I guess I missed the opening of Gwanghwamun Plaza, which doesn't look to be influenced by Cheonggyecheon at all. From the photo above, it looks to be an all right makeover. It's nice to know that King Sejong will be joining Yi Sun-sin at Gwanghwamun, even if he's taking a back seat to him.
I'm not sure what to make of this:
Photo from here.
It looks nice enough, but masks a perhaps unhealthy obsession with history-related numbers.
The Square features a 162 m long and 17.5 m wide flower carpet consisting of 2.24 million flowers. The exact number, 224,537, represents the number of days from Oct. 28, 1394, the day when the Chosun Dynasty moved the capital city to Seoul, to the opening day of the square.Whose idea was it to calculate that? Has anyone checked to see if there are actually that many flowers there?
I'm only partly kidding, because checking into this turned up some discrepancies:
History reclaimedNow, the lengthy Joongang Ilbo article that is from is worth reading, but I fail to see how turning Gwanghwamun into this...
Reconstruction of the plaza was undertaken not only to give the area an aesthetic upgrade, but also to restore it to its original state prior to the Japanese colonial era (1910-45).
In a Seoul city survey conducted when project planning began, 62.8 percent of respondents reacted positively to the idea of returning the plaza to the way it was during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and removing traces of the Japanese colonial era.[...]
...restores it to this:
(By the way, the photo above is from the Joongang Ilbo's interesting "Old Seoul: frame by frame" series, which they helpfully compiled here.)
In fact, if you read the rest of the above passage in the article, there is nothing about what this plaza has restored. Except for one thing. Now, how did the city "remov[e] traces of the Japanese colonial era"?
A total of 29 gingko trees that had lined Sejongno since the early part of the Japanese colonial era were removed in an effort to root out the remaining traces of Korea’s painful past.Wow. So they moved 29 Gingko trees. That must have been cathartic. When the city opened Namdaemun's doors in 2006 so that people could walk through the gate, the public was told that it was the first time in 99 years that the doors had been opened since the evil Japanese began destroying the wall surrounding the gate. The only problem with this was that it wasn't true - there are photos showing it open over the years, even as late as 1960. I get the feeling that Gwanghwamun plaza is being sold to the public as a reclamation of the nation's diginity in a similar way, except much lamer. I mean, gingko trees?
Fourteen of them were replanted near Simin Yullin Madang, a park near the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in central Seoul, and 15 were replanted in front of the Central Government Complex.
Here they are:
Photos of them at their new location can be found here, where they are described as trees planted 100 years ago by Japanese people. There's just one problem:
In the above photo from the 1930s, a close look at Sejongno turns up... no trees, so they're hardly 100 years old. The photo below, taken by Don O'Brien (whose photos I've looked at before) in the fall of 1945, does indeed show the gingko trees:
It's hard to know when the trees were planted, but it was likely either in the mid-to-late 1930s or 1940s. I guess if you wanted to link their planting to the worst period of Japanese militarism, you could, but no one has, and I can't help think people are being sold a false nationalist bill of goods in the marketing campaign for the plaza. Of course, it's certainly not the first time, and you have to wonder why it's thought to be necessary.
Another thing that's interesting is how urban projects are marketed by announcing that they will restore the past, when they do nothing of the sort. One of the more glaring examples of this was Jongno Town, which saw a stretch of Pimatgol destroyed to make way for it. A poster advertising it had written on it "Pitmagol is reborn!" I'll save that for another day, however.