Bureau and Corporate Funded Body
[ The Seoul Metropolitan Library as seen from the Seoul Square Skating Rink ]
I have just been to the Seoul Square Skating Rink. I wanted to see whether it was running well, and I wanted to make sure that nobody was having any difficulty using the facilities. To my relief, the rink is running quite satisfactorily. Therefore, it is my great pleasure to recommend that you come down to the rink with your children and have lots of fun there.
The skating rink was opened on Saturday, December 22. Allowing Seoul Square to be used as a skating rink again in winter 2012 was a very controversial issue. There was intense debate over whether, and even how to run the skating rink. According to those who were opposed to the idea of using Seoul Square as skating rink anew, Seoul Square could be used for better purposes by more citizens.
To find out how many citizens want the square to be used as a skating rink, the city administration conducted surveys on its website in April and on the Daum portal site in July. Based on the results of the survey, which was conducted three times between July and September, the issue was addressed by the “Open (Seoul) Square Citizen Council,” a legal entity consisting of citizens with full authority to decide on the use of Seoul Square.
In the surveys, more than 79% of the citizens approved of the use of the square as a skating rink in winter, whereas the rest wanted to keep the space open for some other purposes.
During the previous winter, a total of 1.6 million citizens used the staking rink, but there were only 7 applications for events in the space during the period. The final decision at the council was to open the skating rink on half the previous space for a period of 14 days or less. Therefore, half the square will remain open for various gatherings or events that citizens would like to join during the period.
My biggest concern about the reduction of the skating rink size was that citizens from across town might have to wait in line for a long time or even abandon their plans to enjoy with their children altogether. To address the issue, the city administration has decided to stage gospel choirs, magic shows, and cultural performances around the rink on weekends and holidays when the number of visitors swells dramatically. The lounge area in the skating rink was expanded to twice its size; a book café was opened there, offering books and refreshments to the skaters and their guardians.
I thought the book café was wonderful. At the request of the citizens, the café was also selling some snacks, such as bread and the Korean fish cake that many Koreans love for its hot soup. Lockers are now rented free. People are admitted without having to go through the ticket window when they present online booking confirmations or smartphone bank transfer slips at the entrance. People were entering the rink faster. BPA-coated tickets, which are hard to recycle, have been replaced with ordinary paper receipts in the name of environmental protection.
Since Seoul Square is situated at the heart of the town, citizens were concerned about the air quality in and around the skating rink. Thus, a mobile air quality measuring unit has been installed along the rink, and air quality information is disclosed to the citizens in real time.
If by chance the air quality is not desirable for the vulnerable, such as children and seniors, an appropriate recommendation against the use of the rink will be issued; when the situation persists, the rink will be temporarily closed. I have heard that skating lessons were sold out in just 10 minutes; this is probably understandable, since the instructors are former professional skaters and the fee is just 10,000 won for four sessions. I will have more classes made available during earlier hours during weekends, for instance.
Well, we are well-prepared, aren’t we? Perhaps those who opposed the reopening of the skating rink will have second thoughts and join us. I’m sure previous visitors will be more satisfied. I’m thinking of learning how to ice-skate this winter myself. It’s a lot of fun for everyone to brave the cold weather and skate on the rink, full of the vitality that the citizens of Seoul are known for. I hope more citizens will have a pleasant time there with their families, friends, and lovers.
[A worker puts finishing touches on the Seoul Square Skating Rink]