Saturday, January 24, 2009

Walk Into the Past at YeongSang Theme Park

Hapcheon's YeongSang Theme Park, nestled in an obscure, remote valley in Southern Korea attracts older and middle aged people from all over. Around 5-6 years ago, nothing stood here at all. Korean film-makers came and built a whole town in a big empty field to film the hit Korean Television series: Yongsang.Set in Seoul in the 1970's, YeongSang was a celebrated TV drama series featuring a popular young cast of Korean A-list actors. To film Seoul in the 1970's though, they recreated a large period set for outdoor and street scenes. They reproduced Seoul during that time down to the last detail. So naturally, the buildings, streets, signs, architecture, homes, and vendor carts are all "old fashioned." One can see Japanese written everywhere: remnants of Korea's colonial past. At times I could see minor errors in the Japanese, although most of it was astonishingly accurate. A book store on the street was filled with books dating to that period while the imposing steel train bridge was inspired by photos of infrastructure long since replaced. The style of the larger office buildings was distinctly different, as were the antiquated electrical lines and traffic lights. Streets marked to depict actual street names in downtown Seoul lead to an ancient set of timber sided railcars standing at a far end of the lot.The sprawling set proved so large and so accurate in detail that it would have been a wasteful shame to disassemble it when the series ended. Film-makers returned to the location several times since, and eventually converted the place into a nostalgia theme park. Middle aged and older Koreans often stop by to remember things the way things were before their memories were paved over, replaced by the towering apartment blocks and contemporary steel and glass characteristic of Korea today.
The place had another level of meaning as well for my Korean colleagues, who have all seen the series on television for many years. But while I'm unfamiliar with the series and its apparently significant cultural impact, I still had a lot of fun running around and marveling at all the hard work and thoughtfulness that went into the detail of the scenes. Here's me with one of my English Teacher co-workers, who goes by the English name of Ivy.

No comments: