Twas the Saturday after payday and this creature was stirring to avoid the constipation of Dullju by escaping to buy new pumps! Arriving in Seoul on the 7:05am from Dullju I took the metro to Hansung University Station exit 5 for a stroll along the East section of Seoul Fortress.
It’s a pleasant walk I’ve experienced many times; the reason being Iwha-dong. Halfway along this section of the restored wall is the well-manicured Naksan Park and adjacent the artists enclave of Ihwa-dong.
It wasn’t always like this, Nak Mountain, or Naksan, was one of the mountains that guarded the eastern boundary of Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. Much of the fortress atop the mountain was decimated during the Japanese occupation and following this a favela-like shanty town. By the 1970’s sewing factories had infiltrated, particularly in Ihwa-dong, but the whole area remained decrepit and a domain of the poor.
Ihwa-dong is one of the few ‘daldongnae’ or moon villages remaining in Seoul. Daldongnae refers to an economically challenged village, usually located on a mountain slope literally then, closer to the Moon. In 2006, a regeneration project was instigated resulting in more than 60 art pieces, primarily murals, designed and created by artists and local inhabitants. As these murals become weathered they are not usually re-painted but covered over and replaced by new art, hence my return visits to record the ever changing urban landscape.
In this post I’ll revisit my previous rambles around the area to bore or endow the reader with examples of existing, new and replaced art-works. At the apex of Naksan there is a break in the wall and a roadway passes through allowing a bus terminus of kinds; below this to the right is the entrance to Naksan Park. Alternatively, there are some steps and a gateway through the wall just prior to this.
I stayed with the road inside and parallel to the wall, which leads to the topside of Ihwa. Just past the public loos on the right a previously derelict building had been refurbished and just beyond here the little shop and seated area was a hive of activity. Here was a street cartoon but today it had disappeared replaced by construction work.
To the right of the shop a steep stairway had previously been decorated with fish that were very faded, today they’d had a makeover, a complete makeover and were vivid royal blue! Some new garlands of flowers had appeared to the left. A number of young Koreans were eagerly snapping the artworks using their usual two-fingered poses. Many, as usual, giggled and half-covered their faces when I stopped to try and chat to them.
At the foot of the stairs, to the left, I remembered the Diver mural with its electricity box head and a new pair of Angels wings had appeared. To the right dog murals decorated the “hand-drip” coffee shop. Turning left I came to the “flower” staircase, the previously faded yellow and pink flora displaced by colourful mosaic tiles. A new “shush” mural had appeared on the left a masked chap scootered past a vibrant turquoise café decorated with a seventies style big-haired female cartoon.
I headed south towards the u-bend in the road, conscious of the time as I was meeting FOBY at midday. A rather damaged street sculpture from my last visit had been replaced by a new staircase and the original ceramic tiles made by school kids had seen better days.
Passing under Ihwa bridge and further down the hill the intriguing “Tailors Couple’ had been whitewashed over presumably awaiting a replacement artwork. This large-scale mural was evocative of the textile industry that developed in this area; I was mourning its demise for much of Saturday.
I passed Mihwa Barbershop, decorated in bright red and blue colours before crossing over towards the heart of Jogno and the Jongmyo shrine. The park has many retired old men, up to 3500 per day playing board games. It’s been reported that in recent times police cracked down on a ring of elderly women who were soliciting for the elderly men. Must be that entire live octopus they consume! Today it was busy; there were protests about the Japanese ongoing failure to aplogise for war-crimes towards the “comfort women” they exploited in Korea. An impromptu sermon was taking place, old folk sat on anti-piles mats as temperatures hovered around 6 degrees.
“Jesus loves you”
“How do you know? Have you met him?”
“The holy mother loves you”
“I only need one mother to love me!”
My escape was swift and I made my way to the relatively god-free zone of Holly’s to await FOBY.
We took line one to Dondaemun as one of my favourite buildings ever is nearing completion! The wonderfully curvaceous and decadent Zaha Hadid designed, Dondaemun Design Plaza has been de-clad of its hoardings rising majestically from the former site of a baseball stadium, Zaha may have her critics but I’m not one of them. I can’t wait for the official opening then I can re-visit and photograph this iconic building. It may have been 5 years in construction and the cost rather ostentatious but Seoul, nay Korea, has nowt like it and needed something like it! The park will open on March 21st, 2014 and the following link shows the internal architecture.
We spent the next hour or so wandering around the huge temples to fashion such as Doota looking for a cheap wallet to replace the one I got lifted in Bangkok. It’s so bloody irritating to see 50 or more stalls selling the same shit and asking exorbitant prices. In Doota at least they have some beautiful gear but for Beckham’s purse rather than mine, the duck-egg blue Gucci being a good example at 450, 000 spuds. Exasperated in rip-off land we headed back to the subway, the underground shopping centre presenting me with a suitable product for 18,000 spuds which is of impressive quality! Q.E.D
In the evening we visited my favourite pork-loin barbecue in Jogno before visiting a new bar Sno, why Sno? In true orthodox Korean style the W was not deemed necessary, cool eh? It was a self-serve bar with Leffe Brun at 5.7k, not cheap but so much better than Cass at 5K.
Sunday we headed to Myeong-dong in search for new pumps and after searching out the brand, colour and style I wanted they only had a pair size 6, even too small for me! Eventually I picked up some retro looking Nike (not within my original budget) from a place called F*****’ Style; yes you read correctly. The background music was really misogynous homophobic crap rap, to summarise, pretty disgusting. We asked the extremely nice sales assistant if he knew or understood what they were saying, he said he knew it was bad but did not understand it! Korea, sort it out!