Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Seoul city center in Namsan ? Heresy !!!

Seoul City plans to erect a monument at its precise geographical center, located by GPS two years ago at the feet of the Namsan Tower (N Tower) :



Why not indeed ? Provided the monument doesn't destroy too much wilderness in an area already plagued by the said tower... and provided it only celebrates the geographical center and nothing more. It doesn't take a GPS (nor even to fold a map) to know Yongsan lies at the center of modern Seoul.

Let me be clear : locating THE REAL CENTER of Seoul anywhere outside of the Sadaemun (Four Gates) area would be a monstruous heresy.

Picking Gwanghwamun itself would make infinitely more sense, and respect the origins of the capital city : the gate to the royal palace somehow symbolizes the starting point for Hanyang, which would later become Seoul.

The only rival I could accept would be City Hall : it's also a political center, but furthermore a symbol of democracy... and still within the Sadaemun limits, an absolute must for such a powerful symbol.

Last nail in the coffin of this new Namsan candidate : there's already one ugly monument to mark Seoul city center : Dorowonpyo (도로원표) signals the starting point to measure distances to other major Korean cities, very much like Notre Dame's "parvis" in Paris*.

Dorowonpyo lies on the tiny triangle of concrete next to Koreana Hotel, on Taepyeongno (see
Seoul Village map). Between Gwanghwamun and City Hall (respectively 800 m and 400 m away), just opposite Cheonggyecheon, the river that cut Hanyang, the old Seoul**, and almost at what is undisputedly Seoul's most central crossroads : Sejongno Sageori.

But Dorowonpyo is also questionable : the location was chosen 94 years ago by Japanese colons ! Retrospectively, we're lucky they didn't select the exact location of Gwanghwamun itself : the occupants destroyed the gate to build their own headquarters, so beyond the historical starting point of Seoul, Dorowonpyo would also celebrate the Japanese Government-General Building !

So I guess I can tolerate a small plaque to signal the GPS center of XXIst century Seoul in Yongsan.

Seoul Village 2010

* sans le ugly monument, of course : a simple plaque does it. BTW : I was born in Paris and I understand the historical value of the symbol, but a religious reference like Notre Dame de Paris doesn't seem fit for a secular republic.

** I often joke about Gangnam not belonging to Seoul : and use, "Gangnam", South of the (Han) river, for "Gangcheon", South of the (Cheonggye) stream ! Apgujeong ? A Bundang suburb, I tellya ! Of course, I don't mean it totally : there are so many parts of Seoul I like South of Hangang.

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UPDATE 201005

This article on Seoul Metropolitan Government's website : "
Namsan, geographic center of Seoul". I'm particularly scared by the expression "part of the city's beautification project for the mountain". Administrations have a knack for "beautificating" Seoul mountains.

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