Seoul: With Designs on the Future

Seoul, South Korea

Figures, made of traditional Korean paper, floating on Seoul’s Cheonggye Stream. Effectively oversized lanterns, they were meant to be lighted at night. These floats were part of a temporary special exhibit.

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of articles on South Korea by Nadine Godwin. Read her first one, Seoul: Palace Hopping.

SEOUL, South Korea — I went to Korea a few times in the 1980s; I was mostly in Seoul and mostly there for business. Then, I returned with a press group in 2014, hosted by the Korea Tourism Organization.

In the ‘80s, the South Korean capital was already a big city with its share of high-rises of the commonplace sort. By my latest visit, its population was 11 million, and those nondescript (or ugly) high-rises had been joined by a number of striking skyscrapers that are actually attractive or bespeak an interest in creative architecture — or both.

Modern high-rise seen from the below-street-level Cheonggye Stream in Seoul.

Modern high-rise seen from the below-street-level Cheonggye Stream in Seoul.

Other recent projects — epitomized by the attractions described below —beautify the city, highlight the country’s past and embrace the future.

• The Cheonggye Stream is a 3.6-mile-long park that lines an old canal. Korea’s Joseon kings (1392 to 1910) created the canal for drainage into the Han River.

Seoul, South Korea

View of the Cheonggye Stream below-street-level park in central Seoul.

After the Korean War, the city covered the stream with a highway, then removed the road early in this century to create the below-street-level park, debuting in 2005.

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