Sunday, August 21, 2011

The New Old Seoul Station

Yesterday, I visited the renovated Old Seoul Station. It is quite easy to get there. It is just outside Seoul Station exit 2 and a couple of minutes from exit 1. It is better to wait for friends near exit 1 because of the several cafes and convenient stores nearby.
I didn't expect much after hearing and reading several mediocre reviews. A Japanese architect, Tsukamoto Yasushi, designed the building. It is similar to Luzern Station in Switzerland with many traces of renaissance architecture. It was completed in 1925 and has survived Japanese occupation and a civil war.
It helps to know a cursory history of the building so that visitors aren't just looking at neatly arranged pieces of old metal and wood.
The ticket area is located to the back left. Tickets are free until the end of September at which point they will be 2,000 won. Art exhibits currently occupy most of the rooms. It was fun to walk around and imagine my mother and the people of her generation walking around the halls, waiting for their trains and enjoying very non-Asian architecture.
The walk through is over almost as quickly as it begins. The art isn't very exciting and the novelty soon wears off. "Share the moment, share the future" to the rescue. This is the photography exhibit on the right side of the main entrance. The photographs are amazing and tell tragic stories of reality in less fortunate parts of the world. Two photographs were especially gripping. One was of a woman wiping away tears. She was just sexually assaulted by six men while her infant child watched. The other was of a young Brazilian child hallucinating on drugs. He was covering his mouth and staring absently into the lens. They were both very hypnotizing and made the trip worth it. I also bought a book but these photographs weren't included so I was a little disappointed.
A lot of homeless people loiter around exit 1 and the old station. I read that they are being 'evicted' from the area. This makes sense because the old station just reopened as a cultural tourist attraction.
Visit while it is still free and definitely check out the photography exhibit as an appetizer to a day of bigger and more exciting things.
Here are a few websites with more information and history about the building.