Saturday, October 08, 2005

Seoul proudly exposes its urethra

I had my first good look at the fruits of the Ch'eonggye-ch'eon project this evening. The underground stream now stands revealed, having been resculpted and turned into something it never was. The sidewalks on either side of the stream are ridiculously narrow; the sight of the jam-packed walkways flanking the stream gave me a chuckle. My mother spoke with some gentleman who told her that the whole construction project had been politicized; in one useless gesture, the stream-builders apparently tried to introduce fish into the stream-- but the fish promptly died. Not hard to predict, given how unnatural the "restored" stream is.

The stream itself looks pretty, but also tackily reminiscent of what you might find in an amusement park. It's got lights. I am, however, a fan of moving water; its dynamism and simplicity are a visual relief for people downtown who normally see nothing but slow-moving lines of honking cars and trucks. In that sense, the stream does and will serve a good psychological purpose. Viewed more as a huge art project and less as a sincere attempt at restoring a lost bit of nature, Ch'eonggye-ch'eon makes a certain degree of sense. But have no illusions: this isn't a stream for calm, placid strolls. The sidewalks should have been (and by the looks of things, could have been) twice to three times wider.

And unfortunately, the stream has already had its baptism in blood. I suppose some ancient dragon was awakened by all the digging, and it demanded the sacrifice of a 51-year-old virgin. Not to make light of a death, but... well, OK, I'm making light of a death.


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