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Kyung-sook Shin on Seoul

In Newsweek, novelist Kyung-sook Shin (of “Please Look After Mom” fame) writes about the city of Seoul:

At a glance, Seoul might seem like a place of ceaseless change, but the heart of the city is also occupied by a river, mountains, and royal palaces. When you are by the river, in the mountains, or in one of the royal palaces, you almost have to wonder if you are still in the same bustling city. I think this mix of urban dynamism and natural quiet makes for a marvelous harmony. You could even say Seoul is made almost entirely of mountains. Every neighborhood has a nearby mountain that it might claim as its own symbol. Perhaps the mountain most beloved by Seoul residents is Bukhan Mountain. On the weekends, it’s common to see the mountain trails crammed with throngs of hikers. Still, if you happen to find your way to Seoul, I recommend you make your way up these trails, where you are sure to find luxurious pines, white crags, and babbling brooks.

As I said at my Tumblr photoblog, “Say what you will about Seoul’s built environment, but the natural setting cannot be beat.”

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • http://san-shin.org Sanshinseon

    He’s right about that, and so are you.
    But i do really hate this:

    > Perhaps the mountain most beloved by Seoul
    > residents is Bukhan Mountain.

    There is no mountain with that name!! It’s only the name of a fortress to the west and north of Samgak-san, and of a Nat Park made up of 6 or so individual mountains. When are people ever going to get this straight? A mistake started by the Japanese colonialists that gets sadly perpetuated…

  • JQ

    “Say what you will about Seoul’s built environment, but the natural setting cannot be beat” (by any other city in the world.)
    I agree with you 100%.

    “I love Seoul more than I love Paris because at the heart of the city there are mountains.” (from News Week)
    I agree with Kyung-sook Shin 100%.

  • guitard

    Associating “natural quiet” and river doesn’t work in Seoul. The Han Gang is flanked by miles and miles of six to eight lanes of traffic on both sides. It is so noisy at times while walking along the river walk, that I have to cuff my hands over my ears in order to hear my iPhone through my ear buds.

    And at most of the mountains and in the palaces in Seoul . . . it’s quiet? Really? Sure . . . it beats standing at a busy intersection downtown. But can you really describe those places as being “naturally quiet?”

    Perhaps it’s just a matter of perception and interpretation. My idea of natural quiet is when the only thing you can hear are natural sounds . . . the wind . . . birds . . . bugs and various other small critters . . . leaves rustling . . .

    Notice that I left cars out of the description.

  • Yeongung

    If it hadn’t been for Gwanaksan, I’d have gone crazy in Seoul. I’ve been gone half a year, and I can still tell you exactly where to go on it. It’s my mountain!