Seoul: Yeouido Park// Striving for a new form of modernity in urban planning

When President Park Chung-hee placed the order of having a large, ceremonial strip in the middle of the gridded Yeouido, it made the island a direct descendent of New York City. This large public space strips across the island like Central Park in New York City and the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Rectangular in form but consists of a series of natural pedestrian trails within the perimeter with small points of interest located at major nodes of trails. President Park’s paved ceremonial square, the Yeouido Plaza (formally named May 16 Square after the military coup Park led in 1961),  is located on the southern third of the park, daring not to be in the middle to make all elements in this green park naturally and harmoniously placed.

Yeouido Park Map

When compared to New York’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, there is no doubt of the direct relationships.

Central Park – Frederick Law Olmsted 1851
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park – John McLaren, Calvert Vaux, William Hammond Hall 1871

The two American city parks are larger in scale and surrounded by a series of gridded streets, only San Francisco’s natural borders such as Ocean Beach, the hilly Forest Knolls and the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood made the rectangular effort slightly deformed. The interwoven network of pedestrian trails that do not follow the city’s grid is an attempt of creating a naturally found park, those living near the park must be financially able to afford such luxury. Buildings and infrastructure such as museums, stadia, stoned-arch bridges, monumental statues, entrances, and plazas, are placed inside the parks by the city’s commissioners only for citizens to find them in their natural location.

The late 19th century model of urban parks in America established their own identity and pride in advancement, at the time it was the enlightenment that encouraged the height of national pride in making cities from scratch while detaching away from their European predecessors. New York City and San Francisco became the country’s best and largest cities.

When Yeouido reserved the strip for an urban park under Park’s order, it had to use the same ideology as the American urban park, especially when the island followed the Manhattan grid. The reasons why a developing country in Asia would learn urban planning strategies from the American cities include, first, the desperate development and competition to become Asia’s prominent financial city center, especially in need to break off any association and ties with China, North Korea, and its former colonizer Japan. Secondly, the existing influence of the American presence during the Korean War had led to persuasion that the world’s greatest cities in lifestyle, economics, education, and culture; are found only in America.

Sources:

  1. David Rumsey Historical Map CollectionDavid Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Hugh Mooney Co., n.d. https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~265404~5524792:Golden-Gate-Park,-San-Francisco,-Ca.
  2. Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Map of the lands included in the Central Park, from a topographical survey, June 17th, 1856; [Also:] Plan for the improvement of the Central Park, adopted by the Commissioners, June 3rd, 1856.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed December 15, 2019. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/6850fc74-5e61-8806-e040-e00a18067a2c
  3. “Parks in Seoul |Yeouido Park.” 서울시 영문. Seoul Metropolitan Government. Accessed December 29, 2019. http://english.seoul.go.kr/life-information/natural-attractions-parks/parks/?pidx=44.

2 Comments on “Seoul: Yeouido Park// Striving for a new form of modernity in urban planning

  1. Under the government of President Park Chung-Hee, Korea experienced the fastest economic development. It was achieved by the effort of all the citizens. Also, the new construction of wide highways and skill of shipbuilding helped. The pace of the growth of Korea was remarkable and it was too fast. During the accelerating development, Korea accepted Modernism from the western of the world. It is reflected in the architecture and in urban planning, and the park of the Yeouido is an example. Many Koreans say that during this period, the growth of Korea was a miracle, yet nowadays, people are claiming on automobile focused urban planning of Seoul.

  2. Was this “direct descendant” claim made by you or was it a historical truth made by the politicians and government? If it was the latter, it would be most compelling if you can find a quote from the protagonists who made this connection.

    Regardless of whether it was a historical connection made at the time of its conception, you can still pursue a formal analysis of the two or three cases. But draw historical links whenever possible.

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