For the past three weeks, The Korea Blog has explored local neighborhoods with those that know it best – individuals that live there. They are able to share stories not in any guidebook. Previous stories have all been told through the eyes of expats living in Korea. Expats account for less than 2% of Korea’s population; however, as Your Neck of the Woods concludes, we take a look inside Guro, just south of Seoul with Jin Seokjin, a Korean language instructor.
Guro is a district of Seoul, South Korea, and is located in the southwestern part of the city. Guro serves as an important transportation hub to the rest of Korea since the Gyeongbu and Gyeongin railway lines connecting Seoul to Busan and Incheon intersect there. Furthermore, subway lines 1, 2, and 7, as well as major highways pass through the district. The name Guro originates from the legend that nine (gu) old men (ro) enjoyed longevity in the district (Wikipedia).
Because Guro is a major transportation hub, I had been through it several times. Seokjin, who had only lived there for two years was eager to show me his “neck of the woods,” began doing so by taking me under the Line 1’s subway tracks. For those that have never been to Korea, these are probably one of the most interesting areas in Korea – one that will never appear in guidebooks. With a number of waterways leading to the Han River, many cities have created running and biking paths along their routes. Guro is no different.
In a matter of seconds, we had descended to the banks of the babbling brook to find a double lane running path and a wide bike path. Seokjin noted how different the area was from the street level above, and he’s right. Here, men and women of all ages enjoyed working out along the stream, without worry of the traffic above. In addition, the soothing sounds of water rippling over rocks and falling between concrete slabs made this a welcome retreat. Seokjin said that he liked to in-line skate along this path, and on occasion hop on his bike and ride all the way to his workplace in Seoul.
Recreation areas under street level weren’t the only areas to relax. Guro also had a number of street parks. These urban play areas are large tracks of land literally in the middle of the street. They include exercise machines, running courses, and badminton courts. If exercise isn’t relaxing, then Guro also has a wonderful Art Center that’s home to a number of great performances.
Probably Seokjin’s favorite part of his “neck of the woods” was the Guro Market. This expansive network of restaurants and food stalls had just about everything one could want – and just a short walk from Namguro Staion (Line 7, Exit 5). If you wanted fresh fruit – it was there. If you desired fresh seafood – it was there. Need pork or beef for dinner? It was… you get the picture. Seokjin took us to his favorite twigim (Korean fried vegetables) restaurant. He chose this restaurant because all the food was served up freshly prepared. The restaurant also had some great tteokbokki and odeng.
Guro really isn’t on anyone’s major tourism stop when in Korea, but that doesn’t mean it is without charm. On my day with Seokjin, I saw much more of Korea in a single afternoon than a guidebook could have shown me in a lifetime.