I left Yeokchon Station from Exit 1, and one of the first things I passed was a café called Santa House, which, yes, had a small gift shop below the café selling all sorts of Santa figurines and Christmas knickknacks. Instead of Santa himself or even a reindeer, though, the business’ logo had a black and white dog, a cartoon shepherd, gazing out at customers. Just a few steps further on I walked past a trio of big, fluffy, white dogs sleeping next to a small gate that led to someone’s house. Two of them had wedged their muzzles underneath the six inches of space at the bottom of the gate so that their bodies were on one side of the fence, their dozing heads on the other.
Everywhere I went around Yeokchon it seemed like people were out with their dogs, taking them for a walk or a run in the park, or just using them as an excuse to stretch their own legs in the warm March sun. After continuing down Jinheung-ro (진흥로) for a bit I swung a right on Jinheung-ro-7-gil (진흥로7길) to look for a market that was posted on the station’s neighborhood map. I didn’t find it, but this did lead me to Jinheung-ro-1-gil (진흥로1길), running parallel to the main street, where traffic had been cut down to a single lane, the bare minimum width to accommodate vehicles, and the sidewalk running next to it was just as wide. There were banks of shrubs too, and a new playground, and at intersections the streets were paved with cobblestones. I’ve found myself in Eunpyeong-gu several times now, and I have to admit I’ve grown to be pretty fond of it, small gestures like this being a big reason why. The little paseo was lively with parents pushing strollers, people on bikes, shoppers running to the store, and, of course, locals out walking their dogs.
Back out on Jinheung-ro, the closer I got to its intersection with Eunpyeong-ro (은평로) the newer and more built-up things got. Near the station the buildings were shorter, but here there were tall apartment buildings, live music clubs, a Vietnamese pho place with patio seating, a three-story 24-hour barbecue restaurant, and a big ol’ E-Mart that dominated everything else. It had been quiet by the station, and I was a bit surprised at how active things were down here.
On the other side of the station, the area outside Exit 2 was just what I expected in a neighborhood in these parts, which is to say a typical middle-class Seoul balance of shops and restaurants along the main roads and small and mid-size brick apartment buildings on the small streets and alleys. When I went out Exit 3 I passed a donkatsu restaurant where an ajumma was yelling an order out of a second story window to a man on the sidewalk below. It’s only a few minutes’ walk from the exit to Bulgwang Station – you can make out the covered sidewalk market up ahead on the left – and if you head that way you’re treated with lovely views of the southwestern edge of Bukhan Mountain (북한산) and Suri Peak (수리봉) rising between and behind the buildings, their bare tan stone jutting out in the places too tough for trees or scrub to grow. Accordingly for this part of town, I saw quite a few people walking around in souped-up hiking gear and backpacks.
If that’s more effort than you’re looking for, though, you can simply head to the relatively new Eunpyeong Peace Park (은평평화공원) just outside of Exit 4. Middle-aged women were handing out church flyers near the entrance when I arrived.
The park itself isn’t much – small, with a few benches, trees, and exercise equipment – but it was a remarkably happy place, with parents playing soccer with their kids or teaching them how to ride a bike or just having a picnic. Here too were more dogs and their respective owners. A small central plaza also looked like it turned into a splash fountain in warm weather months, but at the time of my visit it was still too early for that.
The park holds something for history buffs too. At the end of the park’s main path is a bronze statue of U.S. Naval Lieutenant William Hamilton Shaw (June 5, 1922 – September 22, 1950), erected in 2010. As you might presume from that date, Shaw died serving in the Korean War, but it was his life up to that point that makes his story particularly interesting. Shaw was actually born in Korea, Pyongyang to be specific, to Christian missionary parents. After spending his early years on the peninsula he eventually enrolled in the Navy and participated in the invasion of Normandy in World War II as an executive officer of PT Boat PT518. After the war he taught warship operations at the Korean Naval Academy before pursuing a Ph.D. at Harvard. He interrupted his studies when the Korean War broke out, however, returning to his homeland and taking part in the Battle of Inchon. His death came shortly thereafter, in the effort to retake Seoul, when he was killed by a sniper in Nokbeon-ri (녹번리), what is now Nokbeon-dong (녹번동), where the Peace Park is located.
Eunpyeong Peace Park (은평평화공원)