“I've come to look around the old Seoul Station." This is an old man in a long line, waiting to participate in the Asian Students and Young Artists Art Festival(ASYAAF), which is held at the old Seoul Station. Many people were waiting for the opening ceremony of ASYAAF in spite of the boiling hot weather. What attracted me, however, was not the huge festival but the place itself, the old Seoul Station. The old Seoul Station is not like before, a place for homeless people to rest and nest. It is preparing for rejuvenation.
1) History of Old Seoul Station
"Old Seoul Station is an historical and symbolic place having the joys and sorrows of Korean modern and contemporary history." The old Seoul Station-it was called Gyeongseong station until 1947-is a building one stories below and two above the ground constructed in Renaissance style, in 1925. Its red bricks and clock tower are the most beautiful part of the building. Because the old Seoul Station is about 80 years old, it has various images in history. In 1950 it was a central place in the Korean War, and was the scene of economic growth and industrialization in 1960's to 70's. More recently, it has been mostly used and remembered as a place for everyone who returns to Seoul. Then after the new adjacent terminal was completed in 2004, in time for the new KTX high-speed rail service, old Seoul Station was closed and left alone.
2) Changing into a Culture Complex
Since then, the old Seoul Station, regardless of its still brilliant red bricks, has come to remind many people of the homeless. To revive and restore the cultural property, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism took ownership of the old Seoul Station from KORAIL in 2007. “We will remodel it so that it can be a culture complex loved by Korean people and a show place for the world," said official.
According to the report of Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, there are SWOT(strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) with the old Seoul Station. Each of them are as follows;
S-An important place where people can share public memories and history.
W-An unapproachable place to the public because of the homeless who have nested there.
O-An opportunity to make a model of well preserved and utilized cultural heritage.
T-Giving supports and interests to the old Seoul Station by government could be a financial burden.
Given these facts, the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism is trying to make it a culture complex and give the old Seoul Station back to the public.
3) The Examples Showing "Change"
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has been holding a variety of events like concerts, international conferences of design and so on. Events like the 'Collection of Hong Seung-Wan' in 2007 and 'ASYAAF' in 2008 illustrate the ccnsiderable effort to revive the old Seoul Station.
Collection of Hong Seung-Wan
This was a fashion show held for the first time in the sleepy old Seoul Station. Something of interest to each segment of society was given at the fashion show because it was the first attempt to make the old Seoul Station a culture complex loved by the public. The designer Hong, also, agrees with the aim of the event in that he values Korean modern and contemporary fashion and feelings. Maybe the fashion show was the initial step in transforming the old Seoul Station into a cultural center for the people.
Asian Students and Young Artists Art Festival(ASYAAF)
This was a huge scale, international contemporary art exhibition and art fair. The festival was also special because it gave an opportunity to experience and purchase show-cased artworks at a low price. Many young artists, almost 777, from Japan, India, Taiwan, Singapore and Korea participated and showed off their arts in the two sub theme of festival-"We are cool" and "We are hot".
'When we first meet', the subtitle of the festival, means to me not only a meeting with young Asian artists and their artworks but also a meeting with the old Seoul Station. Through this huge event, people are beginning to recognize old Seoul Station as a place where the past, the present and the future come together. There will also be plays such as 'Story of Joseon's Byway' and 'Don Quixote-his Enthusiasm' on September.
4) How The Old Seoul Station Will Be Changed?
When it comes to the old Seoul Station's 'change', the most important thing is, paradoxically, a 'restoration' of the original form. This is because it was authorized as a Korean historical location. But the condition of the building is better than other cultural assets. Because of this, there are two huge plans for using the old Seoul Station.
Recovery of the Railroad function
Old Seoul Station is still beside the new Seoul Station operating now, and in the rear of there are platforms that could be connected directly to the railroad. Therefore there needs to be a revival, even partly of, the railroad function to prevent its decay. With the help of IT, railroad systems, including checking tickets and so on, are developed through this technology- The station can accomplish its role both as a cultural facilities and as a railroad.
Overcoming To Physical Limits
The structure, around 2000 pyeong, is relatively small considering its historical, social and urban importance. Given the fact that the inner structure of the old Seoul Station cannot be changed because of protection laws, its area for development is even smaller than 2000 pyeong. Cultural facilities and programs must consider this physical limit.
After the ASYAAF, the restoration of the old Seoul Station will be accelerated and complete by 2010. This restoration will follow the example of the Orsay Museum in Paris that was successfully revived as an historical place. "Old Seoul Station will be put to practical use so that people can enjoy both its structure and large scale exhibitions" said Eu In-chon, the minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Donggukians whose university is close to the old Seoul Station will have 'special' culture complex in the neighborhood. Now there's no need to go to another culture complex far away!
Yun Sang-young Post reporter email@example.com
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