Seoul National University of Education Station – 16 clumsy syllables that in Korean are so elegantly expressed in just three: kyo-dae-yeok. It’s a marvelous tongue it is.
The area around Seoul National Uni…ah, the hell with that. The area around Kyo-dae? Eh, not so marvelous. Not bad, mind you, just very much what you’d expect in a Seocho-gu neighborhood: main drags – in this case Seocho-ro (서초로) and Umyeon-ro (우면로) – lined with super-tall office and apartment buildings, banks, cafes, suit shops, restaurants, and serviced residences. From Exit 1, I walked east down Seocho-ro up till the Gyeongbu Expressway (경부고속국도) finding exactly those things before cutting back through the side streets where there were smaller apartment buildings, car repair shops, the usual collection of restaurants and cafes, and several hagwons, including one advertising bi-lingual early child care, complete with a picture of a crawling baby in case, you know, you feel the need to shell out hundreds of thousands of won to ensure that your child can say ‘walk’ before he can actually do it.
Next I headed south from Exit 13, which soon brought me to Seoul National University of Education’s (교대) front gate and campus. And the end of the main drive, beyond the campus buildings, is an athletic field where an amateur baseball team was practicing on a soccer pitch. I watched a new pitcher come in and send his first warm-up pitch about two meters over the catcher’s head. Scouting report: Lacks control. Needs a proper mound.
The campus itself is nice, functional, though no one would call it pretty. In fairness, however, that’s not an adjective that you pin to many college campuses here.
The main feature of the neighborhood, and one that gets announced on the subway after the station name, is the Supreme Court of Korea (수울법원종합청사) and Public Prosecutor’s Office (검찰청). The court complex, which is huge, taking up several blocks, houses the Seoul Central District Court (서울중앙지방법원), Seoul Family Court (서울가정법원), and the Seoul High Court (서울고등법원), and can be reached via either Exit 10 or 11. From Exit 10, walk down Seocho-ro to Beobwon-ro (법원로) before taking a right, and from Exit 11, walk straight down Umyeon-ro for about a block before seeing the entrance to the complex on your left.
The building that houses all of these is a hulking monster of a thing: two central towers with cylindrical sections on their insides are connected by a skyway at the top, and below five-story wings extend from either side, these with evenly spaced half-cylinder insets that look more mechanical than architectural, like pistons that might spring to life and send the whole building in to terrible, juddering motion.
The entire thing looks like a building that the Empire in Star Wars might construct, a sensation made stronger by its dull light gray façade and purple-tinted windows. It’s an ugly, intimidating thing, and just in case the message hasn’t been completely impressed upon you, the huge mugunghwa (무궁화) reading ‘법원’ (courthouse) in empire-sized font on the façade should drive the point home.
Seoul National University of Education’s (교대)
South on Umyeon-ro (우면로)
Supreme Court of Korea (수울법원종합청사) and Public Prosecutor’s Office (검찰청)
North on Umyeon-ro (우면로)