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Exploring Seoul DON’T MISS THE BOAT

The article courtesy of Seoul magazine

Seoulites, it seems, are drawn by an irresistible force to the Hangang River. The vast waterway bisects the city like a line dividing yin from yang. On weekends, especially, Seoul's riverside parks are where tents are pitched and kites are flown while a gentle breeze brings welcome relief from the summer heat.
Complementing this summertime spectacle should be pleasure boats plying the river under motor or sail. And yet, Seoul is conspicuously without much of a leisure boat industry. In fact, unlike in the 19th century, when German, American and Chinese steam boats regularly delivered people and goods along the Hangang, today's river seems like a wide open sea-way.

To revive Seoul's identity as a proper port, Seoul City, in a 20-year lease agreement with the Seung Hwa Group, pooled over $20 million to construct Seoul Marina. Last April, the facilities on Yeouido's western tip were opened to the public. The marina's focal point is a four-story boathouse clad in rows of blue glass and a sweeping, D-shaped roofline. Inside are a yachting school, three restaurants and a second floor space available for conventions and weddings. Outside, a small harbor with 45 berths can accommodate boats up to 13 meters in length.

Ha renaissance de Hangang

Seoul Marina is among the latest in a series of ambitious projects spread over 25 years to restore and revitalize Seoul's greatest icon—its river. Christened the "Hangang Renaissance Project," the grand plan is to make the river a destination by increasing accessibility and enhancing features. To date, this has been achieved through new bus routes, mid-span cafés atop bridges and dedicated bicycle lanes, among almost countless projects. Several years into the plan, Seoul Marina seems like the logical next step—now that people are at the river, let's get them onto it.

Earning your sea legs

To that end, Seoul Marina provides the rare thrill of a river sailing cruise. For just 15,000 won per person, or 120,000 won for a skipper and up to eight of your friends, you can see Seoul from an entirely different perspective, day or night. To commandeer your own craft, however, the marina offers a three-level school. Graduates of the 15-hour intermediate level program can have their way with a one-person dinghy for a paltry 4,000 won. But to be entrusted with one of the sailboats, a 32-hour advanced course is required to prove your sea legs. Tuition ranges from 50,000 to 720,000 won.

A budding industry

A recent issue of Marina World magazine trumpeted the potential of South Korea's leisure boat industry. Then again, with only an estimated 500 sailboats in the entire country, there's seemingly nowhere to go but up. In fact, Korea has gone from just one operational marina in 2007 to 11 at the end of 2011, and has dozens more in the works. Ultimately, it's fitting for a peninsular nation with a riverside capital to boast a robust maritime culture.

A recent issue of Marina World magazine trumpeted the potential of South Korea's leisure boat industry. Then again, with only an estimated 500 sailboats in the entire country, there's seemingly nowhere to go but up. In fact, Korea has gone from just one operational marina in 2007 to 11 at the end of 2011, and has dozens more in the works. Ultimately, it's fitting for a peninsular nation with a riverside capital to boast a robust maritime culture.

Photograph by Kim Sungjin
Photograph by Robert Koehler


One of Seoul Marina's best aspects is its proximity to several great parks. Walk or ride a few hundred meters east and you'll arrive at Yeouido Hangang Riverside Park's main attractions, a floating amphitheater and a huge wading pool. Or, head due west to reach Seonyudo Island (see p11), an inspiring oasis carved from the carcass of an industrial plant. Can't decide? Then simply follow the trails as they wrap around Yeouido's rump. The part of the island that rests against the mainland is the Saetgang Ecological Park. The 150-meter-wide greenbelt is one of Seoul's wilder areas.

T. (02) 3780-8400 | http://en.seoul-marina.com
A dinghy can be rented between 10am and 4pm for 4,000 won per person.
Sailboats with a skipper can be rented for 120,000 won for up to eight people, or for 15,000 won per person at 11am (weekends only), 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 6:30pm and 8pm A bicycle ferry linking Seoul Marina with the Mangwon Hangang Riverside Park operates between 11am and 5:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. It departs from the Yeouido side on the hour, and from Mangwon on the half-hour.
A one-way fare is 1,000 won and you must have a bicycle.

National Assembly Station, Line 9, Exit 4. Café Breeze is located on the Marina's first floor.

The article courtesy of Seoul magazine

Date 07/18/2012



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