Bucheon: Culture in the suburbsA week from today, the small but dynamic city of Bucheon, in the suburbs southwest of Seoul, will raise the curtain on the eighth annual Puchon (an older romanized spelling of the city’s name) International Fantastic Film Festival, known for its selection of fun and funky movies from around the world.
But that’s not all there is to see in Bucheon, which is just an hour’s subway ride from downtown Seoul. The city is full of museums and theme parks, thanks to its longtime policy of promoting itself as a city with culture. Here are some places to make your Bucheon trip fulfilling. All you need now is a subway ticket.
Bucheon Visual Culture Complex (Bucheon Yeongsang Munhwa Danji)
This complex in the western part of the city is the core of what Bucheon has to offer. The best place to start a long day’s journey is at Aiins World, where you can see the world in miniature.
Aiins World, which opened late last year, maintains an elaborate collection of miniatures of 71 world-famous sites from 25 countries. Created in partnership with a Hollywood company, it’s the biggest collection of its kind in the world. You’ll find 1:25-scale reproductions of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Korea’s own Gyeongbok Palace and even the World Trade Center.
Admission to Aiins World, which is best reached from Songnae station on subway line No. 1, is 15,000 won ($13) for adults. For more information, call (032) 320-2065, or visit www.aiinsworld.com.
After a taste of the world, it’s time to travel to Korea’s recent past ― an outdoor set for the period TV drama “Ya-in Sidae” (The Time of the Wild). This popular 2002 drama was based on a true story about a righteous gangster-turned-politician caught up in political turmoil in the decades after the Korean War.
To commemorate the program, the sets in Bucheon ― reproductions of downtown Seoul of the 1960s and 1970s ― remain as a tourist attraction. Like Aiins World, the set is best reached from Songnae station, line No. 1; adult admission is 3,000 won. For more information, call (032) 228-2500.
Right next to the set is a huge marquee advertising the Dongchun Circus Troupe. The only old-time Korean circus troupe to have survived into the 21st century, Dongchun performs stunt flying and other tricks. For more information, call (032) 324-7255.
Another attraction is a traditional Korean samulnori performance by Kim Duk-soo’s troupe. Kim, who’s known for his dedication to letting the world know about this percussive form of farmers’ music, performs here with his troupe every weekend. Additional events, such as a traditional food fair, accompany the performances. For more information, call (032) 326-3002.
Parks and museums
A crucial part of Bucheon’s cityscape is a group of parks and museums. Jungang Park, best reached from Bucheon station on subway line No. 1, is one of these attractions. Full of green grass, extreme sports tracks and many other facilities, the park is a big place for Bucheon citizens to relax. On Sundays, you’ll see teenagers practicing hip-hop moves, while elderly people on the other side of the park play “gate ball,” a type of softball.
But if you’re an outdoor sports person, Bucheon Leports Park ―the word “Leports” comes from “leisure” and “sports” ― is really the place for you. From sports to amusement rides, the place is true to its name. The sports complex area is equipped with bicycle and inline-skating tracks, along with an artificial waterfall and a 24-meter-wide, 13-meter-high rock-climbing wall. You can also learn traditional Korean archery at the complex. The park also boasts an amusement park, Wonder Zone, with rides and other attractions. For more information, call (032) 320-3491.
For a more romantic atmosphere, check out Hosu Park in the western part of the city. In the middle of the apartment complex sits a vast man-made lake, taking up about 23 square kilometers (nine square miles). Close to the Visual Culture Complex, this park was created last year, complete with inline-skating track and badminton fields. Standing on the bridge, you can see many kinds of fish in the river. For more information, call (032) 320-3664.
One thing you won’t want to miss out on is the Rose Garden in Dodong Park, in the northeastern part of the city. From early June to October, the garden is full of more than 100,000 rose blossoms of various kinds ― a couldn’t-be-more-photogenic spot, especially for lovers and families. The garden comes more to life at night, with special lighting and neon decorations.
Despite all these attractions, if you’re an animation enthusiast, the first place in Bucheon you’ll go is no doubt the Korea Comics Museum in the Leports Park sports complex. It’s no wonder the museum opened in Bucheon, which is known for its love of animation and comics, as seen in the annual festivals dedicated to the forms, the Puchon International Student Animation Festival and the Bucheon Comics Festival.
But Bucheon’s museums are not all about comics. You can also have a look at high-end antique porcelain at the European Porcelain Museum, whose fine collection includes a crystal glass of owned by Napoleon. Other museums include the Museum of the History of Korean Education (032-661-1282), where you can see old-time classrooms and school uniforms.
by Chun Su-jin