On Friday, the skies cleared for the first time in what felt like weeks and I took the subway out to World Cup Park (월드컵공원) at the earliest opportunity. It was already clouding over again by the time I got there, but the light was good enough to explore the area and so I began the long climb up to Haneul Park (하늘공원) – a reclaimed landfill site that is one of Seoul’s better environmental projects.
Rather than “green” an area by covering it with concrete (as happened with the new Cheonggyecheon and is happening now with the Han River), or draw up fancy plans for things that will never get built (like the Gwanggyo eco-city project), the six-year restoration of the landfill site appears to have been handled excellently. The entire area has pretty much been left to its own devices, presumably with some management of plants and water routes to help the ecosystem balance.
Upon reaching the summit (standing atop what must have been millions upon millions of tons of rubbish given that the area used to be flat), I was greeted with a warm breeze completely devoid of the usual miasma of exhaust fumes and rotting food that plagues most parts of the city. The entire hilltop is planted with local grasses and flowers (with some areas set aside for traditional vegetables), and is a haven for insects and small animals thanks to strict footpath management and no-foraging rules. I was expecting the air to be alive with the sound of frogs (rainy season is mating season), but they were all hiding away waiting for the rain and the air was instead alive with thousands of dragonflies.
I wandered around for a little while, enjoying the relatively clean air and attempting to photograph insects with a laughably not-macro 50 mm lens. Considering the relative proximity to the city centre and the fact that it was a glorious evening, there were very few people out and I only had to step around couples on dates a few times.