Sunday, August 31, 2008

Open Spaces

Ahh the clean fresh summer air with its cool breezes and ... oh wait what was that? The smell of someone's garbage rotting in the corner on the street? It seems that living in Seoul is like living in a really urbanized section of New York City, where the presence of green open spaces was an afterthought in urban planning. And so it would seem the same in Seoul, except that if you are keen you can spot the green spaces here and take the time to enjoy them too.

The place I live (G
il-dong) is an area that is just buildings and streets, there are trees here and there but generally it is the kind of place that won't leave a memorable mark on your mind. But take a look at this, the subway line that I live on does this sort of fork like action. I live on the Sangil-dong fork but there is also the Macheon fork. Anyways the point I am trying to make is that on the other side of the fork, the Macheon side the planning and spaces are more attractive and memorable.

With that said BK, his friends and I went to a really wondrouss open space yesterday called Olympic Park. As we all can see now when a country receives the gift of hosting the summer Olympics they go nuts and build a space full of architectural and artistic wonders. But when the games are over all that is left is the remains of what was built and vast spaces of grass to mow.

When we first got there and exited the subway station I was immedietly greated by the hot burning sunshine, but also the sight of tree-lined streets and cafes with chairs outside.
As we walked further on I almost felt for a moment that I wasn't in Seoul, rather I was in some park back home in the city. This is because the spaces were open and wide and the site of cars whizzing by were further away. But when I put the two together that I was in a park and in Seoul I immediately felt a sense of homeliness. These are the pictures from the entrance area we came into, take into mind that there are several entrances into the park all featuring a unique sculpture.

After we stopped for a snack and ice tea we picked up our feet and explored the area. We all had never been here before but knew there had to be a section where it was indeed like a park (green grass...trees...) so we were on the hunt for this. Of course a map would be handy but we didn't find one till the end of our journey.

So on our way here are some of the sites we saw.
Some of the landscaping included bamboo trees:

Also you can find these acupuncture walk paths that are meant to be walked on barefoot so to get this kind of therapeutic massage. BK walked on it for a little bit, yet found it somewhat painful.
For me it was no challenge at all and I really enjoyed it.
Another visually important aspect to the Olympic park is that it also doubles as a sculpture park with architectural wonders.
The Olympic Sculpture Park is one of the five internationally renowned sculpture parks. The park was constructed for the 1988 Seoul Olympics and has about 200 works by world's artists. The displayed works were first shown during the "International Symposium of Outdoor Formative Arts" and "International Outdoor Sculpture Contest," the cultural & artistic events during the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988.
There are about 200 sculptures there and it is considered as one of the best five sculpture sites worldwide. 155 artists from 66 different countries contributed to it by donating some of their work. Some 36 of the sculptures were actually created within the two International outdoor Sculpture Symposiums. source
If we are going to talk about the sculptures in the park we have to consider that when you walk through the park and see the artworks you are actually walking through a slice of time in Korea's art history.
The 1980s were a turbulent period in South Korean politics, with society rebelling against the military government and demanding democratic reform. But the pro-democracy movement wasn't limited to politics. South Korea in the 1980s also saw the rise of the minjung (grassroots) movement in the arts.

Throughout the decade, and into the early ‘90s, leading minjungi> artists worked around the theme of hani> (a uniquely Korean sense of lingering grievance) to create pieces which critically examined deep, often unpleasant, cultural realities and echoed the political calls for change. source

What this translates to is works of art that are large, geometrical and poignant in their shapes. Yet not all the sculptures are from Korean artists but international artists as well.
Artists from 85 countries represented, including Charles Simofont>nds and Dennis Oppenheim, from the United States; Dani Karavan of Israel; Frans Krajcebergfont> of Brazil; Mohand Amara from Algeria; Alexander Arghira of Rumania; and Lee Seung-teak of Korea. source

So without further ado let me show you just a few of the many sculptures that I saw at the Olympic Park. As I walked past the artworks I read the labels and got a sense that most of the artworks were about world peace, communication and odd ideas about sense of space and time. Although I kept myself quiet and didn't lecture my companions on the artwork I was able to feel a sense of awe at seeing large public works of art in Seoul.

Of course though are journey through the park was to find a clear open green space with trees and indeed we did find it.

Green space:

Our feet were tired so we found the nearest bench and sat down for, what I think was, a couple of hours. We watched the ants crawl up a tree, pigeons fly in and out, children play on the field and nearby. It felt good and it felt like a relief to see a space that makes people amble about amongst the trees and stop for a picnic.

After our rest on the bench the weather seemed to have cooled down a slight bit and so we got back on our feet and decided to take a walk around the park. Some of the features we ran into were an historical mound, an architectural dig site and an ample view of the park. Here for you are the rest of my pictures from this journey.

We came upon a little archeological museum:
BK did a little workout on the training machines spread out throughout the park.

There was a dance performance going on, these are some of the performers and spectators.
We left Olympic Park feeling full of wonderment and peace, but also left feeling really hungry. So we hopped in a cab and made our way to the lake area in Jamsil. Had a nice noodle dinner at a Noodle house and then finished our day with a little walk around the lake.

And so another Saturday came to a close and I was possessed by the wonderment that Seoul had to offer me. Although I am still in a state of unknown about the future prospects of what job I will be teaching here, I felt somewhat more comfortable at home in these neck of the woods.


  1. That looks like a great place to relax. When life gets tough, a trip to the park or a nature walk can do wonders.

    Thank you for being the first one to reply on my blog. I have decided to get a TEFL Cert. next Summer between my junior and senior year and then getting a job in Korea after graduation. I will try to get a public school job. Thanks for the advice.

  2. Thanx for the journey Joy...Looks like a wonderful place ....
    That's an ACURESSURE path....what a GREAT idea. I made one w/the beautiful Pacific ocean stones & river rocks I collected on the beach near San Diego & around Sacto to sooth my feet. They are smooth & cool.

    ps. you've used "homliness" incorrectly again. Remember it means "ugly, unattractive"........not "homey" which means comforting/cozy.


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