Park It: For a Chance to Sit in Solitude, Try One of TheseThe heat and humidity in Seoul at this time of year may sometimes seem like a tropical jungle. You may have tried to stir the stuffy air by turning on a fan, but likely found such effort in vain. You may have considered buying an air conditioner, fretting, no doubt, over whether you can afford the expense. But you might be surprised to find out that one of the best ways to keep cool is not to dwell on the weather at all.
Instead of letting frustration take over, how about stretching out under a grove of trees at a nearby park? Around the city, there are parks of every shape and size; some of the biggest are Namsan, Yeouido or Hangang Park along the Han river, where you can enjoy a natural breeze. There are several other parks that are not as well known, but just as delightful.
This park used to be the factory grounds of Oriental Breweries, which moved to Icheon, Kyonggi province, in 1997. The site was then developed into a substantial park, about 59,500 square meters, quite big for a park within a city. About two thirds of the grounds are green spaces, and there is a huge cauldron formerly used for brewing beer on display at one corner of the park.
The prime attraction of the park is a small path, 3 meters wide and 40 meters long, located near the park's circular plaza. The path is paved with rough pebbles, and is very popular among health conscious visitors since it is considered therapeutic for tired feet. "I feel rejuvenated after walking on the path for half an hour," said Lee In-sun, a regular visitor to the park.
There is also a cultural center inside the park, where on the right day you can take in a free performance. It takes about 10 minutes to walk around Yeongdeungpo. The park is located behind the Yeongdeungpo train station.
This park is well known for its stone bridge, pavilion and beautiful pond edged with interesting stones. Huge zelkova trees, standing beside the park's management office, create enough shade to make a nice refuge from the heat. Some older people often linger in the shade during the summer.
There are also many interesting plants rarely found in the city, such as the Siberian chrysanthemum (gujeolcho), the day lily (wonchuri) and bell flowers (chorongkkot), which grow at a site allocated for ecological study. The site can be educational for adults and children alike. The park is located about 300 meters from Cheonho-dong intersection toward Amsa-dong.
During the Choson dynasty (1832-1910), the hunryeonwon, a military training center for martial arts was in operation at this site, hence the name of the modern park. The park, located beside the National Medical Center on Euljiro 5-ga, is popular among youth who enjoy skateboarding or in-line skating. The stairs and the slope at the center of the park, as well as the small square, are practice arenas for these enthusiasts, and many flock to the park to show off their skills.
Every weekend, the park hosts various performances, such as a recent rock music competition, at its outdoor performing hall. The park thus may not be right for those seeking solitude and a quiet stroll, but for youngsters with some energy, this park is the place. It is located only five minutes away from Dongdaemun market, a well known shopping district in Seoul.
For more information about Seoul's parks, visit the Parks and Landscape Management Office Web site at www.parks.seoul.kr (English available).
by Kim Young-hoon