Jangji Station (장지역) Line 8 – Station #819

Jangji3web

I have to break Jangji up into two not-quite-symmetrical parts, as the east and west sides of the station bear almost no relation to each other.

East

Jangji1web

There isn’t a whole lot of interest around here, most of the area around Exits 1 and 2 being taken up by a forest of apartment towers called Songpa Pinetown.  The rest is a nice enough but quite sleepy and unremarkable neighborhood of homes and small businesses.  The one thing of interest is the tiny Tahn Stream (탄천), its narrow waters and bike and walking paths a short walk down Songpa-daero (송파대로) from Exit 2, just past the sign pointing to the Special Warfare Command (특수전사령부).  And, uh, that’s it.  OK, over to the other side…

West

Jangji2web

The neighborhood map at Noksapyeong Station has a giant blank space where the U.S. Army Yongsan garrison is located.  There’s nothing, not even a label, indicating what’s there, just concentric lines that mark distance from the station arcing through the empty swath of pale green.

It’s the same thing at Jangji Station, with one small blemish: a dot labeled 가든파이브 just outside of Exit 3.  But here, in complete disproportion to that small dot, the entirety of the blank space is taken up by the gargantuan Garden 5 complex.  I had never heard of this place, and a quick pre-trip Google search of ‘Jangji’ turned up only a cursory mention or two, something along the lines of ‘Garden 5 is a shopping complex located next to Jangji Station.’  What is immediately clear after stepping out of the subway is that Garden 5 is an enormously ambitious undertaking.  Less clear, however, is whether it’s going to pay off.  Allow me to elaborate…

Jangji10web

First, however, a word about what Garden 5 is.  It’s a relatively new development covering over half a million square meters (the mall boasts 823,000 square meters of floor space, nearly twice as much as the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota) in the far southeastern corner of Seoul, near the Bundang and Seoul Ring Expressways, consisting of multiple shopping centers, a logistics center, and what is vaguely termed a ‘revitalization center.’  It’s reminiscent of the Super WalMart and Super Best Buy-populated business parks dotting exurban America, only there are less parking lots and everything is part of the same complex.  It’s far beyond the scope of any other commercial development in Korea.

Jangji9web

It’s also still very much a work in progress.  The northern portion of the complex still has construction walls up, running along the sidewalk.  These show computerized pictures of the finished product, complete with huge fountains, luxury shops, rooftop gardens, an ecopark, a helipad, and an 11-story central atrium bathed in light pouring down between the surrounding towers.  More importantly, they also show hundreds of shoppers wandering throughout the complex.

Jangji4web

The reality of the project, at least the present reality, is less clear.  On a recent Saturday the fountains were turned off, filled only with a couple inches of stagnant rainwater, and behind a huge sculpture of two shiny metal hands playing cat’s cradle with some red string, in the central atrium, a mere couple dozen people milled about or stood in line waiting to receive gift bags handed out by a pitchwoman whose amplified voice caromed hollow and echo-y off the towers.  This was the LIFE section of the complex, its main shopping area.

Jangji5web

I walked into the nearest tower, Fashion (the others being Young, Living, and Techno), and took the escalator up, floor by floor.  The first few held some shoppers, though not enough to really be described as ‘busy’ by Korean standards.  The further up I went, the less shoppers there were, and by the time I reached the eight and ninth floors there were none at all, only bored-looking salespeople staring into space or absentmindedly refolding clothes.  It felt like what a shopping mall would look like if it was managed by Samuel Beckett.  The tenth floor of the tower wasn’t even finished, its duct work exposed and floor empty.

Jangji7web

I eventually arrived at one of the rooftop gardens that give the complex its name, and despite it too being unfinished, it was open and usable, though I was the only person taking advantage of that fact in that particular garden.  A half-dozen people could be seen on the roofs of the towers on the other side of the atrium, but in the Well-Being Garden, as the one atop the Fashion tower is called, I was all alone.  Despite my increasing skepticism of the entire project, I had to admit that the rooftop gardens offered a nice getaway, affording an unimpeded view of the surrounding mountains and a moment of peace broken only by the tinny exhortations of the spokeswoman bouncing up from below.

Jangji8web

Going down through the adjacent Young tower the scene was the same: bored salespeople killing time talking to each other on the upper floors, a smattering of customers on the lower ones.  Both towers were positively swarming, though, when compared to the Tech one across the atrium.  There the first floor’s desertion was tarnished only by a single, nomadic-looking convenience store, its shelves and handful of plastic stools seeming as if they’d merely settled there momentarily, awaiting the chance to move on.  A handful of stalls selling items ranging from cameras to vacuums were on the second floor, but three-quarters of the floor space was empty.  There were no customers, and the employees seemed so accustomed to their boredom that most of them didn’t even glance up from their TVs to register my presence.  It looked as if they were squatting, in some sort of commercialized and better lit early 90’s East Berlin.

Jangji6web

I left the LIFE section and walked down the road leading to the WORKS building where practically nothing was occupying the building and open except a couple of cafes on the first floor.  A random real estate office had its lights on on the second or third floor, and a tacky wedding chapel was conducting a training session for a half-dozen employees.  The TOOL building at the end of the road was the most desolate of all, with absolutely nothing going on.

