Patches of pleasure

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Patches of pleasure

With a dense population of 12 million, Seoul has a well-deserved reputation for around-the-clock rush hours. That said, it's a good idea now and then to slow down and explore the more reflective side of the city. Here are five idyllic suggestions for a breath of spring enjoyment. Picnic baskets not included.


On Mount Jeonjang in northern Seoul, a good-sized arboretum was established in 1922. Its founders called this arboretum an experimental forest. The founders collected seeds and trees from throughout the peninsula - willows, alders, subalpines, shrubs and medicinal plants. By 1948, about 4,000 species were on display, but many were destroyed during the Korean War. After major restorations, there are now 2,035 species of plants and 69 species of animals on 440,000 square meters of land.

As the headquarters for the Korea Forest Research Institute, Hongnung Arboretum is a training ground for foresters. The scope of the gardens includes hibiscus, Japanese red pines, conifers, medicinal plants, Japanese horse chestnuts, exotic flowers, a bog garden and a wetland garden. Each plant is carefully labeled for the serious botanist.

A few of the gardens are not open to the public. Among the public areas, garden No. 7 is noted for its changing floral landscape. Marronnier shelter, under the shade of Japanese chestnut trees, is a good place to rest.

Queen Min, the last empress, used to be buried here, but her grave was moved to Guri, Gyeonggi province. A stone marks the original location.

GETTING THERE: Cheong-nyangni subway station on line No. 1, exit 2

PHONE: 02-961-2651

ADMISSION: Free, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. only on Sundays

PICNIC BASKETS: Not allowed. On-site vending machines offer drinks.


"Truth always has followers, and justice always has a day of realization. Resist falsehood even if you must face death."

- The independence movement leader Ahn Chang-ho

Dosan Park honors the people's leader, "Dosan" Ahn Chang-ho, and his wife, Lee Hye-ryon. In the early 1900s, Dosan fled to America, where he continued to defy Japanese forces. He helped with the independence movement. In 1998, on what would have been the 120th anniversary of Mr. Ahn's birth, a memorial hall was installed in the park. A bronze statue of Ahn Chang-ho stands at the east entrance.

The park is in the middle of a posh neighborhood, and visitors often include couples having their wedding photos taken. On a recent afternoon, three couples were taking wedding photos and a student was walking her maltese terrier, which was decked out in shoes and a sweater.

GETTING THERE: Sinsa subway station on line No. 3, exit 2; or Apgujeong subway station on line No. 3, exit 3.

PHONE: 02-543-2558

ADMISSION: Free, open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.



Yangjae Citizen's Forest stands at the southern entrance of Seoul City. The sprawling landscape is close to Yangjae Interchange, and the endless drone of cars and buses compete with the sounds of the birds and nature. But at least you can hear the birds.

The park has sports facilities, including tennis courts, basketball courts and biking trails. Other major structures in the park include the Memorial Hall for the patriot Yun Bong-gil, the Tower to the Loyal Dead, the KAL Memorial Pagoda, a children's playground and two outdoor wedding halls. There is a parking lot.

GETTING THERE: Yangjae subway station on line No. 3, exit 7

PHONE: 02-575-3895

ADMISSION: Free, open daily



A Parisienne in Seoul? A Seoul resident in Paris? At the Mokdong apartment complex there is a park that symbolizes the friendship between Korea and France. Paris Park, 1,715 square meters, opened in June of 1987 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Korea-France relations since the Korea-France Commercial Amity Treaty. A corresponding Seoul Park opened in Paris on Monday.

The paths at Paris Park do not quite bring Paris to mind, and most of the visitors are Korean. But the park is famous for its flowers. There are 15,800 trees, including pines, marronniers and zelkovas, and even a vegetable garden. By the end of April, the flowers will be in full bloom.

GETTING THERE: Mok-dong subway station on line No. 5, exit 2

PHONE: 02-650-3395

ADMISSION: Free, open daily



You cannot get much slower than a cemetery. Seolleung Park is near the hustle and shopping bustle of COEX, but the park feels distant from the traffic and is calming. Three grass-clad mounds mark the burial site of King Seongjong, his wife Queen Jeonghyeon and their son, King Jungjong. King Seongjong took the throne at the age of 12.

The tombs are guarded by a variety of stone figures, such as military figures, horses and tigers. The figures and the tombs are strange sights against the background of Seoul skyscrapers.

GETTING THERE: Seolleung subway stop on line No. 2, exit 8

PHONE: 02-568-1291

ADMISSION: 400 won (30 cents), open Tuesdays to Sundays, 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.


by Joe Yong-hee

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