When my father suggested our family to go on a short trip outside of Seoul, I agreed without any knowledge of where he wanted to take us. On the way, he explained to me that the Pocheon Art Valley, the place he wanted to go, would probably be very crowded due to its recent popularity among tourists and local residents alike.
Up until the mid-1990’s, Pocheon Art Valley was once an old stone quarry and granite mining site. The granite mined was then used to build major buildings in South Korea, including the Incheon International Airport. In October 2009, the mining site underwent a project to restore the environment. Combining nature and creativity to create the Art Valley, the transformation in Pocheon-si was the result of South Korea's first environmental restoration project.
Today, due to the popular culture centers and art complexes there, more than a million tourists visit this place annually. Special exhibitions, weekend and special performances as well as many other artworks and sculptures contribute to Pocheon Art Valley’s growing fame.
When my family and I first arrived at the foot of the mountains, there were no other visitors due to the severe air pollution that day, contrary to my dad’s warning that it would be crowded. To visit the main buildings, we could either hike to the top of the hills or take the monorail up to the center of the Art Valley. We decided to take the monorail and were able to experience the view of the Art Valley from above. The scenery that greeted me from below showed a huge contrast from the usual scenery around me in Seoul. There were large forests and granite cliffs, each one unique in their shape, size, and coloration.
[View From Art Valley Monorail, Picture by Jin Hee Kwon
My most memorable experience at the Art Valley was Cheonjuho (천주호) Lake, one of the main attractions there. The crystal clear lake, surrounded by enormous granite cliffs, was formed by the gathering of spring and rainwater in a pit made at the time of granite mining.
|[Cheonjuho Lake, Picture by Jin Hee Kwon]
|The signs in front of the lake displaying that Cheonjuho Lake were a filming site for famous Korean dramas proved to be a pleasant surprise for me. Both The Legend of the Blue Sea (푸른 바다의 전설) and Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (달의 연인 – 보보경심 려) were filmed here. As a fan of the latter, I was so excited to recognize the scenery from the drama.
After our visit to the lake, we decided to visit a building nearby called the Astronomical Science Museum. The interactive space site has been popular with families and children ever since its first official opening on August 1, 2014. Inside the building were many exhibits about space and astronomy, including a 4D planetarium that played hourly videos about the stars, constellations, and how to spot them in the sky at night.
|[Astronomical Science Museum, Photo by Jin Hee Kwon]
The museum even offers constellation readings at their astronomical observation room. However, they were unable to provide them the day I visited due to the severe air pollution; instead, I was still happy to be able to experience the planetarium.
While a staff member played videos of constellations and explained how people used to use the stars as navigation devices, I realized that it had been years since I last went stargazing. When I lived in the United States, I was able to view constellations, meteor showers and sometimes even other planets. During my time in Korea, I had not had the chance to look at stars even once.
Through my experience at the Astronomical Science Museum, I was able to realize that not only does bad air quality affect stargazing; it has a large influence on our daily lives. The low air quality due to air pollution and the release of greenhouse gases in massive quantities has and will continue to affect not only us humans but all other organisms and ecosystems all over the world. Although it’s impossible to find a solution to all environmental issues, it is essential that people contribute to restoring our environment as much as possible before our current environmental issues worsen. The environmental restoration project that has resulted in the Pocheon Art Valley is proof that people can change and restore the already damaged environment before it’s too late.
|[Granite Cliffs, Photo by Jin Hee Kwon]
Jin Hee Kwon
Asia Pacific International School
Jin Hee Kwon email@example.com
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