OWL Magazine Korea

Yeouido Park in Seoul

Yeouido Park is a municipal park located at 68 Yeouigongwon-ro, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. It spans the heart of Yeouido. Currently, it is a park adorned with trees, but in the past, this area was the site of Yeouido Airfield.

“The Former Site of Yeouido Airfield”

In 1916, during the Japanese occupation, Yeouido Airfield was constructed. During that time, there were no jet planes as we have now, so there was no need for various auxiliary buildings around the airfield. It was a time when a wide asphalt runway and a few necessary buildings were sufficient for takeoffs and landings. Thus, the airfield was utilized with the runway and some buildings.

Initially, it started as a simple airfield. However, as the demand for aviation connecting Manchuria, Korea, and Japan increased, the airfield was expanded in 1929, resulting in the completion of Yeouido Airport. During the Japanese occupation, the airport was used by Keijo Airlines.

After Japan’s defeat and Korea’s independence, the Air Force was established here. On October 1, 1949, according to Presidential Decree No. 234, the Air Force was founded, giving birth to the first Air Force squadron in Korea, consisting of over 1,000 soldiers and around 20 light aircraft.

In 1953, it was granted the status of an international airport. At that time, Yeouido Airport used almost the entire current Yeouido area. However, due to frequent flooding from the Han River, the airport became increasingly unusable. Eventually, in January 1958, civilian airport functions were relocated to Gimpo International Airport, and it continued to be used solely as an Air Force base. However, in February 1971, when the Air Force base functions were relocated to the current Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Yeouido Airport was closed.

“Yeouido Square”

After the relocation of the Air Force base in 1971, then Seoul Mayor Kim Hyun-ok established and executed a development plan for Yeouido. He pulled out a card to use the vacant land created by the relocation of the military base for the construction of a new city and to alleviate housing shortages. However, to build embankments to solve the frequent flooding issues in Yeouido, the nearby Bamseom Island was detonated, and the earth for embankment construction was sourced from Bamseom.

Although residents were living on Bamseom Island at that time, they were forcibly relocated to the Changjeon-dong area near the island.

The person who led the Yeouido development plan at the time was architect Kim Su-geun. Initially, he envisioned a three-dimensional urban plan. However, the financial situation of South Korea in 1971 was so dire that it was far from sufficient to construct only embankments. Consequently, President Park Chung-hee ultimately scrapped the original plan. Although he initially brought a well-designed square reminiscent of New York’s Central Park, it was all pushed aside, and a giant emergency runway plaza was ordered. This became the origin of the vast concrete space known as 5.16 Square.

“Development of Yeouido Park”

The development of Yeouido Park dates back to 1993. At that time, President Kim Young-sam emphasized urban planning focused on environmental friendliness and the removal of remnants of the military regime. The remaining Yeouido Square was pursued in the direction of constructing a downtown park similar to Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London. After the construction for park conversion began on April 10, 1997, it began to be partially opened from October 31, 1998. Then, on February 1999, Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Yeouido Park was fully opened.

“2022: Future Vision of Yeouido Park – Citizen Idea Contest”

Since its opening in 1999, Yeouido Park has maintained its appearance up to the present. In 2022, the city of Seoul held the “Yeouido Park Future Vision – Citizen Idea Contest” to collect ideas.

This contest was planned to gather creative and diverse opinions from citizens to transform Yeouido Park into a world-class cultural park, in line with the 2040 Seoul Plan, where functions of international finance, business, MICE industry, and the establishment of GTX-B, along with rapid changes in urban conditions, are reinforced. A total of 118 ideas were submitted, and among them, 20 were awarded. Among these, Lee Seong-hyun’s “Yeouido Dipping Park” received the grand prize.

Lee Seong-hyun’s proposal aims to transform the Saetgang and Han River into a waterfront park. However, it is not immediately proceeding with construction based on this award-winning proposal. The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to review the concepts of all 118 submitted ideas and incorporate them into the basic plan for activating Yeouido Park.

“The Statue of King Sejong in Yeouido Park”

The statue of King Sejong is generally known to be located in Gwanghwamun Square, but you can also find the statue of King Sejong in Yeouido Park.

The statue of King Sejong in Yeouido was erected by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in 1999 to commemorate the 600th anniversary of King Sejong’s birth. In the vicinity of the statue, you can also find pictures and models depicting King Sejong’s achievements. From a stone inscribed with details about the conquest of Daema Island, one of King Sejong’s accomplishments, to a model of “Honcheonui,” the  celestial observation device, and a model of the water clock, which was the standard clock in the Joseon era. You can explore inventions related to King Sejong’s achievements.

“The Four Concepts of Yeouido Park”

As Yeouido Park is a large park, it is designed with four distinct concepts. Starting from the southernmost area, it is adorned with themes of a forest of natural habitat, a cultural square, a lawn square, and a traditional Korean forest.

At first glance, except for the cultural square area that looks like a plaza, the other areas may seem quite similar. However, there are subtle differences, so it’s a good idea to take note of these while exploring Yeouido Park.

Additionally, there are a total of 10 entrances to Yeouido Park. This indicates the park’s vast size, and if you try to explore every nook and cranny of the park all at once, it will take quite a bit of time. If you’re a busy office worker in Yeouido, it’s also a great place to go for a walk after lunch.

Around Yeouido Park, you can find various landmarks such as KBS, the National Assembly Building, Korea Industrial Bank, Kukmin Ilbo (National Daily), Hangang Park, Mapo Bridge, Seoul Bridge, LG Twin Towers, The Hyundai Seoul, IFC, and Financial Supervisory Service.

Inspired by New York’s iconic Central Park, Seoul’s park is a great place for a walk on a sunny day. It’s also close to the Han River and connected to Hangang Park, making it a nice place for a stroll. It’s also a suitable spot for a date with a loved one.

“Seoul Yeouido Park”