Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Park Culture in Korea

One of things I miss about my home country South Africa is the great outdoors. When I first moved to Korea I soon felt a little claustrophobic and missed the feeling of grass underfoot and open spaces. Thankfully Korea has a number of great parks scattered around its cities that allow city dwellers to get out and take a break from the bustling city.

It’s the beginning of March now and the weather is slowly starting to heat up. Parks are slowly coming alive with many people keen to get out and stretch their legs. The elderly are doing laps and swinging their arms frantically, children are throwing baseballs and kicking around a ball, and families are taking advantage by venturing out for the day. It is one of my favourite aspects of Korea and visiting a park is always high on list of recreational activities.

Almost all the parks in Korea come with basic exercise equipment. This was a little strange at first to see but nearly everyone jumps on and gives them a go. Kids see them as more a juggle gym, but they are most frequently utilised by the older generation. Grandmothers and grandfathers can be seen working their legs and arms rigorously with extreme focus on their faces. I love this about Korea, the elderly are very active and all seem to go to great lengths to ensure they remain as supple as they can. They march around parks and often go hiking in mountains, I think western societies could do well to take a leaf out of this book and encourage an exercise culture within the older generation.

Parks also provide a space to engage in a number of popular sports and games. Some of the bigger parks in Seoul have basketball and badminton courts, athletic tracks, climbing walls, and therapeutic footpaths. All of which are utilised and respected as a shared recreational space.
Boramae Park in Seoul was one of the first I went to. It is definitely not the biggest in Seoul but it was stunning in the autumn. It has an athletic track, and in the middle there were about thirty kites flying around, it was just such a wonderful sight. The park officials were trying to get everybody off the precious grass, but the eager masses were to win that battle and soon there was nothing the officials could do to prevent the swarm of kites. Parks in Korea come rules regarding their use, but I do feel that it is a shame that not all parks official allow people to enjoy the grass areas. I’ve been chased off a number of them, but in the summer there is nothing better!

Parks in Korea sometimes have artwork on display. Olympic Park, for example, is an amazing place to visit for just such a thing. There are statues and structures almost everywhere of abstract art pieces, and you just can’t help but snap a picture or two. Seoul Forrest Park also has a number of interesting statues and sculptures to view, so be sure to take your camera along with you!

The park culture in Korea is one of those things that keep me here. Be it winter, spring, summer or autumn, there is always a reason to step back from bustling city streets and take a stroll through one of its many beautiful parks.

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