If I were a Seoul politician on the campaign trail, I’d spend as much time as possible being photographed in Junggok, glad-handing the locals, saying folksy things, and showing how much I liked spending time with people just like you. That’s because Junggok is just about the most emphatically average neighborhood you’ll find in this entire city. The buildings, businesses, demographics, income levels, all of it so average that it’s hard for me to find much to say about the area that I haven’t said about dozens of other areas already.
Junggok has a main drag running above the station, in this case Neungdong-ro (능동로), where the bulk of businesses and chain stores are to be found; a couple of secondary roads on either side, here Myeonmok-ro (면목로) and Junggok-gil (중곡길), where you’ll find more shops and restaurants, most of these local, independent places; and, between and around these roads, neighborhoods of villa and red brick apartment buildings. There’s a hospital just outside the station, a couple schools dotted around, a Buddhist temple, and a neighborhood market. Everyone looks to be comfortably middle-class and the majority of the neighborhood’s residents are families. If that’s not a recipe for a campaign ad I don’t know what is. As a bonus, you can throw in some shots of nearby Yongma Mountain (용마산) for ambiance.
Just below the mountain, in what counts as one of the neighborhood’s sole diversions, is Yongam Temple (용암사). I got there by taking a right out of Exit 1, walking up Neungdong-ro, hanging a sharp right on Junggok-gil, and then a left on Yongmasan-ro-28-gil (용마산로28길), though once on that street I noticed that it ran directly to Neungdong-ro. It was a steep but not long walk up to the temple, past some kids running around and people leaving their homes to do errands.
The entryway at the front of the temple doubled as a bell tower – below, the doors I passed through were painted with a pair of fierce door guardians, typical of Buddhist temples, one wielding a sword, the other brandishing a long pike, and on the platform above, a large iron bell hung from the intricately carved and painted roof.
The temple’s outer walls were covered with pictures illustrating scenes from the Buddha’s life, and in the courtyard were several new-looking statues. Behind the temple two large white banners had been unfurled across the rock face abutting the grounds. One horizontal and one vertical, they each bore a single stylized Chinese character painted in wide black brushstrokes.
Just to the left of the temple you’ll also find a small terraced park where there’s some exercise equipment and some paths that lead, I believe, to the Achasan Ridge (아차산능선).
Junggok Market (중곡제일시장) is a short walk from Exit 2, just down Neungdong-ro-47-gil (능동로47길). It’s almost identical in form and style to Myeonmok Market (면목시장) in nearby Yongmasan. Here too all of the usual neighborhood market stuffs were on offer, right down to the big bowls of red bean (팥죽) and pumpkin porridge (호박죽). The only real difference between the two is that this covered market, instead of being one long aisle, is shaped like a ㅑ. People were moving up and down the aisles, making last minute dinner purchases. Mothers pushed kids in strollers, and some shoppers had brought their dogs along to give them a walk, including one, I swear, that had been fitted with a glass eye.
Yongam Temple (용암사)
Right out of exit, right on Yongmasan-ro-28-gil (용마산로28길)
Junggok Market (중곡제일시장)
Right on Neungdong-ro-47-gil (능동로47길)