Culture & Tourism

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  • The Story of Seoul’s islands, where cutting-edge technology meets nature

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    • Having disappeared and appeared over the past century, mysterious islands, each telling its own interesting story, dot the Hangang River.
    • Seonyudo Island finally became an island after a flood. It is a theme park-like island with a gallery and garden of green pillars, among other attractions.
    • Nodeulseom Island, formerly a sandy plain stretching out from Ichon-dong, is now known as one of Yongsan’s Top Eight Sights.
    • Some Sevit, an artificial island with a charming nightscape and state-of-the-art lighting, was featured in the film Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).
    • Over the years, Yeouido Island has been transformed from a livestock farm, to an airfield, and finally, to today’s financial hub of Northeast Asia.

    Have you heard of the mysterious islands along the Hangang River in Seoul?

    Over the past century, islands have appeared and disappeared along the Hangang River, and their stories tell the history of the city.

    As part of history themselves, the islands attract many visitors with their breathtaking views. Now, let us learn more about these islands.

    Seonyudo: Magnificent views make it one of “Hanyang’s Top Eight Sceneries”

    Seonyudo Island was originally a piece of land connected to Dangsan-dong along the southern bank of the Hangang River, but after a great flood in 1925, rocks and boulders were rooted up and washed away, leaving part of the land as an island. Later, it became the site of a water treatment plant, but today, the island has been reclaimed and turned into an ecological park. Strolling through Seonyudo Park, which was created by obscuring artificial structures with a natural landscape, one can catch glimpses of the old concrete pillars and waterways of the former treatment plant.

    Seonyudo Island

    The ivy clinging to the structures adds a touch of vivid color against the concrete, creating an eerie harmony.

    Seonyudo Park is comprised of theme-based gardens located along a main road and trails running along the outer edges of the park, looking out over the Hangang River and Seoul. Situated between an ecological water playground and an aquatic botanical garden is Design Seoul Gallery, in front of which is a garden of green pillars. During the spring and summer, green leaves wind their way around the concrete pillars, but in the fall, they change color with the changing of the season. When night falls, multi-colored lights create a mystical nightscape.

    The essence of this reclaimed ecological park can be found in the Garden of Transition. Planted within the hollowed-out structure of the former treatment plant, the Garden of Transition is like a maze. The trail continues from underground to aboveground, creating a rather romantic ambience that makes it popular among couples.

    In addition, the Water Purification Basin, ecological water playground, amphitheater, Metasequoia Path, and grove of birch trees comprise the green scenery of the park, all of which soothe the souls of visitors. Seonyudo Island is also popular as a filming location. It was an outing venue for the two heroes of the film Samaritan Girl (2004), a dating venue in the film Almost Love (2006), starring Kwon Sang-woo and Kim Ha-neul, and the background of action scenes in the television series IRIS (2009).

    Seonyudo Park features trails and grassy rest areas, amazing installation sculptures made from parts of the former water treatment plant, and an aquatic botanical garden, proving the value of ecological restoration and resource recovery projects. Taking a leisurely walk among these unique features, enjoying a small picnic on a blanket on the grass, and breathing in the refreshing fall night air are all highly recommended.

    Nodeulseom: A man-made island created by the construction of the footbridge

    Also called “Jungji-do,” Nodeulseom Island was created during the construction of the footbridge. It was originally a sandy plain stretching out from Ichon-dong, and was called “Sachon,” meaning “village of sand,” during the Joseon Dynasty. Its magnificent sunset was chosen as one of the “Top Eight Sceneries of Yongsan.”

    Later, with the construction of the iron footbridge, sand from the surrounding areas accumulated here and become known as “Jungji-do.” This was how the sandy plain around Nodeulseom became an island.

    Nodeulseom Island

    Seoraeseom: A man-made island beloved for its rape blossoms and buckwheat flowers

    Seoraeseom Island is a man-made island beloved by Seoul citizens for its rape blossoms, which bloom spectacularly every spring.

    Located between Banpodaegyo Bridge and Dongjakdaegyo Bridge, each built during the construction of Olympic-daero and the implementation of the Hangang Comprehensive Development Project, respectively, from 1982 to 1986, the island is connected to the land by three bridges. The weeping willow trees and rape blossoms here create magnificent scenery.

    Seoraeseom Island

    The weeping willows and geese frolicking in the lake create leisurely scenery infused with natural beauty that persists not only in springtime but during other seasons as well. The lush trees and countless flowers make it a delightful place for a walk, and dedicated photographers frequent the island to capture its beauty. Also, the nearby reed fields and riverbank trail make it a perfect venue for a family outing or romantic date. The Hangang Rape Flower Festival is held here every May, and the Hangang Buckwheat Flower Festival every October.

    Visitors are strongly recommended to take a walk along the Hangang River after the sun has set and appreciate the dark, murky water as it flows leisurely by. With the gently rolling waters at your feet, the panoramic nightscape, dotted with diamond-like lights across the river, will make you stop every once in a while just to take in the beauty of the night.

    Some Sevit: A state-of-the-art man-made island offering a stunning night view

    If you want to go on a romantic date surrounded by breathtaking night scenes, Some Sevit is a fantastic option.

    This place is famous for its beautiful nightscape, consisting of a harmony of splendid hues created by the sunset and the multi-colored lighting of Some Sevit. Featuring restaurants, a pub, and a café, Some Sevit is an ideal place to enjoy some food and drinks while gazing at the night scenes of the Hangang River and Seoul. Some other ways to enjoy an unforgettable evening here are to take a leisurely stroll through the recreation area and along the trail in front of Some Sevit or eat some snacks on blanket on the grass and simply enjoy the refreshing fall air.

