Posted on 20 July 2011.
Having made the trek allllll the way across Seoul to go to Bangi Station, I wasn’t about to make the two-hour round-trip commute without getting my money’s worth, so a visit to next door Ogeum Station was in order. And like Bangi, the most salient feature of the Ogeum neighborhood is the amount of greenery there is.
Several small parks dot the vicinity, but the one that stands out is the very large Ogeum Park (오금공원) immediately outside of Exit 2. Some wooden steps just outside the entrance lead up to a dirt path that winds through the park. This isn’t a park in the sense of a place where you can go picnic on the grass, find barbecue facilities, and play catch; it’s more of an urban woods, really. There are occasional small clearings for benches, but the bulk of the park is pretty heavily forested. I even came across a middle-aged woman who’d left her umbrella behind to climb off the path and scrounge through the undergrowth for some type of leaf or something.
After a few minutes I came to a clearing where jok-gu (족구) (the game that looks like foot volleyball) courts, a pavilion, and some exercise equipment had been set up, and behind those, the façade covered in a green tarp and almost blending into the woods, some badminton courts. Past that was one of those tortuous foot massaging walking paths, this one going around some strange conical piles of rocks about a meter and a half high.
Just south of there I spotted a rather untidy burial mound flanked by two stone pillars and two stone guardians, in front of which were two smaller and untidier mounds, again with two pillars and guardians in addition to a weatherworn stone plaque with some Chinese script on it. A sign in front identified the site as the Family Burial Grounds of the Munhwa Ryu Clan (문화류씨 묘역), Seoul Tangible Cultural Property No. 79. The clan, hailing from Hwanghae province in what is now North Korea, was an important aristocratic house during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties.
Among those buried here is Ryu Hui-rim, who had a particularly colorful history. According to the sign posted in front of the graves, as a young man he was a student of Confucianism and wrote an appeal to the king on behalf of a thousand fellow students that two schools of Buddhism – Seonjong, the Contemplative School, and Gyojong, the Textual School – be abolished. (No information on whether this was successful or not.) He would later go on to hold a number of government posts, and in 1581 was sent to China as an envoy to the Ming Dynasty, but in a 16th Century epic fail he was dismissed because the gifts he brought the court were deemed insufficient. He made up for that in 1592, however, by serving King Seonjo (선조) during the Japanese invasion, and after his death in 1604 he was posthumously made a Meritorious Retainer and given the title Munyanggeun, which is nice work if you can get it, I guess.
If you want to check out the burial grounds the easiest way to get there would be to go out Exit 2, u-turn, and then turn left on Ogeum-ro (오금로), walking until you reach the park’s main entrance. Go in and take the path between the restrooms and basketball courts, and follow it around to your left.
The area east of the main entrance isn’t quite as thickly wooded as it is to the west, and you’ll find tennis courts and a wide walking circuit there, but the trees are still plentiful enough to create a very shady canopy and this, along with the park’s size – it covers several blocks and stretches all the way to Gaerong Station (개롱역) – makes it a good oasis from the summer heat.
The other main feature of the neighborhood can be found across Ogeum-ro by going out Exit 3 and turning right on Ogeum-ro-38-ga-gil (오금로38가길). This will bring you to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency 2nd Task Force (서울지방경찰청 제2기동대), where rows of police buses sat parked in the office lot, and, just beyond it, the Seong-dong Jail (성동구치소).
The prison complex, which takes up an entire block, is ringed by a wall the color of cigarette stains and topped with barbed wire. Walking southeast there was no way to see in, but I could hear a tennis ball being hit back and forth and could see the tall green netting of a driving range at one end, so it couldn’t have been all bad, at least for the guards. Finally, at the east corner there was an open drive and I got a peek inside at what was a decidedly low-security part of the facility since it consisted of a garden and some rusty playground equipment.
Of course, right next to the jail you’ll find not one, but two elementary schools, though if you’re looking for the jail itself on one of the various stations’ Digital View kiosks you’ll have a much harder time: the Daum street map replaces the jail with an anonymous group of trees.
Ogeum Park (오금공원) and Family Burial Grounds of the Munhwa Ryu Clan (문화류씨 묘역)
Seong-dong Jail (성동구치소)
Southeast on Ogeum-ro (오금로), Right on Ogeum-ro-38-ga-gil (오금로38가길)