|Insadong is now car-free seven days a week, from
10 a.m. to 10 p.m.|
Pedestrians can now have safer access to the streets of
downtown districts Insadong and Samcheong-dong. The car-free zone of the area is
expanding not only in size, but also hours. As of November 26, the Jongno-gu
District Office has pushed vehicular traffic a little more out of these cultural
areas to foster a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
Insadong-gil (Road), the main thoroughfare of Insadong, was
previously a car-free zone on weekends, but now it is off-limits to vehicles
seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The car-free zone of the street is 230
meters long, with an additional 200-meter section that will be blocked off on
Just north of Insadong, a 450-meter section of Gamgodang-gil
(Road) is also becoming car-free on weekends, offering safe passage to
pedestrians from Anguk-dong Intersection up to Art Sonje Center and Jeongdok
Both streets are easily accessible from Anguk Station on Seoul
Metro Line 3, with the entrances to both streets facing each other across
Anguk-dong Intersection, cut off from each other by the busy Yulgok-ro Street. A
new pedestrian crossing will be added here to facilitate movement between the
two car-free zones.
The expansion of the car-free zone is intended to create a
Culture and Tourism Belt through downtown, connecting Samcheong-dong and Bukchon
Hanok Village with Insadong and Cheonggyecheon.
Insadong is one of Korea’s most popular spots for sightseeing,
shopping, and experiencing Korean traditional culture, with around 100 galleries
and art houses. Over 40% of the nation’s antique stores can be found in
Insadong, as well as 90% of the calligraphy stores. It is also home to Seoul’s
oldest bookstore, Tongmungwan, and its oldest tea house.
The Open Culture Hanmadang Festival took advantage of
Insadong’s car-free status, offering parades, music, dances, and plays on
weekends. The area is also convenient to historic locations such as Jogyesa
Temple, the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, and Tapgol Park,
where the March 1st Movement against Japanese imperialism began in 1919.
|The ban on motor vehicles allows cultural
activities to be staged in the street by the Open Culture Hanmadang
In order to facilitate foot traffic through the area, several
street vendors from the busiest section have been moved to designated locations
outside the full-time car-free zone. Plans were originally made to relocate all
76 stalls, but a compromise was reached to allow all but 16 to remain in place.
The food stalls were illegally operated, but proved popular with foreign
“I like [street vendors] because they make the food right in
front of you and it’s fun, and they are certainly cheap,” Australian tourist Ben
Whittaker told the Korea Herald.
Yoshiro Satoh, who visited Insadong while on a business trip
from Japan, told the Korea Times he enjoyed the combination of small shops and
stalls. “Street vendors, selling accessories and snacks, are very interesting,”
he said. “I think they are a good feature of
|Insadong street vendors are considered part of the
atmosphere of the area by foreign
While Insadong currently receives the bulk of visitors, the
extension of the car-free zone should help to bring visitors north to
Samcheong-dong. It is known for its small art galleries, cafes, shops,
restaurants, and guest houses. To get there, pedestrians must follow
Gamgodang-gil, a beautiful street lined with trees and the stone walls of three
At the northern end of the car-free section of the road,
pedestrians can find the Art Sonje Center, a private art museum that supports
experimental and contemporary art. Currently the center is exhibiting City
Within the City, a multidisciplinary project featuring 17 international artists
from countries such as Mexico, Lebanon, Australia, working with Korean artists.
The exhibit which runs until January 15, 2012 offers reflections on Seoul’s
urban structure and how it is negotiated by the individual.
|Overlooking Gamgodong-gil at
The neighborhood is also home to many other
museums and historic locations. On the grounds of Jeongdok Public Library, which
is right past the end of the car-free zone, visitors can find the 600-year-old
Jongchinbu, one of the three remaining government buildings of the Joseon
Dynasty. Past that is the Bukchon Hanok Village, which has several well
preserved traditional Korean houses, known as Hanok.
Kim Youngjong, the head of Jongno-gu District Office,
said the whole area between Insadong and Samcheong-dong is focused on the
concept that it is people-centered, which means it is designed for people to
walk around. He also said he hopes that tourists who come to Insadong can be
more comfortable walking around and experience Korean traditional
By Jon Dunbar