.

The left- and right-hand-side images show cigarette-making machines.

This two images show middle-aged cigarette making machines.

60s packaging department - cigarette without filterCheongju Craft Biennale

Once the cigarette packages had been glued and packed, the transport workers standing in between were responsible for transporting the products.

50s shipment of cigarette without filterCheongju Craft Biennale

Cigarettes produced at the Cheongju Tobacco Plant were transferred to the Gyeongseong Tobaccomonopoly Administration Eulji-ro Plant and then delivered nationwide.

Workers in the 40sCheongju Craft Biennale

Staffs performing aerobics during morning exercise.

A staff taking a medical examination.

Female workers having assembling

Revival of the old tobacco processing plantCheongju Craft Biennale

Revival Period of the Old Tobacco Processing Plant

Since the late 1970’s, the Republic of Korea has been in the midst of industrialization, and from that time, the old tobacco processing plant underwent many changes. Automation systems were established, and the director of the Cheongju Tobacco Plant is leading a site visit while wearing a navy suit. 

Commemorative photo of 80s female staffCheongju Craft Biennale

As a reflection of the times, the work clothes changed from Hanbok to modern attire.

Celebrate the installation of machinery on September 16, 1989Cheongju Craft Biennale

Presumed to be a photo of an examination following installation of a machine.

Mechanical installation commemoration on September 16, 1989Cheongju Craft Biennale

This is presumed to be a commemorative photo taken during a tea ceremony following completion of the examination.

Innovation of The Old Cheongju Tobacco Processing PlantCheongju Craft Biennale

New Winds of Innovation Sweep Across the Plant

After the lead tobacco raw material processing factory was closed in 1999, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Cheongju City purchased some of the raw material factories (redrying site) among the factory buildings and began re-using them as a cultural-industrial complex. In 2010, the Cheongju Tobacco Plant was closed, and Cheongju City purchased it in December of the same year. The Cheongju Craft Biennale was held in 2011 and 2013, and the old tobacco processing plant became a building with high potential for redevelopment. Let’s take a look at the coming together of the old tobacco processing plan and the Cheongju Craft Biennale, which started in 2011.

The Rise of the Cheongju Craft Biennale The Rise of the Cheongju Craft BiennaleCheongju Craft Biennale

The Cheongju Craft Biennale, which took its first step in 1999, was held at the Cheongju Arts Center before it was relocated to the old tobacco processing plant. It started with the theme of the first 'Hand of Harmony', and contributes significantly to craft development in Cheongju every two years it’s held. It has brought the people of Cheongju together every two years, with such themes as ‘Breath of Nature’ in 2001 (2nd), ‘Use’ in 2003 (3rd), ‘Temptation’ in 2005 (4th), ‘Creative Evolution’ in 2007 (5th), and ‘Finding a Meeting’ in 2009 (6th), and it has finally come together with the Cheongju Tobacco Plant to shine as a successful craft festival.

Cheongju Craft Biennale 2011 Cheongju Craft Biennale 2011Cheongju Craft Biennale

In 2011, the old tobacco processing plant and the Cheongju Craft Biennale officially met. The 7th Cheongju Craft Biennale was held here in 2011 under the theme of 'Useful Paper Goods'. More than 3,200 artists from 60 countries participated and exhibited high-quality craft design works. Korea’s first art factory-type biennale using the tobacco plant, which was the cradle industry, has carved a new history. It has been reborn as a biennale that is praised by culture and arts experts from all over the world as being the ‘Biennale di Venezia in the field of crafts’.

Cheongju Craft Biennale 2013 Cheongju Craft Biennale 2013Cheongju Craft Biennale

In 2013, the 8th Cheongju International Craft Biennale was held under the theme of ‘Something Old, Something New’. The Cheongju Craft Biennale was brought to the old tobacco plant, opening the curtain to a new era. The city of Cheongju was also reborn as a city of culture and art through the 2013 Cheongju International Craft Biennele, which features arts of all genres as well as fine arts. The second curtain of the abandoned but familiar old tobacco plant in Cheongju city was opened under the theme of 'Something Old, Something New'.

Cheongju Craft Biennale 2015 Cheongju Craft Biennale 2015Cheongju Craft Biennale

In 2015, the theme of 'Expansion and Coexistence' was selected, and the Cheongju International Craft Biennale was already held for the 9th time. 2015 was recognized as the year that the value of the old tobacco plant was proven to be unlimited as it was used as a festival venue. Many efforts have been made to ensure that the venue remains as valuable as that time to allow for the craft biennale to be held stably and continuously. It is suggested that there needs to be a craft cluster unique to the biennale from now on, so it can be said that the fundamental step of transforming the old tobacco plant into ‘Culture Factory C’ in 2019 began from here.

2017, Cheongju Craft Biennale 2017, Cheongju Craft BiennaleCheongju Craft Biennale

The 10th Cheongju Craft Biennale, held in 2017 under the theme of 'Embrace', sought specific measures to obtain the title of 'Craft City Cheongju’. With endless efforts to enable to Cheongju Craft Biennale to take deep root, creation of the craft cluster was finally commenced in earnest. 2017 was the final step to showcase the construction of an all-new new craft cluster at the 2019 Cheongju Craft Biennale.

Cheongju Craft Biennale 2019Cheongju Craft Biennale

Birth of the Culture Factory and the 2019 Cheongju Craft Biennale

After completion of the 2017 Cheongju Craft Biennale, the tobacco plant was completely reborn as of October 6, 2019 as remodeling construction began in earnest. Everything about the place has changed, but it has taken a new step as a 'culture factory' that produces culture while retaining its historic and symbolic characteristics, such as retaining the original pillars of the tobacco plant. 

Chapter 4. The Birth of 'Culture Factory' and 'Cheongju Craft Biennale 2019' Chapter 4. The Birth of 'Culture Factory' and 'Cheongju Craft Biennale 2019'Cheongju Craft Biennale

On October 7, 2019, the first lady Kim Jung-sook visited to celebrate the opening of the Cheongju Craft Biennale at the Culture Factory Plaza. This was followed by a celebratory performance, the Cheongju International Craft Competition Awards, and a demonstration of the Media Facade. The opening ceremony was completed with the announcement of the opening ceremony by organizing committee chairman Beomdeok Han, after which a 41-day campaign was commenced in earnest, with a welcome event for guests held on October 8.

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