Seoul is home to a number of exciting man-made and natural parks that speak loudly of the country and its people’s traditions, ideals and passions. Some of the best known Seoul parks are Boramae Park, Namsan Park, Yongsan Park, Hangang Citizen’s Park, and 4.19 Memorial Cemetery.
Boramae Park was formerly the Korean Air Force Academy. It was converted into a park in 1986, and within it constructed sports facilities, a small zoo, a huge pond, and walking paths. The 9,000-square meter pond is surrounded by willow trees and benches where visitors usually spend hours and hours of relaxation by simply gazing at the picturesque pond, which shimmers in summer and covered with snow in winter. The park is about 360,000 square meters. “Boramae” is Korean for “hawk”, which pertains to the Air Force.
Another military facility that was converted into a park is Yongsan Park. Once used as a U.S. military base camp, Yongsan Park is a very picturesque natural park with wide grassy fields and lush forests. The park is home to a variety of birds and trees. Seoul bought back this wide piece of land from American ownership in 1992 and transformed it into one of the city’s most spectacular parks.
Closer to the center of the capital is Namsan Park, considered by many as a symbol of Seoul. Wild animals live in this eco-friendly island that is surrounded by the modern urban districts of Seoul. Its mountain is teeming with pine trees that are visible from many points in the big city. Locals living in the surrounding districts enjoy the fresh breeze that come from Namsan Park.
The Hangang Citizen’s Park, on the other hand is less scenic than Namsan and Yongsan but equally relaxing and popular. Located along the Han River, this park offers a wide area for people to enjoy a bicycle ride, hang out, jog, hike, skate, stroll around, and play soccer or basketball. It is also from this park where the Han River cruise services take off. The park is mostly visited by residents of the 13 surrounding districts, namely Gwangnaru, Gangdong, Tukseom, Jamsil, Jamwon, Banpo, Ichon, Yeouido, Yanghwa, Nanji, Mangwon, Seonyudo, and Gangseojigu.
Finally, perhaps the most somber park in Seoul is the 4.19 Memorial Cemetery. Buried in this important cemetery are 224 people who suffered from the April 19 Movement. It was declared as a national cemetery in 1995. “4.19” refers to a movement in 1960, the April 19 Revolution, which fought to overthrow the autocratic rule of Syngman Rhee. The 224 people who died include regular citizens, laborers and students. Today, the cemetery features a museum, statues and a mausoleum.
Other important Seoul parks that deserve a visit are the Seoul Olympic Park (specifically built for the 1988 Seoul Olympics), Tapgol Park (featuring National Treasure #2: the 10-storey Wongaksa Pagoda), Yangjae Citizen’s Forest (with more than a hundred thousand trees), and Yeouido Park, which regularly receives 30,000 visitors during the week and 60,000 more on weekends for its forest, trees, flowers, ponds, trails and other tourist facilities.