An Exploration in Underrepresented Dobong-gu

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We can only cover so much ground as a small core group of urban explorers in Korea. The Seoul metropolitan area is a vast expanse of land; most of the time, we are lucky to get to a site before it’s gone. There are too many locations you discover too late, or worse, not even hear about because they are in locals of Seoul that we don’t pass through often. Jon Twitch, the editor of Broke In Korea, and author of too many publications to name here has created a map of all locations explored by urban explorers in Seoul since 2005. It shows that most of our explorations have taken place in the central heart of Seoul, while we have neglected the Eastern and Southwestern vicinities.

Image courtesy of Jon Twitch.

Jon took it one step further, making a pie chart breaking down the cities and provinces of all recorded explorations in Korea. Do you feel the need to guess which place was the most explored? Yep, you guessed it, Seoul! Gyeonggi-do is the province with the most explorations. The rest of Korea makes up the rest of the chart. I feel we might have more explorations in Gwangju not accounted for due to Isaiah not being a member of UER. I have also dropped off my contributions to the site; I usually share my pictures on FB in our group at this point.

Image courtesy of Jon Twitch.

It’s nice to have visible evidence of the blind spots; it makes me want to keep extra attention on the districts we’ve only been to a handful of times. At the same time, we can only go where we know the redevelopments are happening. We can also find them by happenstance, but going to these areas without knowledge is like searching for a needle in a haystack. I’d rather be efficient with my ever-shrinking free time.

With that said, today’s featured exploration was a chance find while driving through Dobong-gu in on my way to Suyu-dong. I’ve visited the Dobong area a lot at non-urbex-related times, specifically to hike around the gorgeous, Dobangsan. While wandering around the trails leading to the mountain, I saw some abandoned restaurants that didn’t seem worthy of writing a blog about; I might have to go back and review the pictures.

The neighborhood is a tiny sliver of a community encircled by late 90’s style apartment complexes. By the look of things, many of the houses had been evacuated years before the scheduled demolition. In one place, the calendar on the wall dated back to 2007; in another time ceased in May 2015. While finding hanoks is the number one find, a close number two in my must-see list are these houses from post-Korean War/pre-Miricle on the Han River Korea. I keep an eye out for Nate in case I find anything that can help in his research.

The most exciting tiling I’ve seen in a while goes to this house, which I’ll call the Marble Palace. I think the owners were trying to make their humble abode (at least the facade) look like a marble palace. I appreciate their efforts to beautify their home.

I don’t see much menacing graffiti from hired thugs, but I found a few skulls and crossbones here. I came late to the game, and perhaps after the Yongsan Fire Distaters in 2009, evictors and their hired thugs have eased back on the violence; one exception is when they removed the remaining vendors from the old Noryangjin Fish Market.

And here’s a shaman’s house, abandoned long ago; I was willing to negotiate spiders and their webs to get a glimpse at any potential bujeok. I made it to the threshold, but too many spiders made it a hassle.

Finally, here are some odds and ends. The oddest of this set has to be the empty urn on the top of someone’s house. Rainwater had accumulated inside; perhaps someone took their loved one in another box as they vacated their house. This scene begs the questions, 1) why would someone take the ashes and not the urn, and 2) why wasn’t the urn stored at a mausoleum?

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