Our 1500th Post: A City Finds its Seoul
I write this post on my last day in Korea from Jongmyo, a Confucian shrine that dates back over 600 years in northern Seoul. Like other historic sites in Korea’s capital, throngs of tourists descent on Jongmyo to enjoy the grounds of what was once the longest building in East Asia. But despite the gaggles of visitors, it is easy to find a quiet and remote place to think and reflect, as I am doing now before I leave from Incheon Airport later today. It just so happens GreenGoPost.com is approaching its 1500th post, so a tribute to one of my favorite cities and an adopted hometown is in order. Seoul has changed massively since I arrived for the first in 1995. I’ll never forget my first impressions of this city of over 10 million people. Crowded, congested, noisy and drab, Seoul to me was more Soviet than Asian. Orwellian apartment buildings matched the grey skies that they pierced. Traffic moved at a snail’s pace. Seoul was a city of industry, not inspiration. Since I left Korea in 1998, I was fortunate enough to visit Seoul several times, but five years had passed until I visited again last week. Each time I had visited numerous changes greeted me, but now the city is almost unrecognizable from where I lived in the mid-1990s. More green space lines the Han River and are emerging in various neighborhoods. Bicycles are more commonplace, and now the Han riverbanks are host to bike paths, making bicycling much more pleasant. And while those drab apartment buildings are still clustered all over Seoul, architecture and design are eons ahead of where they were over 15 years ago. Always an exciting place, Seoul now boasts a vibrancy I had not experienced before. Once a city that often left visitors cold, now Seoul oozes cool. From Cheong-gye-cheon, a revitalized stream that cools the surrounding neighborhood, to the World Cup Park that sits atop a former landfill, Seoul is now a city that has moved past focusing solely on the environment to a metropolis that is now pushing for a better quality of life for its residents and visitors. Its former buried treasures are now exposed for the world to see, more open spaces make the city more pedestrian friendly, and it is easier to get around the city with the Seoul Metro (subway) running three times as many subway lines as it did in the mid-1990s. A hub of technology, fashion, design, architecture and entertainment, Seoul is taking steps towards sustainability that will benefit everyone. A city that has shaped and defined me in many ways, my next visit cannot come soon enough. Like the precious shrine in which I am typing this post, this city and its joys will long be timeless.