When listing all of Korea’s most beautiful landmarks, an abandoned amusement park may be the furthest thing from your mind. Yet it may just be one of the most memorable palaces I’ve ever been to in Seoul.
In an older part of Korea, near a traditional family burial ground at the base of Seoul’s eastern mountains, lies an abandoned wonderland. 용마랜드 (Yongma Land) opened its gates in 1983, but was closed in early 2011 due to poor sales. Now partially torn down, it has been taken over by its surrounding environment. It’s amazing what nature can do in just a few short years.
Though long abandoned, it certainly has not been forgotten. In fact, this place has been the shooting location for Korean movies, dramas and even music videos (Crayon Pop’s – 빠빠빠). It is often used as a backdrop for enthusiastic cosplayers and fashion models. Additionally, it serves as a muse to many captivated photographers (myself included).
Despite the glaring “No Trespassing” sign on the entrance gates, there is a phone number provided to request admission. Property owner Youn Seong Gu maintains a small office on the park grounds to allow curious visitors in for a mere ₩5,000 per person! After that, he gives you free range of the park and just asks that you be respectful and careful with the property. He also shows you where you can find a working restroom (no need to do your business in nature).
There is just something so hauntingly beautiful about this place. Though worn down by the elements, you can still see the small flecks of vibrancy in the faded murals, whimsey in the chipped faces of the characters and grandeur in the carousel. There are traces everywhere of the youthful enchantment that once was. In a lot of ways it’s a bit sad, like some kind of metaphor for growing up and leaving your childhood behind.
Setting my poetic license aside (lol), 용마랜드 is a definite must see for all you photographers and travel junkies. It’s just something you don’t see everyday and it will certainly make an impression on you. While the park is not very big, it’s really easy to end up spending an entire day there especially once you get your creative juices flowing. So the next time your feeling adventurous, head on over to 용마랜드! Until next time…