I visited Deungchon the day after Seoul’s first snowfall, and despite the cold temperatures the day was brilliant. Even as my breath fogged up my glasses for fleeting half-seconds, the sun was glinting off the ice and snow, melting what was on roofs and causing water to drip off eaves onto the sidewalk below. This all made the roads and sidewalks rather treacherous though, causing even the moped delivery guys to slow down.
My first steps were out Exit 2, U-turning onto the back streets and bringing me directly to the Seoul High-Tech Venture Center (서울신기술창업센터). I hoped to see some smoke or flashes of light coming through the windows, perhaps an explosion or two, but I walked away disappointed. Aside from a couple cars pulling into the parking lot there was an utter lack of visible action at the lab. The rest of the area on this side of the station was a pleasant but exceedingly typical neighborhood for this part of town – apartments mixed with restaurants, cafes, boutiques, hagwons – a good place to raise kids, if that’s your thing.
I crossed Gonghang-dae-ro (공항대로) to its south side, where the sidewalk was hemmed in by thin trees that would provide a nice canopy in summer. Near Exit 4, down Mokdong-jungang-buk-ro-7-gil (목동중앙북로7길), the first right if you’re coming from the station, was a lively (for this neighborhood) area where people trudged through the slush past tteokbokki shops, lingerie boutiques, cafes, makeup stores, bars, noraebangs, and mandu stands. Down the first alley on the left was a strip of small restaurants, packed tightly together as if huddling for warmth.
The finger spraining Mokdong-jungang-buk-ro-7-gil soon led to Mokdong-jungang-buk-ro (목동중앙북로), and I turned right there into Mok-3-dong Market (목3동시장), a rather small neighborhood market of stores with stands set up on the street-side out front. Huge ribs and other cuts of meat sat out in the open air, refrigerated by the cold, which also cut the most pungent notes of the fish on display at the fishmongers. A man with a hunter’s cap and a deafening voice hawked cherry tomatoes, hoddeok and odeng steam rose into the air, and one guy, 40ish, stood transfixed directly in front of an animatronic doumi as she pivoted back and forth, bowed jerkily, and announced sales without ever moving her lips. (The market is also easily reachable by using Exit 6 and walking down Deungchon-ro (등촌로) to Mokdong-jungang-buk-ro, where you can turn left.)
Back on the neighborhood’s north side, near Exit 1 I passed a car parked on the sidewalk that had a little stuffed G.O.P. elephant dangling from its rearview mirror. An expat? A local with an interest in right-wing American politics? Or someone who just though a little red, white, and blue elephant was cuter than a pair of fuzzy dice?
And now, a Seoul Sub→urban public service announcement. Are you concerned about your child’s internet habits? Does he spend more than six hours a day online? Does he insist that you call him by his Starcraft handle? Does he speak only in programming code? When deprived of the internet for more than ten minutes does he attempt to jump out of the nearest window? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, your child may need to be put in the loving care of the staff at the Korean Internet Addiction Center (한국정보화진흥원인터넷중독대응센터).
Straight down Gonghang-dae-ro from Exit 1, the center occupies a five-story building painted in stripes of various shades of blue, with a few spots of bare concrete showing where the paint has chipped away. Unsurprisingly, the modest grounds were rather quiet, broken only by the laughter of five kids – four girls and one boy – coming out of the building, together with an adult chaperone.
I spent several minutes walking through the surrounding neighborhood to see if a hunch I had would turn out to be right. As best I could tell, it did. I didn’t spot a single PC bang. I did, however, notice that the wall along the center’s side entrance was topped with barbed wire. Apparently the pull of the streets proves just too strong for some.
Seoul High-Tech Venture Center (서울신기술창업센터)
U-turn, straight on Gonghang-dae-ro-61-gil (공항대로61길)
Mok-3-dong Market (목3동시장)
Right on Mokdong-jungang-buk-ro-7-gil (목동중앙북로7길), Right on Mokdong-jungang-buk-ro (목동중앙북로)
Straight on Deungchon-ro (등촌로), Left on Mokdong-jungang-buk-ro (목동중앙북로)
Korean Internet Addiction Center (한국정보화진흥원인터넷중독대응센터)
Straight on Gonghang-dae-ro (공항대로)