[VIEWPOINT]Careless Christmas decorationsAs I live and work in the Gangbuk area, north of the Han River in Seoul, I go past Gwangwhamun and Seoul City Hall everyday in the morning and evening. The area running from the statue of General Lee Sun-sin to Gwangwhamun is a place that seems to perfectly symbolize Seoul. There are wide roads on both sides of the median strip with trees lined up in the middle, and since a few years ago brilliant light bulbs have adorned the trees during the year-end season. These streets lined with trees decorated with light bulbs extend further down south to Namdaemun, or South Gate.
Each year, we see people preparing for the arrival of a festive year-end season with beautiful lights that decorate trees or buildings along these streets. The lights provoke our eyes, and the excitement in our eyes moves other people’s hearts. We start thinking back on the year we just spent and in turn look forward to the New Year with hope. People living in metropolitan cities always dream of getting away from the busy city, but during the holiday seasons, at least, I think the beautiful streets at night make us happy.
The streets of a city adorned with bright decorations on a winter’s night give people hope and create an illusion that all people will share the warm and beautiful hearts and dreams, even if it isn’t Christmas day.
The broad streets extending from Gwangwhamun to Namdaemun, the symbol of old Seoul and the Gangbuk area, where tradition and modernity coexist, show off brilliantly-lit decorations during the winter nights of the year-end season, and these decorations continue to illuminate the streets until the beginning of the New Year. Commercial buildings in the Gwangwhamun area show off the beauty of their own decorative skills with displays of unique designs and modern technique in decorating their buildings and facades and surrounding trees in their own way, but the streets from Gwangwhamun to Namdaemun are decorated in a “uniform” manner, and I guess that the decorations were probably under the management of a public organization such as city hall. And these strange and uniformly-shaped light decorations mercilessly interrupted the dreams and illusions that I saw in the lighting decorations on those winter nights.
Trees show off the beautiful shapes of their branches when their leaves fall off in winter, and light decorations, riding on the natural and diverse shapes of beautiful branches, show off their brilliance alongside them. The trees in this particular area, however, all turn into a simple and dull Y shape at night, and their natural irregular curves are nowhere to be found. We can’t have the feeling that the lights wrap around the trunks of the trees and its delicate branch lines with a sense of aesthetics and sincerity. One can’t erase the thought that the light bulbs have been draped thoughtlessly over the trees only outlining their trunks and branches, and that the careless decoration makes the trees along the streets of Gwanghwamun have the same dull look.
The strange thing is that the same pattern of decoration is repeated on these streets each winter. The immature and unrefined feeling given off by the decoration of trees under the care of public organizations harms Seoul’s night view, and it looks terrible compared to the decorations of neighboring private buildings. This is the reason why I am already worried about next winter. I am afraid that the same lights will appear again next year like they have been doing for the past few years now, and that they will make me angry again. After all, beautiful thoughts and minds are only possible when you see or imagine beautiful things.
And that brings me to this thought: As there are so many decorations to see around the Gwangwhamun and Seoul City Hall area now even without the tree lights, the tree lights almost make me feel dizzy. I wonder whether we can just get rid of the tree lights if they are going to be the same dull and immature Y-shaped fake decorations.
* The writer is the president of PKM Gallery. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Kyung-mee