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Thousands Flock to Newly Opened Gwanghwamun Plaza

Posted August. 03, 2009 09:03,   


Gwanghwamun Plaza in downtown Seoul was crowded yesterday, resembling the bustling commercial street of Yukjo back in the Joseon Dynasty.

The new plaza opened Saturday and over the weekend, about 280,000 people -- 185,000 Saturday and 95,000 through yesterday afternoon -- visited with their families and friends.

As many poured into the limited space, some stepped onto surrounding roads to walk by the crowd, which led to safety fears. Despite extra deployment of traffic officers at the boundary between the plaza and roads, difficulty ensued in controlling the snowballing crowd.

Heavy crowds also tangled up at one of the exits in Gwanghwamun subway station, which directly leads to the plaza. With the number of lanes reduced from 16 to 10 near the plaza, traffic congestion in downtown Seoul was severe over the weekend, with some cars slowing down to see the plaza.

Nevertheless, visitors to the plaza seemed to enjoy themselves despite the summer heat. Children cooled off around 1223 Fountain near the statue of legendary admiral Yi Sun-shin.

A couple in their 30s took photos of their two sons enjoying themselves at the fountain and said, “It makes us happy just to see our children having a great time here at the plaza.”

The exhibit “Flower Carpet,” which covered 162 square meters and had some 220,000 flowers, proved popular to couples both young and old alike.

Kim In-soo, 72, who brought his wife to mark the plaza’s opening, said, “The exhibit shows the history of Gwanghwamun in words and pictures and left a strong impression on me. I also like the Street of Heritage that features the chronological history of Seoul.”

Some came from other cities to visit the plaza, like Sohn Hee-jeong, 12, who came with her family from North Gyeongsang Province. “The fountain and flowers are nice, but what I like most about the plaza is that I can study history while walking on the Street of Heritage,” she said.

The plaza was also well received by foreigners. One 59-year-old Canadian visitor said, “With an ancient palace in the backdrop, the plaza provides a magnificent spectacle together with its fountain and flowerbed.”

A 48-year-old Turk kept taking pictures of the plaza, saying, “It is impressive to see a large flowerbed right in the middle of the gray-hued city.”

Others, however, gave suggestions on improving the site. Jang Jae-hyeok, 36, who was watching his two sons playing on the Street of Heritage, said, “I’m concerned over children’s safety since there’s a road right next to the waterway and the fountain. I think the city should build a low fence or guardrail at the boundary between the plaza and roads.”

Another complaint was the lack of protection from the sun. So Shin-yeong, 43, said, “I cannot find much shade and places to drink water though many will visit the plaza in the future. I hope they can place benches as well.”

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