Yesterday I had some time to kill between attending a press conference for JFNK and meeting my friend for dinner.
Since the press conference (which was raising awareness about underground religion in North Korea) was held at the Korea Press Center, right in downtown Seoul, it was easy to wander around pass the time.
I decided to head down to the popular Cheonggyecheon (청계천) stream, which is 8km long. Running through the heart of Seoul, Cheonggyecheon is a great spot to sit, relax, read, take photos or enjoy a cold ice cream (which is what I did ^_^).
Most of all, it’s a great place for people-watching. You can see locals, tourists, couples, families, and the elderly all enjoying this urban oasis.
As you can see from the photo above, Cheonggyecheon wasn’t always a nice place. In the first half of the 20th century, it was actually a slum. Then, as Seoul began to develop, it was paved over to make room for a new highway.
In 2003, the Mayor of Seoul Lee Myung-Bak (who would go onto become the President of Korea) proposed an expensive beautification plan for Cheonggyecheon. Even today, those who visit Seoul often note that there is a lack of parks and green space – perhaps the price paid by rapid modernization. Lee’s $900 million development project was met with a lot of controversy when it was first proposed.
However, it’s since become a favourite among Seoulites both young and old.
It’s also representative of Seoul’s rapid development. When I was here in 2011, there were no plants along the river. Now, of course, that’s not the case.
That’s possibly my favourite thing about living in Korea – everything is changing (and has changed) so fast.
After wandering a bit more, I accidentally found myself in front of the Korea Tourism Organization building:
Emotional times… I leave for Bali in less than 12 hours, and after that, only two more weeks left in Korea. Where did one year go?