Lots to Do in Namsan Park

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Lots to Do in Namsan Park

Charms Range From Nature Itself to a Folk Museum

Namsan Park, in the heart of Seoul, is symbolic of the capital itself. The park embodies the nature of Korea -- a mixture of old and new.

With 361 kinds of grass, 191 species of trees and 61 species of wildlife, the area is a natural museum. It also houses a variety of facilities, including Seoul Tower, a drive-in theater, a botanical garden, a library and cable cars.

The 265-meter mountain offers an excellent view of Seoul. The first visitors each morning are usually joggers and hikers making use of the mountain trails. In the evening, the setting sun paints the sky in vibrant hues. Last year, 10 million people visited Namsan Park.

The three closest subway stations are Seoul Station (line 1), walk toward the Hilton Hotel; Dongguk University Station (line 3), walk toward the National Theater; and Myong-dong station (line 4), walk toward the Hotel Pacific.

Other nearby tourist spots include Namdaemun Gate, Namdaemun Market and Itaewon.

Places to Visit in Namsan Park

Built in 1969 as a transmitting tower for the Korean Broadcasting System, Seoul Tower, on the summit of Namsan Mountain, was opened to the public in 1980 and quickly became a popular tourist attraction. The tower is almost 500 meters above sea level. Made of steel and cement, it has a round observation platform. Express elevators shoot up to the observatory at four meters a second. When the weather is clear, spectacular views of the sea and parts of North Korea draw up to 3,000 people daily.

The Global Folk Museum is on the basement level of the tower. The museum features more than 25,000 rare objects from more than 150 countries. Items on display include a gold gown that belonged to a Chinese king, a 100-year-old, human-shaped liquor bottle from Germany and a Chinese wooden pillow shaped like a legendary creature that was half lion and half unicorn. All the items are classified according to nation and theme.

For families with young children, there is also a dolls' house that has more than 300 dolls from around the world. Exhibits include Barbie, Snoopy and Diana, as well as Lego blocks. The dolls' house is open from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A revolving restaurant on one of the top floors provides a panoramic view of the city. The tower also once housed one of Seoul's oldest aquariums, but this is now closed. The tower is still a telecommunications facility for transmitting TV and FM radio signals.

The tower is open from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Phone 02-772-1622.

One popular way to reach the tower is by cable car, with the station about 500 meters from the Hotel Pacific. Cable cars leave every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. One-way tickets cost 1,400 won ($1.15) and round-trip tickets cost 2,100 won. Phone 02-753-2993.

Right below the tower is a traditional pavilion called Namsan Palgakjung.

The park also offers a variety of monuments. Baekbum Plaza was established in 1968 in memory of Kim Koo (1876-1949). Mr. Kim helped lead the independence movement during the Japanese annexation and then went on help form the Korean Provincial Government. His pseudonym, Baekbum, honors his humble spirit. This area has a special road made of rare stones on which people can walk barefoot. The park is between the Hilton Hotel and the Seoul Education and Science Research Institute.

Statues of Lee Hwang and Chung Yak-yeong stand at the entrance to Namsan Public Library. Mr. Lee was a Confucian scholar from the mid-Chosun Dynasty. Mr. Chung (1762-1836) formalized the "Practical Learning" movement in Korea's Neo-Confucian era. His writings cover a range of subjects from philosophy and economics to literature and the art of drinking tea.

The Patriot Ahn Choong-kun Memorial Hall commemorates the deeds of the independence fighter Ahn Choong-kun (1879-1910). In 1909 he assassinated Ito Hirobumi, a Japanese statesman who was pivotal in forcing Korean officials to accept what is known as the "Protectorate Treaty." The Japanese sentenced Mr. Ahn to death the next year. A statue of him is inscribed with Chinese characters that say: "Always striving hard for the nation."

In Chang Cheung-dan Park, an altar commemorates the many people who died during the 1895 Eulmisabyeon, a historic incident between Japan and Korea that led to the assassination of Korea's last empress, Queen Min.

Another facility on the mountain is the Seoul Education and Science Research Institute. Established in 1989, the institute showcases more than 130 inventions and a planetarium where a movie about the solar system is screened on the ceiling. The institute is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Phone 02-311-1220.

The Namsan Traditional Folk Village contains five houses that once belonged to powerful noble families during the Chosun Dynasty. If you visit between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., you can see craftspeople demonstrating folk painting, lacquer work and other handicrafts. Phone 02-2266-6937.

Namsan Park also caters to moviegoers and lovers of live theater. The Namsan Drive-in Theater is now showing "Welcome Mr. McDonald," a Japanese screwball comedy. Show times are 7:30 p.m., 9:50 p.m. and midnight. Entrance is 15,000 won a car. Phone 02-2234-2024. Changcheung Gymnasium offers a Korean Madang play, "Hong Gil-dong." Show times on Saturday are 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Phone 02-789-3722.

For those who want to test their sporting prowess, there is Sukhojung Public Archery Center.

by Joe Yong-hee

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