On Sunday, September 23, many events were held all day in Gwanghwamun and cars were prohibited from entering the area.
They began with the Life Bicycle Contest in the early morning, and continued late into the afternoon, comprising a flea market, an environmental-friendliness experience, and diverse performances and exhibitions. I myself rode my bicycle in the morning, and had a chance to stroll around from about 2:30 in the afternoon. I could see with my own eyes that Gwanghwamun was filled with waves of people enjoying the onset of the beautiful autumn season.
In fact, in the past, Gwanghwamun was rather negatively referred to as “the great center divider” or “the worst edifice”. People used to love and take comfort in the many ginkgo trees that once lined the streets. But then cold concrete covered the streets where the trees once stood, saddening the hearts of our citizens.
But today, Gwanghwamun Square underwent a complete transformation. Where thousands of cars once filled the place there were families enjoying themselves hand in hand. The square had finally been returned to the bosom of the citizens, where it truly belongs.
In the future, we plan to hold similar events every weekend so long as the flow of traffic in the area is not overly interfered with. Nowadays, there is a growing trend among the major cities of the world to return their urban centers to their citizens rather than allowing them to be permanently dominated by automobiles. Times Square in New York City has been transformed from a place dominated by cars into an urban center where crowds and street vendors gather together to enjoy themselves. In Norway, the multi-lane street in front of Oslo City Hall has been permanently transformed into a pedestrian space where cars are not allowed. Seoul and Seoul’s citizens are no exception to this trend. Bicycles and pedestrians, the most environmentally-friendly and “human” of all modes of traffic, are becoming our future. Little by little, step by step, Seoul promises to follow the trend with the understanding and cooperation of its citizens.