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[Opinion] Seoul Station Art Museum

Posted October. 25, 2006 07:06,   


With a number of hopes/ and a number of desperations/we depart/ People go on their own ways/ leaving long the sorrowful shadows/ shadows like the whistle of the train that rings day by day/ and under the sky of Seoul that silently descends/ it snows again today/ the snow piles up/ and penetrates into the dreams of those/ who are unable to leave yet/ and the waiting room of Seoul Station is awake all night/ waiting for people who will never return - from a poem by Lee Jeong-ha, “At Seoul Station.”

For Koreans, Seoul Station is a symbol of wandering and separation at times, and the symbol of encounters and a new start at others.

How Seoul Station shocked the capital of the colonialized kingdom when it was completed in 1925! Seoul Station, designed by German architect Georg De Lalande and professor of Architecture at Tokyo University Tsukamoto Yasushi after the central stations of Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Helsinki, Finland, soon became the key spot of Gyeongseong (the old name for Seoul) with its Byzantine style dome and the brick-built, Renaissance appearance. The property rights of the station were returned to the Cultural Properties Administration when the station gave way to a new high-tech station with the opening of the high-speed railway in 2004, and some are raising opinions to transform the station into an art museum.

An exemplary case of transforming a station into an art museum is Orsay Museum in Paris. The Palais de Justice (the Supreme Court) stood there initially, but a railroad station took its place in 1900 after it was burnt in the incident of the Paris Commune in 1871. But when the number of visitors fell due to environmental changes in Paris and the appearance of new transportations, President Pompidou decided to turn it into an art museum. Orsay Museum, which opened in 1986, still keeps the huge clock of the times when it was a station and the natural lighting, and is assessed to be very fit for the exhibition of the works of impressionism, the art of lights.

The National Museum of Contemporary Arts in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province is not easy to be reached. The Seoul Station building has a very high historical value, being the historical treasure No. 284. These are the supporting points for the plan to build Seoul Station Art Museum. The opinion that there needs to be a new cultural icon that will give the northern Seoul an economic boost is also gaining support. There still remain the procedures for a social agreement, but it is exciting only to imagine rejoicing over the art pieces filling in the modern space in the middle of Seoul.

Jeong Seong-hee, Editorial Writer, shchung@donga.com