I thought about doing an indepth posting about Cheongyecheon and its restoration but have instead elected to post this old Korean Republic article that I found while looking through an old photo album (Thanks FD). The article is entitled “Good Riddance…and yet – ‘Stream of Pure Ravine’ Slowly Flowing Into Realm of Memories.” (Korean Republic, Nov. 18, 1958)
One signpost in Seoul you can read with your eyes closed is Chunggyechun – the Stream of the Pure Ravine. The deep, cloying whiff exuding from this muddy stream has been an odor that any Seoulite remembers from his days in primary school.
More than 500 years old, this stream has been a reminder of many things that happened on both sides of it – not in the manner of historians’ tales with their meaningless dates and esoteric anecdotes. Its few remaining stone bridges have been traveled by vehicles from four-manborne seda chairs to their four-wheeled gas-driven offspring and have long been sentimental curios to all Seoulites.
Since ambitious Gen. Yi Sung Kye picked Seoul as the capital city for his newly founded Yi dynasty, the stream has flowed through the heart of Seoul, sandwiched between Jongno and Eulchiro and torn between abuse and frowns.
Soon, this odor-binding signpost with all its merits and demerits will be no more as the currently-progressing highway projects comes to an end. And, together with it will go the old, bent men who have predicted thousands of futures from thousands of palms along the stream. Also, the little boys with their scrawny hands who have had what they will sometimes remember as the best years of their livings, shining shoes for men leaning against the bridge railings.
This will also mean the loss of a fairyland playground for urchins who “fished” for the fish there never were after a summer showed added a torrent to the dirty water and spirited its malodor away – or who sledded over it after it was coated with ice.
All these will go by 1960 when the entire length of the Stream of the Pure Ravine – that has never been pure – will be covered up as part of the City Plan.
The second phase of this work, expected to end before the end of this year, will cover it up from Gwanggyo to Changgyo. The entire project costs 2.6 billion hwan in Seoul City appropriations and another 1.3 billion hwan in aid materials, including cement, steel, and lumber.
I think this is the money quote:
When the inevitable stream of automobiles skids over this stream, old timers will demand: “Do you remember the beautiful river that used to run underneath this street?”
Here is a link to the reasons professed for the restoration of the stream. Also, looking back at the past, is Gust of Popular Feeling’s piece entitled “A Herd of Jostling Hippopatamuses.”
Apologies for the photo but could not chance removing it from the album.