Since I’m from Florida, I’m attracted to anything aquatic. Unfortunately, Seoul is inundated by hills and is a hiker’s paradise. For those of us who are beach junkies, it’s harder to get our fix. I relish any opportunity to spend time by water and my favorite feature in Seoul is the Cheonggyecheon.
The Cheonggyecheon represents one of the first pieces of a major makeover to the image of Seoul. Initiated by Mayor Lee Myung-Bak in 2003, the stream’s renovation helped reintroduce nature to the city and was successful in creating a more appealing urban design. If anyone is interested to see how far Seoul has progressed over the last sixty years, I encourage them to look at pictures of the Cheonggyecheon from the first half of the 20th century. What was once an appalling drainage system and later a bland highway has become one of the modern marvels of the city.
The Cheongyecheon begins downtown next to the Seoul Plaza in Gwanghwamun, flows through Dongdaemun, and eventually merges with the Jungnangcheon, which empties into the Han River. The total course runs nearly eleven kilometers, and the Cheonggyecheon has been divided into five zones. Most expats and citizens of Seoul are familiar with only a small portion of the Cheonggyecheon (zones 1 and 2) that include the downtown and the Dongdaemun areas. However, the true beauty of the stream emerges in zone three as it begins to widen and becomes home to both bird and aquatic life. In zone 4, the stream continues to widen and includes facilities for group sports and biking paths. The course flows past the Seoul National Forest where it ends at the Han River.
Like so many places in Seoul, the Cheonggyecheon is beautiful during the day and spectacular at night. I encourage individuals to visit the stream at both times since they are two completely different experiences. If you want to spend quality time with a significant other, a lovely stroll down zones 1 and 2 on a Sunday afternoon or evening is a perfect recipe for romance. If you are the more arduous or adventurous type, zones four and five offer great paths for biking. The Cheonggyecheon possesses over twenty bridges and several landmarks. My photographs represent a small portion of what you will encounter if you partake in this lovely walk.
Written and photographed by Brent Sheffield of Kimchi Bytes.