Cheonggyecheon. Urban Park in Seoul, South Korea


Urban Park in Seoul, South Korea

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Cheonggyecheon (Seoul) 03: Commuter - Cheonggyecheon
Cheonggyecheon (Seoul) 03: Commuter - Cheonggyecheon. Photo by longzijun
The Cheonggyecheon Stream has been recognized as one of the greatest urban redesign projects in the world. For most of the latter half of the 20th century, the Cheonggyecheong was covered by a highway to hide the eyesore it had become.

After being redesigned in 2005, Cheonggyecheon was turned into a public space and attracts an estimated 60,000 visitors a day. Every year the stream plays host to a large variety of events from the Lantern Festival every fall to the waterfront fashion shows in the spring. From its beginning in the heart of Seoul’s historic district it travels over 11 kilometers to reach back to the Han River (Wikipedia Article) where its water flows in from.
For anyone looking to visit Cheonggyecheon, its location makes it perfect way to wind one’s way through the historic district to visit other venues such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insadong, or Dongdaemun and its neighboring shopping district.

Cheonggyecheon (Seoul) 01: Relaxing after
	work - Cheonggyecheon
Cheonggyecheon (Seoul) 01: Relaxing after work. Photo by longzijun

A History Hidden in Plain Sight

Cheonggyecheon has been mentioned in history, even before Korea was an established country. Settlements and villages have appeared along its banks and used the tributary and a stable source of water for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until the Korean War (Wikipedia Article) that the modern incarnation of the Cheonggyecheon was really born.

In the aftermath of the Korean War, much of Seoul was left in ashes and ruins. Gun battles and explosions left entire districts charred and uninhabitable. The remnants of the South Korean government relocated the capital south to Busan, while life in Seoul struggled back to normality. Eventually as citizens flooded back into the city, settlements and makeshift villages once again started to appear along the banks of the Cheonggyecheon.

	Housing, 1968 - Cheonggyecheon
Cheonggyecheon Housing, 1968 - Cheonggyecheon. Photo by Homer Williams
The onslaught of people, housing, and waste started a cycle of deterioration that left the Cheonggyecheon littered with garbage and overflowing with waste. The solution came in 1958 with the construction of an elevated highway above the stream which did wonders for covering one of Seoul’s longest lasting blemishes.

For the next fifty years, Cheonggye Highway was an essential leg of Seoul’s already congested roadway system. Chyeonggyecheon existed as a hidden blemish underneath the highway with only a trickle of water dripping through the stream. Additionally, the constant need for repairs to the Cheonggye Highway was burning a hole in the city’s pockets.

The solution came in a plan to restore the Cheonggyecheon and redesign the area’s roadways to handle the additional traffic that would be misplaced due to the closure of a major roadway. The stream was reopened to the public in 2005 with additional monitoring and renovations which were completed in 2006.

A Natural Design

In the past, the stream was at ground level but the redesign has placed the water and banks at a sub level. This makes it an intimate setting for dates and gives the feeling of being apart from the urban backdrop that is Seoul. At night, the bridges glow in vibrant colors and there’s just enough light in the stream so that visitors can see their way and also look up for a view of the city’s skyscrapers.

Large stretches of the Cheonggyecheon have been restored to their primeval beginnings as wetlands. Cranes and frogs are common sights along with several kinds of fishing edging through the waters. Closer to the mouth of the stream the banks have been paved with smooth brick and pavement giving the area an ultra-modern look and feel.

In addition to aesthetics, the stream was designed to have a functional purpose as well. The stream carries water out of underground subway stations to prevent flooding and helps with the filtration of urban runoff. The dilapidated and polluted waterway is a distant memory as today, the stream is home to 14 species of fish, 18 species of birds, and over 40 species of insects.While the Cheonggyecheon is a favorite for citizens and expats alike, everyone agrees that the stream should be avoided during the winter months. Most of the stream ices over and the freezing temperatures make sitting by its banks less fun than it should be.

The real appeal of the Cheonggyecheon is sitting along its banks0.0 meter in the water, and enjoying the warm weather months. Spring and summer, in particular, see the stream flooded with children and families camped along the steps.

In May, the stream is covered in Buddhist lanterns and children float lotus flower lanterns down the stream. Later in November, the waters are lined with large ornate lanterns which are lit at night to the delight of hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The start of Cheonggyecheon Stream is located between Gwanghwamun Station (Line No. 5) exit 5 and City Hall (Line No. 1) exit 4. Of course, there are also five other subway stations which allow quick access to different parts of the stream but it’s best to consider the stream as a walkway rather than a destination.

Visitors can use Cheonggyecheon Stream to traverse between Gwanghwamun Square where Gyeongbokgung Palace, Dangun Shrine, and Deoksugung (Wikipedia Article) Palace are located to other destinations like Dongdaemun’s shopping district and Jongmyo Buddhist Temple. Along the way there are murals, fountains, and wishing wells to occupy your time.

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Author: bludreamers. Last updated: Apr 14, 2015

Pictures of Cheonggyecheon

Cheonggyecheon. Photo by Alice Edgerton

Crossing Cheonggyecheon - Cheonggyecheon
Crossing Cheonggyecheon - Photo by Sarah Kim

Cheonggyecheon Umbrellas - Cheonggyecheon
Cheonggyecheon Umbrellas - Photo by travel oriented


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