    Some Sevit

    Some Sevit was the filming location for a major scene in the film Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). It was the laboratory of Dr. Cho (played by Korean actress Claudia Kim), and has since gained increasing recognition not only in Korea, but across the world. Since the release of the film, the island has become a popular destination, with the number of daily visitors rising by four to five times.

    On a fine day, setting out a little early to experience the deep colors of the fall sunset that drape the Hangang River sky before nightfall is also recommended. In contrast to the summer sunset, which gently soothes the sweltering heat of the day, the deep orange shades of the fall sunset warmly envelope the city and river, creating a pleasant tingling sensation. After sunset, the fantastic night scene of the Hangang River, the park, and Some Sevit is the perfect backdrop for the end of a nice fall outing.

    Bamseom: An island abandoned by people becomes a habitat for migratory birds in Seoul

    Named for its chestnut (“bam” in Korean)-shaped appearance, Bamseom was initially an isolated island, but with the gradual expansion of Yeouido Island to form an alluvial island, the water level fell, connecting it to Yeouido Island. The cliffs on the east side of the island were so magnificent they were called, “Small Haegeumgang.”

    It is said that with the transfer of the capital to Hanyang during the Joseon Dynasty, boat-builders first settled here. Later, it was used to cultivate mulberry trees, and until 1967, 62 households were located on the island, making their living fishing, building boats, cultivating mulberry trees and medicinal herbs, and grazing goats. As part of the development of Yeouido Island in 1968, the island was blown up on February 10 of the same year in order to improve the flow of the river and acquire rubble for the construction of Yeouido Island’s embankment, and its residents were relocated to the foot of Wausan Mountain in Changjeon-dong, Mapo-gu. The massive explosion destroyed the center of the island, dividing it into two halves. Not long after, the rest of the island disappeared.

    For the next two decades, sediment carried in the water of the Hangang River accumulated on the island, creating a fertile foundation for the growth of a lush forest of trees and tall grass, which then attracted birds, leading the island to become a habitat for migratory birds in the city center.

    Bamseom Island

    Chronological photographs of Bamseom Island

    This untouched, deserted island under Seogangdaegyo Bridge, connecting Yeouido Island and Mapo, has gradually expanded with the accumulation of earth and sand caused by natural sedimentation over the past half-century, during which time Yeouido Island has flourished as Korea’s center of finance.

    When it was first measured by U.S. Forces in 1966, the total area of the island was 45,684 square meters, but it has continued to expand by an average of 4,400 square meters every year, reaching 279,531 square meters (exterior circumference: 2,895 meters) as of 2013, according to GPS measurements made by Seoul Metropolitan Government. It is now six times larger than it was in 1966.

    It is mainly the southern part of Bamseom Island that has expanded over the years. The northern half is governed by Yeongdeungpo-gu, while the southern half is controlled by Mapo-gu.

    Seoul Metropolitan Government designated the island as an “ecosystem conservation area” in August 1999 and has since prohibited entry by the general public. As a result, it has become the habitat for a total of 138 plant species and 49 bird species. In winter, it becomes home to numerous migratory birds. In 2012, its ecological value as a habitat for waterfowls was acknowledged, and Bamseom Island was appointed as one of Korea’s Ramsar wetlands.

    Ttukseom — an island, but not an island: Where King Taejong was nearly hit by his father’s arrow

    Ttukseom Island is not really an island. Located across from Seongsu-dong of Seongdong-gu and Jayang-dong and Guui-dong of Gwangjin-gu, in Seoul, Ttukseom Island was referred to an island long ago as it was surrounded by the Hangang River and Jungnangcheon Stream. In particular, it was used as a military training site, and when the king came here to hunt, the “dogkyi”, a huge flag decorated with ox or pheasant tails, the symbol of the king, was put up. It was also called “Dokdo,” meaning the “Island with the Dogkyi”.

    Ttukseom Jabeolle (J-Bug) Complex

    Ttukseom Island was also called, “Salgojibeol”, which means “a brutal hit by an arrow”. It acquired this name from the story of when King Taejong (third king of Joseon, r. 1400-1418), upon hearing that his father, former King Taejo Yi Seonggye (founder and first king of the Joseon Dynasty, r.1392-1398), was returning to Seoul after being confined to his home following the “Strife of Princes” (a war among Taejo’s sons, who killed each other for the crown), went out to Ttukseom Island to greet him. But as soon as Taejo laid eyes upon his son, he became so enraged that he shot an arrow at him.

    Yeouido: From a stock farm to an airfield to a hub of global finance

    In the Joseon era, Yeouido Island had several names, including “Inghwa-do” and “Nauiju.” During the dry season, it used to connect to Bamseom Island via a white sandy beach.

    Also used as a stock farm for sheep and goats, it was finally recognized as a village during the reign of King Yeongjo (r. 1724-1776) in late Joseon.

    Later, in 1916, Korea’s first airfield was built on the island, and in 1922, Korean pilot An Chang-nam successfully completed the first demonstration flight in the sky over Yeouido Island, inspiring great dreams and hopes among many Koreans.

    With the development of Yeouido Island entering full swing in the 1970s, the National Assembly, apartment complexes, and financial institutions began to be built on the island, transforming it into the heart of Seoul and the Hangang River. According to the “Recovering the Public Nature of Hangang Declaration” of 2009, the area was designated as a strategic repair zone, and with the establishment of district-level plans in 2011, it has since been striving to become the global finance hub of Northeast Asia, in both name and essence.

    Bask in the sun and take a walk along Hangang River’s embankment to find the different islands and learn more about their stories. Seoul and the Hangang River are brimming with many such charming stories.

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