2013년 10월 9일 수요일

Travel around seoul #2 (sangam-dong)

So much Change Has been Made After Hosting the 2002 Worldcup Finals

Sangamdong was under the jurisdiction of Seodaemun-gu district at, but it came under Mapo-gu district in 1975. It is the widest dong (village) within Mapo-gu, and Nanjido island (a landfill) takes up a significant portion of the district.
Sangamdong consists of major landmarks such as Worldcup Stadium, Worldcup Park, Digital Media City, and eco-friendly residential areas. If you plan to tour the neighborhood by foot, the distance may be too great for a walk. Try a bicycle instead. Sangamdong tour starts from Exit 1 of Worldcup Stadium Station (line 6). As soon as you leave Exit 1, you will find yourself facing Worldcup Stadium. It might be a good idea to buy some snacks from Homeplus, a mega-size shopping mall located inside the stadium before hitting the street. The stadium also houses a fitness club and multiplex theatres CGV.
After looking around the stadium, visit the Mapo Agricultural and Marine Products Wholesale Market(마포농수산물시장) across from the Stadium where all kinds of fresh fish for raw dishes, live octopus, soft shell crab, and dried fish are stacked along the stalls. Tempting fruits are piled up at stalls located deeper in the market. If you feel the urge to eat, choose a fish, and take a seat on the second floor where your freshly prepared meal will be served right away. This system is similar to that of the Noryangjin Market(노량진시장).

Nanji Peace Park, a Place Where Nature and Humankind Coexist

Walking toward the south gate of the Stadium, you will find Nanji Peace Park, a representative park of the Worldcup Park. It is 24,420-square-meters, watered by a branch of the Hangang (river) with water purifying plants growing in the artificial but natural looking lake. In the reserved area, there are 2,500 water plants in more than 40 different species, including perennial plants, yearly plants, and yellow lotus flowers. The managers remove withered, yellow-turned leaves every three to four days.
After circling around the lake and crossing over by way of the stepping stones , you will enter the “Forest of Hope” established as part of the “Planting 1,000 Trees of Life” campaign. Many people visit here even during the week. Thanks to benches located in proper distances and all kinds of trees planted thickly in this forest, you will be able to take a rest in the shade beneath branches stretched overhead. Worldcup Park Exhibition Hall is a perfect place to educate your children on the history of Nanjido Island. Signboards, placed throughout the forest, will direct your way in the forest.

A New Chapter Has Opened in the History of Nanjido Landfill

When you cross the overpass from Peace Park, you will encounter Nanjicheon (Nanji Stream) Park. Looking up when you reach the site of the park's information booth, you will see steep wooden stairs in a zigzag shape leading into a thick forest. This is the starting point of Sky Park. At this sight, I realized that being a Seoulite is a great gift. It is a striking fact that this place was a huge mountain of garbage for 15 years from 1978 to February 1993, accumulating approximately 92 million cubic meters of trash. But now, only a nice fresh wind tickles my face as if such a dark past has never existed.
Though it was a mountain of garbage in the past, it had once been a beautiful island where orchids and turts were growing, a peaceful island where all kinds of flowers, cabbages, and peanuts were grown. Peanut production alone accounted for 30 percent of the total yield across the country. The fact that such a beautiful island had been turned into a dumpsite is evidence of the rapid urbanization process of Seoul. At first, the island was planned to accumulate garbage to over 45 meters high, the maximum height of usual landfills around the world. However as the construction of a new landfill to accommodate further garbage for the metropolitan area was delayed, the island continued to grow to become two 95-meter high peakless mountains of garbage. The environment of the island at that time couldn't be worse due to the methane and seepage of contaminated water. Unsurprisingly, it was dubbed an inappropriate environment for any living thing.
As time went by, however, many kinds of animals and plants were spotted again, and the ecosystem of the island showed signs of revival. Thus, the city of Seoul started to make a new history of Nanjido for the coexistence of nature and humankind. The mountain of garbage was transformed into an ecology park, and gases coming from the garbage are channeled into wells to provide heating to the World Cup Stadium and the surrounding residential district.

Sky Park, a Park Closest from the Sky

There are two ways to get to the Sky Park: one way is a gentle ascent that you may take to carry a bicycle or a baby buggy, and the other is wooden stairs. I would recommend taking the ascent when you go up and the wooden stairs when you come down. Since the path is such a clean and tranquil road with little traffic, you may walk barefoot and have a relaxing journey. The 5 wind turbines also add exotic ambience to the park.
Hearing a sudden clamorous sound of narrow-mouth frogs, I craned my neck to look inside the forest where a young man in a uniform was crouching down. After a little while, he came out holding a big can filled with narrow-mouth frogs. He was rescuing those frogs and releasing them in places with better living environments. I felt grateful for the invisible hand working hard to maintain the eco-friendly environment of the park.
At Sky Park, you will be greeted with wide fields, rippled with yellow canola and dotted with several lookout sheds. Settle down here, and take out the snacks you bought before you began your tour. Turn the tap on, and drink Arisu (“Ari” is a pure Korean word meaning “big” and “Su” is a Chinese character meaning “water”), Seoul city’s tap water. At the wide view of Wordlcup Stadium and the adjacent Sangamdong area, I felt my mind was wide open too. When coming down, I would recommend taking the wooden stairs. It seemed far-off when I was looking from the ground up, but walking down the 291 stairs was easier than I thought it would be.
If you want to drop by Noeul (Sunset Glow) Park, follow the signboards of Noeul Park put up along the flower road instead of walking down the wooden stairs. In retrospect, the city officials had the hardest time figuring out what Noeul Park would be like. Now, it is a park with a wide natural grass field where you can even play a little ball. Since it had been a golf course in the first place, it has sand bunkers too. It might be a good idea to retrieve your childish innocence and play in the sand. There is no place to hide from the midday sun here, so Noeul Park is better to visit at sunset rather than in the heat of a day.

Seoul is a complex city. But to my surprise, it has many resting places scattered throughout. All in all, it is a city less bleak than I thought and greener than I imagined. Sangamdong is one of such places.

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