Cheonggyecheon Stream’s Transformation

25 Feb

Me and Lawson went to Cheonggyecheon stream a couple of weekends ago on a very chilly Lunar New Year’s Day. Even though it was bitingly cold every time I took my hands out my pockets to take a photo I didn’t want to stop. This area of Seoul is what I had imagined for a capital city and more. It had the huge sky scrapers and modern glass architecture you expect from a capital city but so far I hadn’t felt like I’d seen it in Seoul. This is entirely our fault because, until this weekend, we’d kept cautiously to the tourist areas -Itaewon and Hongdae. I say ‘more’, because as well as the modern, recently refurbished stream, and the towering glass sky scrapers, in the mist you could see beautiful green and rocky mountains in the distance. It’s quite the contrast and completely unlike any capital city I’ve visited before.

In 2005 they spent $900 million refurbishing the water edges and generally beautifying it and making it look incredibly urban. I think in the Summer they have lots of plants and greenery but with it being winter the plants were dead and the fountains were frozen. It still looked incredibly modern and cool though.

Under Gwangtonggyo bridge they had copies of photographs showing what this area looked like during the first half of the 20th century. It was incredible. It was unrecognisable, not only from what it looked like now, but so far away from how I see Korea as a whole. It is quite easy to forget, as a Westerner, how far Korea has come in such a short time. The photos showed shanty houses propped up on the waters edge on stilts. It looked third world, poverty stricken and frankly, very ugly.

I was recently talking to a Korean co-worker who was telling me that the slow-pace, relaxed life in Australia drove him crazy. He has a dual passport and has spent many years living in Oz. He loved it and wants to return, but he said he couldn’t understand how a weeks work could drag into months. I can see where he is coming from; the first word I learnt when I came to Korea is “bolly” which means ‘hurry’, and one of the first things I noticed was how fast everyone drove. Korea really does live life in the fast lane in day to day life and in general. The urban project took just two years to complete and it is completely transformed from what it used to look like.

Cheonggyecheon Stream in the 1950s

1950

And now. 

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