SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, October 30, 2020 – The Son Keechung Sports Park, a memorial place for Son Keechung, Korea’s first Olympic gold medalist and famous marathoner, is now recreated as a shrine for all runners after more than three decades. The park opened to the public on October 28 after two years of renovation.
In Seoullo 7017, the pedestrian walkway located within a three-minute walking distance from the park, a floating pathway with six meters in width and 33 meters in length reaching the former Seoul Station building’s rooftop will also be opened to the public on the same day.
Both are part of the urban regeneration projects to make Seoul a walkable city. The Seoul Metropolitan Government said that the eco-friendly footpath construction is completed connecting the Son Keechung Sports Park, Seoullo 7017, Namdaemun Market, and Namsan Park.
Once the featureless park is recreated as a place for runners
The city government substantially renovated the Son Keechung Sports Park, which had only about a dozen visitors a day due to its obsolete facilities and inferior materials on display. The renovated park will consist of the Memorial Hall for Son Keechung, the Running-Learning Center, running tracks, a multi-purpose playground, a children’s library, and a gate ball court.
The Memorial Hall for Son Keechung is the heart of the park. Visitors can follow tracks made on the memorial hall’s floor and walk around the two exhibition rooms to appreciate 214 pieces of materials, including his laurel from the Berlin Olympics, documentary video, and other records.
In particular, the Memorial Hall will display a letter for the first time written by Son to get his bronze helmet back that had been awarded to him when he won the gold medal in the marathon event at the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin and had been displayed in a museum in Berlin for over five decades; his passports from the 1950s to 1990s; and postcards that he sent to and received from Leni Riefenstahl, the director of Olympia, a film on the Berlin Olympics.
The Running-Learning Center will be a new place for runners. It houses a lounge, café, locker rooms and showers along with running tracks. The name combines the two words: “running” and “learning.” Oh Joon-sik, the chief designer of the park and chief director of the opening exhibition, said the center has the name because it is where visitors can learn about unknown heroes of marathon while running.
An opening exhibition will be held from October 29 through December 31 under four themes. Visitors can see the stories of forgotten heroes of Marathon including Nam Seung-ryong, the bronze medalist of the same event in Berlin.
Exhibitions will be opened every thirty minutes from noon to 3 p.m., and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. everyday with the guide of a docent for up to ten visitors at a time. For the safety of visitors, the social distancing rule will be required – the place will be disinfected for five minutes after each 25-minute exhibit. People can visit the place without having to make a reservation until November 8. From November 10, reservations will be required.
Floating pathway to connect Seoullo 7017 to the former Seoul Station Building with a newly built rooftop garden
People will be able to walk from Seoullo 7017 all the way to the lobby of the Seoul Station through the rooftop of the former Seoul Station building thanks to the newly constructed floating pathway.
The top part of the closed parking ramp at the former Seoul Station building will be used as an area for relaxing while the inner part will be an exhibition place to display creative ideas of citizens. If visitors go upstairs following the closed ramp, they will get the magnificent view of 2,300 square meters of rooftop garden. A parking lot turned to be a beautiful garden which will stay green throughout the year with the lawn on the concrete floor decorated by wild basils and plantain lilies.
Through the urban regeneration project around the Seoul Station, Seoul renovated five zones with 1.95 million square meters in total area for balanced development between eastern and western parts of the railways. The area includes the Seoul Station, Junglim-dong, Hoehyun-dong, Seogye-dong and the Namdaemun Market. The 6.4km walking trails covering 11 areas including Junglim-ro cultural street for pedestrians are improved for more pleasant strolls. In addition, nine anchor facilities ready to become hot spots for citizens, and the open space in front of the Namdaemun Market are also built to boost the local economy.
Acting Seoul Mayor Seo Jung-hyup said, “We expect that the Son Keechung Sports Park, the footpath connecting between Seoullo 7017 and the former Seoul Station building, and the rooftop garden of Seoul Station will bridge Seoullo 7017 and its surrounding areas for pedestrians.” He added, “We hope the undaunted spirit of Mr. Son who never gave up on the hope for independence in the face of despair and frustration will comfort struggling citizens and revitalize the stagnant local business.”