Soaking up the rays at Seoul’s pools before fall comes

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Soaking up the rays at Seoul’s pools before fall comes

Summer’s almost gone, but there’s still a bit of time to visit one of Seoul’s ubiquitous outdoor swimming pools before the weather turns too chilly.
Spending a leisurely day at a pool can be a relaxing break, especially if going out of town is not part of your plans. The outdoor swimming pools located along the Han River are convenient getaway spots.
A recent visit to two of the most popular swimming spots in the city ― the Han River pool in Jamwon-dong, southern Seoul and the Tower Hotel’s outdoor pool ― uncovered the pleasures of the season for urban vacationers.
At the Jamwon pool, bikinis dominated on the deeply tanned, fit bodies of the young Korean women. A bit of a retro touch was seen on Lee Jin-hui, who wore a flashy bikini featuring a cartoon clip. “I bought this one in Japan. I really liked the pictures,” Ms. Lee said.
As if to reflect the current Boho-chic look, most swimsuits had flower motifs, matched with head scarves. Some women donned stripes, a new element in fashion for fall.
What distinguishes this year’s look from last year’s is the display of tattoos. Most saunas and pools in Korea ban people who have extensive tattoos, which have been associated with criminals. At the riverside pool, however, a tattoo was an expression of cool. Park Hyeong-jun, a tattoo artist, came with his friend Park Hee-won, a hairdresser, both sporting tattoos. Park Hee-won’s dreadlocks also drew a lot of attention.
Kim Myeong-hoon, who came with his girlfriend Kim Min-a, had a portrait of Che Guevara tattooed on his shoulder. “I’m a big fan of Che,” he said.
There are seven outdoor pools along the Han River: Jamsil, Gwangnaru, Ttukseom, Jamwon, Ichon, Yeouido and Manwon. The pools are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily until the end of August. Admission costs 2,000 won ($2) for children, 3,000 won for teens and 4,000 won for adults. For more information, visit the Web site http://hangang.seoul.go.kr.
Right now, Tower Hotel’s outdoor swimming pool swarms with families with children. For the entrance fee of 13,000 won for adults (7,000 won for children) on weekdays, visitors can use two pools (deep and shallow) and slides. Droves of noisy children can be found running around everywhere, with their parents filling every available spot. Groups of high schools boys can be seen frolicking in the water in their invariable black Speedos.
Tower Hotel’s pool had a reputation for attracting Korea’s largest group of sun worshipers. For the past five or six years, though, the pool has become a spot for family outings. According to the manager, during the vacation season there are up to 1,200 visitors per day. Nevertheless, serious tanners staked their claim to the site long before the high season kicked off.
Even on the busiest day, a number of hard-core tanners were seen locked in their own world, lying under the midday sun. They were sleeping or immersed in a magazine, completely cut off from the rest of the world with their MP3s.
Trendy items to be noticed this year are boy-cut briefs with bikini tops and oversized sunglasses seen on almost every young woman. Von Dutch caps are still in. In addition to flip-flops, wedge-heeled sandals are popular.
Aside from the incredibly well-built and too-tanned lifeguards in their barely-there briefs, the majority of young men favor knee-length surfer trunks.
The Tower Hotel pool is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Aug 28. On weekends, admission is 15,000 won for adults, 8,000 won for children. A shuttle bus runs hourly from Dongdaemun station, line No. 3, exit 5. For more information, visit the Web site www.towerhotel.co.kr or call 02-2236-2121.


by Kim Ji-hyun, Shin Hee-seok
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