Outdoor park brings literature to life

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Outdoor park brings literature to life

“In the rainy foggy air stood a hut. We went in there to escape the downpour. The girl’s lips were blue. Her shoulders were shaking. I took off my jacket and covered her.”
The scene is from the short story “Sonagi” (Rain Shower), written in the 1950s by the late Hwang Sun-won.
For decades the setting of Hwang’s classic love story has enchanted readers. A streamlet flows where the boy and girl first met. There are stepping-stones, as if someone dropped them into the gentle flow. Nearby stands a hut like something from a picture postcard; it was there that they sought shelter from the rain. Despite the story’s tragic end ―while dying of pneumonia, the girl asks to be buried in clothes that carry the boy’s scent ― readers have longed to visit the village where it is set.
They will be able to later this year: Yangpyeong county is building “Sonagi Village,” a 7.5 hectare (18.5 acre) outdoor literature park in Gyeonggi province. The 10-billion-won ($10 million) project will break ground in March and be completed by December.
Yangpyeong County, where the girl in the story lived, and Kyung Hee University, where Mr. Hwang was a professor for 23 years, came up with the idea to build “Sonagi Village” back in 2003. However, construction was delayed for a while over environmental concerns related to the water quality of nearby rivers.
“We expect one million tourists a year. It is expected to become a popular literature-themed tourist attraction along with other major tourist spots,” said Han Taek-su, the head of Yangpyeong County.
The recent approval of a new sewage system has put the project back on track.
The chosen site at Sureung 1-ri has a typical rural landscape reminiscent of the novel. A half-moon-shaped plot of land sits at the confluence of the Pukhan and Namhan rivers, surrounded by hills.
The project includes the construction of a route where the boy carried the girl on his back and then crossed the stream. To add atmosphere, there will even be artificial rain.
Stepping stones and a single-log bridge will cross the stream, and in the surrounding area, a scarecrow, melon orchard and hut will be set up. Wildflowers such as Chinese bellflowers and wild chrysanthemums will be planted on a nearby hill.
There will also be a literature museum at the entrance of the village, which will be dedicated to Hwang Sun-won. The museum will exhibit his works and include a mockup of his workroom.
An outdoor stage will be built as a venue for literary and musical events. Reed and pampas grass will be planted on the periphery.
Other creations themed after Mr. Hwang’s other novels will provide visitors a similar ambiance and provide opportunities for reflection.

by Chung Chan-min, Jeon Ick-jin
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