[Viewpoint] Turn off the lights!

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[Viewpoint] Turn off the lights!

Months ago, I moved to a newly developed city where people were just starting to move in. My apartment building stands in the middle of the city, surrounded by construction work that will go on for years to come. A small police station, a bank and a small food store are all that there is to speak of in terms of convenient facilities. There is not even a small mall, like almost all apartment complexes have.

As construction continues, many apartment buildings that have yet to have been completed stand next to each other without any lights on, like ghosts.

When I take a cab, even the driver is worried, and asks me how I could live in such a neighborhood.

The town is certainly not beautiful.

Nonetheless, there is certain charm and joy for me to live in the city. This is not because the prices of the apartments are soaring, because that does not concern me. It is because for the first time in a long time, I’m living in a place that lacks so extraneous distractions. In addition to not having a shopping mall, there are no signs, no loud music, and no smell of food and alcohol.

Most of all, there is a level of darkness that is hard to find in big cities. Of course, it is not as dark as the countryside where you can look at the starry sky at night.

But this town is certainly different from any other big city that is dominated by light.

When staying or living in a city, our eyes get easily tired. The inside of subway stations and even the screen doors at platforms are covered with advertisements and announcements. There is no empty space to turn to.

When neon signs, billboards, and mall entrances are shining, it is hard to distinguish nighttime from daytime.

When I was little I happened to see the lighting on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and thought it would be nice if our country used lighting the same way.

Years after, I found out instead that lighting in our cities shone not only on items of cultural interest, but also buildings and apartments of all kinds.

Given that most of the lighting comes from the ground, it would be more appropriate to say that light in our cities is shot upward instead of simply illuminating the city.

Light does not leave water and bridges alone, either. Famous beaches have lights over the surface of the water these days.

A famous Korean pop song goes that a ship “sails on the surface of a dark sea,” which is hardly the case for today’s beaches.

Cheonggye Stream has colorful lighting by its banks. Over Banpo Bridge, there is a show of rainbow lighting and jets of water every night. The show is so large-scale that it has made the Guinness Book of World Records.

I don’t think that a pitch-black city would be beautiful, but such unnatural lighting shows in every corner of a city where daily life is conducted do not make the city beautiful, either. They only seem to tire the people who are living in it.

Light pollution is so serious that it goes beyond hurting my eyes.

Since the night sky has become so bright, a famous observatory in the United States has closed.

Migrating birds mistake light from cities for the moonlight and get lost. Excess light disturbs the activities of moths that usually follow light.

In short, too much light threatens the ecosystem. Yokohama, Japan and Paris, France regulate light shot from below and reduce blindingly colorful, glowing signs.

It will be good if we look at their examples and renovate our signs and light in the city.

While I was enjoying life in a relatively dark city, I found something terrible on the way home the other night. Covers over overpasses and by highways that block noise had colorful lights on them.

Who were the lights on for? Light all over the city does not leave any corner of it unlit.

*The writer is a TV columnist.

by Lee Yun-jeong
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