Although the Garden 5 complex is new-ish, it’s not completely new.  Opened ten months ago, it was constructed by the SH Corporation, the construction arm of Seoul City, at a cost of nearly 1.3 trillion won ($1.09 billion) to the city, according to the Korea Times.  The project was initiated in 2002 by then-mayor Lee Myung-bak, partly to provide replacement retail space to shop owners displaced by the redevelopment of Cheonggye Stream (청계천).  Only 10% took the offer, however, and low occupancy rates have, quite obviously if you visit, hamstrung the project.  Construction was actually completed in December 2008, but low occupancy rates delayed opening three times.  Customers don’t come because there are so many empty shops and new shops are reluctant to move in because there aren’t customers.

As anyone who’s been in Korea for a time knows, it’s never wise to write a project off here, as Koreans have a knack for making things work, for better or worse, through sheer determination alone.  But walking through the complex, you get the feeling that the whole thing could just as likely go belly-up and end as a huge embarrassment for Lee and the city.  The official slogan of the TOOL section perhaps portends things more accurately than it would care to: Not existed in here, not existed anywhere in the world.

 

Tahn Stream (탄천)

Exit 2

South on Songpa-daero (송파대로)

 

Garden 5 (가든파이브)

Exit 3

 

Jangji12web

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “Jangji Station (장지역) Line 8 – Station #819

  1. I’ve passed by Garden 5 on several occasions and always thought, much the same as you, “Wow, that’s amazing, I wonder what’s in there?” Thank you for saving me the pleasure of finding out for myself.

  2. very nice, I think Korea is an overlooked country with a unique culture – thanks for the photoexcursion. Richard.

  3. I’m not sure if you check the Nanoomi comments so I’ll write it here too:>_<

    When I went there last year there were heaps of people. Lines to get into your popular brand stores like LV etc, fountains working, not one seat available in the foot court. I guess this was summer last year. If this is what it is like now, it doesn't sound good. I hope something can be made of it.

    I still feel it's too close to COEX and would have been better situated North of the Han or more towards Suwon. Looking roughly on a map, Times Square, COEX are approximately the same latitude with Garden 5 being only slightly more South.

    • I do check the Nanoomi comments, but am usually a bit slow in doing so, so it never hurts to repost them here.

      You must have gone there shortly after the complex opened. I guess the initial excitement has dropped off, to say the least.

      I have a feeling that this project at best wasn’t sufficiently thought through, and at worst was mostly about a resume fluffer for LMB and friends. It’s in a strange spot: close to a busy highway interchange, but not close enough to be really convenient, and a bit too far out on the periphery of the subway system. You’re right: why go to Garden 5 when COEX is on the 2 line and more convenient for anyone who doesn’t live southeast of Jamsil? I’ve got no predictions about which way this thing will go, but it’ll be interesting to see.

      Charlie

  4. Pingback: Mullae Station (문래역) Line 2 – Station #235 « Seoul Sub→urban

  5. Pingback: Mullae Station (문래역) Line 2 – Station #235 | Nanoomi.net

  6. Well, its a work in progress. I guess. But, as for me, i live at songpa pine town, across it. Its very convenient. If you went there during weekdays probably youll notice that theres no life in it. But if you go inside and see through it from floor to floor youll notice that there are lots of people coming in and out. What i hate about it is that its too ambitious. Theres so many stores, its hard to choose from where to buy. Last June, i forgot when, twas when -mart opened. And i really like to buy my groceries there.

    • *E-mart opened. During night time, it is well lighted by different colors.. During xmas theres skating rink in the middle as you enter kims.club.. just come by people.. ;)))

    • Hi jlee, thanks for your comment. When I visited it was on a weekend, and even then Garden 5 was pretty lifeless. I agree, the whole thing is too big, but I’m glad to hear that business seems to be picking up. It would be a shame for all that to go to waste.

      Thanks for reading!

  7. Pingback: Samseong Station (삼성역) Line 2 – Station #219 « Seoul Sub→urban

  8. My wife’s aunt took us there about 2 weeks ago. We were all under the impression that it was a bustling mall. But, only the first floor of each building is occupied. There are a few scattering of shops on the second floor, but they get less and less frequent as you go up more. The extensive landscaping around the complex is completely overgrown as well. The adjacent E-Mart was very crowded though.

    • Hey Justin, thanks a lot for the comment. I haven’t been out there in quite a while and I’m always interested in hearing how that complex is coming along (or isn’t) so I really appreciate the update. Sounds like it hasn’t changed much.

  9. As of 2015, Garden 5 is very busy although the sparsity in the upper levels is still apparent – those are individual shops that can open whenever they like, as opposed to the bigger name brands with regular hours.
    LIFE now has a CGV theater that is absolutely packed on the weekends, as well as the Kim’s Club grocery shop and brand name clothes shops in the Fashion area. The kids floor also seems to be particularly busy.
    TOOL now has the E-mart as well which is a great addition to the area for easy grocery and supplies shopping.
    Also off the Jangji metro stop is the Hallim Performing Arts High School, a high school owned by SM Entertainment.
    All in all, Jangji remains one of the quieter stops but with all the retail privileges of a busier area.

    • Thanks for the update Georgianna! I was back there a few months ago, and while things had definitely picked up a lot, it still seemed like quite a bit of the space was fairly dead. It’s good that things are busier now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s