A very belated happy, Gregorian New Year to you! As I write this, people all across Korea begin the drive back to their hometowns to celebrate a second new year, the Lunar New Year; traffic is even worse than usual, but for fellow urban explorers, urban Korea becomes a giant playground. Abandonments, rooftops, and tunnels all become more accessible to wander around. I plan to do as much as possible during the break to make up for the lost time.
I haven’t been able to do much writing, let alone explore in 2022, because my wife and I have been preparing to move to a new apartment. I’ve been applying for graduate school, which is a time-consuming process in itself. After I put the finishing touches on that, my wife and I celebrated last week by visiting a neighborhood I found on Instagram on the southside of the Han River in Seocho-gu.
The name for this neighborhood was apparent after walking a few meters. Within fifty meters of one another were two kindergartens with colorful slides poking out and jutting around the buildings. While they look like a fun way to leave school every day, the reality is they are there for emergencies. The bottoms of the slides were fenced off, presumably to keep street cats from wandering inside, but present a new horrific disaster scenario if not removed in time during a fire.
Walking around the hillside neighborhood, we noticed most families recently departed their homes and businesses. Stickers affixed to the doors forbid entry into the buildings as part of a massive redevelopment project. It’s in the early stages; eventually, workers will begin removing doors, windows, scrap metal, making it even more accessible to explore. I will certainly come back for future visits over the next six months, possibly a year, and document its demise.
Highlights from this initial visit include finding an old Hyundai left behind in someone’s garage. The plates date back to the 90s, so I imagine the former residents are in their silver years. The fact that these people had their own garage means the former residents did reasonably well for themselves back in the day.
Ice is a significant hazard one must be careful around while exploring Korea’s urban neighborhoods. Flooded basements and leaky pipes can turn abandonment into an ice castle, not unlike the winter palace from Frozen.
I always enjoy finding Korean folk art. It’s common to find ink calligraphy features Bodhidharma and giant folding screens representing the ten symbols of long life. In my mind, it isn’t a true exploration until we come across orphaned art.
Stay tuned for more visits to the Super Fun Happy Slide Neighborhood… TO BE CONTINUED!