The Korea Times

Settings

ⓕ font-size

  • -2
  • -1
  • 0
  • +1
  • +2

Han River sunset cruise: Seoul's new tourist focal point

  • Facebook share button
  • Twitter share button
  • Kakao share button
  • Mail share button
  • Link share button
People watch the sunset on Seonyu Bridge on Han River in 2009. Korea Times file
People watch the sunset on Seonyu Bridge on Han River in 2009. Korea Times file

Ferris wheel, floating stage, car-less bridge to complete sightseeing project

By Ko Dong-hwan

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who has been serving again as mayor since the April 2021 by-election, has been pushing ahead with what he feels the nation's capital needs.

During his first overseas trip since taking office, to Singapore late last month, Oh visited the Gardens by the Bay, a 101-hectare urban outdoor recreation space. There, struck by the beauty of the sunset in the city-state's southern coastal district, Oh said, "The tourism industry, which can revitalize Seoul's economy, now also needs investment so that it can move toward the future," and, "We are going to implement the 'Great Sunset Han River Project' to enable people to enjoy the Han River in Seoul."

Oh believes that the best place in Seoul to maximize that experience is along the Han River, which divides the city between north and south, and where he pursued his Han River Renaissance Project when he was mayor before in 2007.

"The project is called Great Sunset Han River Project," announced Oh in Singapore where he joined the World Cities Summit from July 31 to Aug. 1 with mayors from 90 cities across the world. Aside from sharing with foreign leaders his latest policies based on welfare, carbon neutrality, foreign investment and AI-driven technologies, Oh's other aim while in the city-state was to learn what he could about the country.

At the project's core will be a sunset cruise traveling along the river with planned stopping points: from Sangam area in Seoul's western district of Mapo to Yeouido, Yongsan, Nodeul Island and Banpo in the central region to Jamsil in the eastern district of Songpa. The cruise ship will move from one point to another in a zigzag fashion along the Han River.

Moonlight Nodeul, a metal sculpture on Nodeul Island on Han River, January 2021 / Courtesy of the Seoul Metropolitan Government
Moonlight Nodeul, a metal sculpture on Nodeul Island on Han River, January 2021 / Courtesy of the Seoul Metropolitan Government

Oh's master plan to develop the various stopping points consists of three parts, which will take at least four years or possibly up to 10 years to complete. One of them is developing Nodeul Island into an exclusive checkpoint where visitors can watch the sunset from "360 degrees." To do that, a new observatory structure will be constructed on the island as an architectural and aesthetic centerpiece. The mayor referred to the proposed structure as the city's new "sunset landmark."

The idea is derived from Spanish structures such as the undulating, multi-colored tile roof structure over the neoclassical Santa Caterina Market building in Barcelona and the waffle-shaped, wooden Metropol Parasol structure over a 19th-century market in a plaza in Seville, as well as the Supertree Observatory, a giant tree-like structure with an observatory space and rooftop deck at Gardens by the Bay, which offers 360-degree views of the surroundings.

The new structure will roll out and be in conjunction with the city's ongoing master plan to develop the island into a "global art island." Oh is betting on the project by considering to host an international competition for those who suggest the most creative design for the island, which is right below the Han River Bridge and only a few kilometers south of the country's presidential office in Yongsan District.

Oh also hopes to erect a large Ferris wheel, which he is thinking about calling the "Seoul Eye" ― similar to the London Eye, the world's tallest Ferris wheel, along the River Thames in London ― nearby the river to offer the world's highest view of the city's sunset.

"It will be bigger than the Singapore Flyer," said Oh ambitiously, referring to the popular Ferris wheel in the city-state's Downtown Core District which can carry up to 780 passengers in 28 air-conditioned capsules and stands at 165 meters tall, the world's second-tallest Ferris wheel.

Possible sites for where this giant Ferris wheel could be constructed include the riverside in Sangam and the site of the now-closed Sampyo concrete plants in Seongsu area in the city's central district of Seongdong, which is also by the riverside. The final location will have the best accessibility and most convenient connection to public transportation, according to the mayor.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, center, visits Gardens by the Bay in Singapore on Aug. 1. The Marina Bay Sands integrated resort is seen behind Oh. Courtesy of the Seoul Metropolitan Government
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, center, visits Gardens by the Bay in Singapore on Aug. 1. The Marina Bay Sands integrated resort is seen behind Oh. Courtesy of the Seoul Metropolitan Government

The other big project to complete Oh's entire master plan would be a floating large-scale stage for performing arts on the river. It was the mayor's idea to "use the city sunset as a backdrop and the flowing river as a prop" for audiences to watch the stage.

Again, Oh's model for this floating stages comes from Singapore, which has The Float at Marina Bay, a multi-purpose outdoor venue in the Downtown Core District that can seat up to 27,000 audience members along the shore. The Bregenz Festival's floating stage in Austria, well-known for staging opera performances in front of creatively designed stage sets, was another example the mayor mentioned.

"It will stage various performances, from K-pop concerts to musicals, operas and sports events, for as many as 30,000 audience members," said Oh. "Because it will draw a massive number of visitors, its location will have to be somewhere with the most convenient access, such as the riverside parks of Banpo or Yeouido."

Oh's Great Sunset Han River Project master plan also includes incentives for business operators willing to provide tourists with a good observation spot for viewing the sunset above the river. For those who will build private structures that include such a space or a route connecting to riverside areas, the city government will offer extra floor area ratio. It is the mayor's bid to secure as many sunset sightseeing spots in the city as possible.

Recalling a goal of the mayor's earlier Han River Renaissance plan, on Aug. 28, the Seoul city government will begin closing vehicle access to Jamsu Bridge below Banpo Bridge every Sunday to offer the space as a promenade for strollers. The trial project, continuing until Aug. 30 will monitor how Seoulites feel about the weekly opportunity to wander on the bridge, which, though recently submerged by the torrential rains, Oh says is a good observation spot to watch the sun going down.

"Seoul's true attraction comes alive when the sun starts going down," Oh said, determined to woo 30 million tourists from across the globe to the city with the Great Sunset project. "The sunset also caters to my administration's core value, which is accompanying vulnerable members of the public. The city's universal, natural resource cannot be owned by certain individuals from the top but can be shared by all."


Ko Dong-hwan aoshima11@koreatimes.co.kr


Interactive News

  • E-Prix thrills racing fans in Seoul
  • With tough love,
  • 'Santa dogs' help rebuild burnt forests in Andong
  • 'Santa dogs' help rebuild burnt forests in Andong
  • A tale of natural wine
X
CLOSE

Top 10 Stories

go top LETTER