Bomun Town

Tuesday | April 10th, 2012


Bomun Town is a detachment from reality. It’s at once a playground for all ages, a tourist sinkhole, and chaebol driven microeconomy. I’ve been trying to think of an American equivalent, but come up dry. A fragment of reality like Las Vegas has the same effect though, where everything is money driven and inflated in cost, the architecture is pure facade and the activities inside the architecture have nothing to do with the exterior.

What other place can children zip around on mini-ATVs with parents and the elderly watching from their picnic blankets in the shade. Given Bomun Town sits adjacent to Bomun Lake which is also a few minutes walk from “Gyeongju World” the only things missing from Bomun Town are the lights, the prostitutes, and the dens of gambling. It wouldn’t surprise me if one of the big name hotels had a casino as the only things missing from Bomun Town from a Korean man’s standpoint are prostitutes and gambling. Family fun indeed.

It was nice in the sense that I’d stepped into a zone that lacked all seriousness. Absent were the day-to-day scowls that many Koreans wear when about their business. Perhaps this was genuine enjoyment or perhaps it was from seeing cherry blossoms and believing that to be the pinnacle of beauty. I tried to find other points to shoot.

Architecturally, I found Bomun Town to be interesting, even in its falsehood. There was the usual attention to detail that I’ve come to expect from Korean historical refabrications, which, when blended with the modern necessities of the Korean high-life make for odd sites that are often too difficult for Western photographers to ignore. You might think of a comparable Western scene like this:

You go into a “pioneer” town and find a coffee machine on the porch of the saloon. You visit an historical cabin in New York where George Washington once boarded his horse and shagged a maiden upstairs. Next to the bed is a box of kleenex® covered in stickers for squid rice and coffee delivery.

Each modern amenity makes me crave the before-before it was deemed authentic experience even more, for those places capture my true interest and are to me, a real display of beauty. Another example is where my FIL is leaning against a metal behemoth of unknown purpose. It is likely a monitor to help people see the stage or a loudspeaker so a show can be better heard, but really, it may as well be a paintball cannon mount. There is no way to tell because unlike all the other structures in Bomun Town which mimic a lost form or replace it with an updated original this one has no such anchor and is completely out of place.

Don’t get me wrong, I would like to visit Bomun Town again because there are things there that I wish to photograph more as much as there is also an inherent beauty in the place itself. Most of what I took pictures of garnered the usual assortment of looks, mainly because I was not pointing my camera where some Koreans have planned and worked so hard to get people to point their cameras when they visit.

It should be noted that I am not immune to tourist shots; it’s just not what wows me when I get home and look at my roll for the day.

One might even suggest that my love of photographing trees is on a trajectory of collusion with my dislike of cherry blossoms. That would be a true statement. I snap them as I go, just not religiously because that is the mark of beauty that everyone expects me to take pictures of.

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