An incredibly popular spot for youths and a place with over 100 years of history, Sinchon is continuously inundated with the youthful vigor and vitality of students flowing from the six universities located in and around this area, running strong even throughout the night.
Even foreigners constantly talk about Sinchon and Hongdae. But what is it that is so special about the streets of Sinchon, this spring of youthful energy?
The founding of Yeonhui College, later to become Yonsei University, in Sinchon in 1914 was followed by the opening of Ewha College in the same area.
Sogang University and Hongik University were then established nearby, followed by Myongji University and Korea Aerospace University on the outskirts of the area. As a result, students from these six universities began to gather in Sinchon.
Now, Sinchon and Yonsei-ro are brimming with students, and the streets are lined with shops and restaurants targeting student customers. Affordable Korean barbeque restaurants for cash-strapped students have set up shop in front of Yonsei University, and there are numerous boarding houses, coffee shops, and stationery stores. It is a perfect environment for students from outside of Seoul to come, study, and live at a reasonable cost.
This huge commercial district developed largely due to the number of universities nearby. “Space,” a disco where male students who grew their hair out and wore denim jackets used to go and dance, and “Woodstock,” where students gathered to talk about rock ‘n roll over beer, are both old landmarks of Sinchon.
The main meeting place for students in Sinchon these days is the periscope-like structure here, but people who used to hang out here a few decades ago usually met in front of the department store clock tower.
Anyone visiting Sinchon for the first time in several years will be pleasantly surprised by the changes made to Yonsei-ro, which has been widened over the past few years. Also, more benches have been installed, giving people places to sit and rest, and the handprints of famous writers have been imprinted into the sidewalk in front of Hongik Bookstore.
Also, the bus stops have been improved, and the traffic lights at crosswalks have been simplified. Furthermore, Yonsei-ro has been designated a “car-free street,” with it becoming a pedestrian-only road on the weekends, and its four lanes have been reduced to two.
On the weekends, performances and concerts are held in Sinchon Rotary and at Jungang four-way intersection, and the street is full of merchants selling goods they made themselves. For the convenience of pedestrians, the curbs of the sidewalks have been removed, and small, cute structures have been installed in several places. Emerging as a new attraction in the area, Sinchon Play Bus is a unique space where visitors are free to enjoy songs about the old days of Sinchon.
The streets of this neighborhood were once filled with the sound of trains passing by and blowing their whistles and people shuffling down the street with bags of luggage. But now, a new experiment is being carried out here. A collaboration between artists and merchants is breathing new life into Wawusan-ro 32-gil, which is commonly known as “Hongdae Ttaeng-ttaeng Street.”
This street got the name “Ttaeng-ttaeng” from the sound of the bells that rang when the barriers came down at the nearby train crossings of the Gyeongui Railway Line, which once ran through this neighborhood.
As the project to move the Gyeongui Railway Line underground got underway in 2005, it caused this neighborhood to go through a major change. With the relocation of the area’s major means of public transportation, the daytime population decreased significantly, causing businesses here to fall into decline. And when the railway tracks were removed, the remaining space was left desolate and empty.
However, Ttaeng-ttaeng Street has recently been regaining some of its former vitality thanks to one of its residents, who had an idea to rejuvenate the neighborhood with the help of the many musicians and artists living nearby. The result was “Ttaeng-ttaeng Street Market,” which first opened in June 2014 with a small group of merchants. Although it was small in the beginning, more and more people came to sell their wares. Through word of mouth as well as media coverage, word of the market reached greater numbers of people, and by fall of that year, it had quickly grown in size
On the hill in front of the entrance to Ttaeng-ttaeng Street is Sanwoollim Theatre, which has long been a home to indie bands. Also, there are a number of art academies in the direction of Hongik University (Hongdae). As a result, many artists have lived on and walked this street for a long time, and now they are playing a major role in its revival.
Among the efforts these artists are making are the publication of Ttaeng-ttaeng Magazine and the implementation of several programs, including the “Friendship Project,” which brings residents and artists together to hold festivals designed for both locals and tourists.
Unlike nearby Hongdae, Ttaeng-ttaeng Street has not yet been “eaten up by massive capital investment,” but with the upcoming completion of the Gyeongui Line Park in 2017, the winds of change may blow through this area once again.