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Central Park of Seoul
Jun 22, 2005
'Seoul Forest' Returns Nature to Citizens
The rebirth of more than 1 million square meters of land in eastern Seoul has given way to an ecological park known as "Seoul Forest." It is not just another new park in the capital city but sets itself apart from others in its space, structure, and construction process. Dubbed the "Central Park" of Seoul, it will go a long way toward quenching Seoulites' thirst for green space and an escape from the hustle and bustle of this metropolis. The almost 100,000 citizens gathered at its opening on Sunday reflected this.
The 350,000-pyong (one pyong equals 3.3 sq. meters) park in Ttukseom along the Hangang(River) is the third largest in Seoul, following Olympic Park and World Cup Park. It is also a natural park devoid of any amusement facilities. Artificial structures have been limited to a minimum, with a soccer field and an open theater being the two exceptions. Fortunately, its designers seemed to know that green is the best medicine for tired urban souls.
Thus, they planted as many as 420,000 trees and left about 100 animals in the park, including roe deer and squirrels. To protect these animals, visitors are only allowed to view the animals from the footbridges traversing the park. Most important of all, it was designed and built by private citizens. The Seoul Metropolitan Government provided land at the request of citizens, who also induced corporate donations and led the construction with volunteers. Seoul City takes care of facilities, and citizens take care of the park's management.
Of course, it is still far from the urban parks in industrial countries that boast thick forests and a perfect ecosystem. It is up to the citizens themselves to turn the new park into a Korean ecological model. It was also a welcome shift of policy that the capital city would concede such a large space for a park rather than give in to development projects. We hope city officials will apply the same principle to the former U.S. bases in Yongsan.
The policy change is hoped to spread to provincial metropolises so that they can also have large ecological parks, instilling more vitality into drab city life. The air of Seoul is still stuffy, and particularly so north of the Hangang. We hope that Seoul Forest will serve as a starting point for the "green belt" that will stretch through the rest of northern Seoul. It can also play a vital role in the balanced development of the capital area.
Seoul Forest is still no match for its much larger, better-preserved counterparts in New York and London. But we can see a hopeful sign that officials are beginning to think parks, a long with roads, are the most natural and effective way of developing the urban landscape.