Friday, August 31, 2012

Totally the Coolest Find in Seoul: Alice in Wonderland English Park

September 26, 2012 Edit

I went back to the location of Alice Land just 3 days ago to find it turned to rubble.  Unfortunately, the demolition was complete with only a lonesome sunflower statue left to smile over the sad scene.  I'm sorry, but this abandoned theme park is no more.

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Over near Yangjae stream, in the Culture and Arts Park (문화예술공원), lies Alice Park, an Alice in Wonderland themed English park.  Korean children would come and chat and play games, all in English, with foreign English speakers and other helpers.  The pictures I've seen look like an interesting weekend venture, and I bet it was fun to work there, too (no report cards, for one thing), but the place looks like this now.


Dilapidated, abandoned, overgrown, and begging for trespassers.  There aren't even any signs telling people to keep out!

(The next few paragraphs contain location details and links to other pictures, so if you want to get down to the nitty gritty, just scroll ahead.  I won't be offended.)

I first read about it in a Seoul magazine, then I looked it up and found some helpful blogs.  Seoul Suburban told about other attractions nearby (the brewery was not much of a brewery and is not worth your time, by the way). Chopsticks, Rice, Us shows pictures from a year earlier when the park was not yet destroyed (it's cool to see the difference between their pictures and mine).  Expat Advisory has an article from 2005 when the park was actually in use.  And, if you're looking for a few more pictures of what the park used to like, there's a few more (and a nice map of the park) at My Korean Buddy.

Here it is on the map.  Ish.  You want to go to where the green arrow is (pay no attention to the "A" marker).  This place isn't in Yangjae Citizens Park, it's to the west of it, but it's in that huge green area to the west of the two streets/bridges there.  I call them street/bridges because they look like streets only if you're on the street.  If you've walking a level lower like I was, they look like bridges.  Of course.  I walked along the stream and under the bridges then entered the Culture and Arts park right at the second bridge through a gated entrance.  I followed the first path I found around the edge of the park heading back East, and we eventually saw what looked to be strange rabbit ears.  They led us right to the park.


My friend Blake and I explored the grounds a couple weeks ago in July 2012.  A few park-goers were nearby Alice Park, but they never took any notice of us except to tell us that we could get water from a certain water fountain.  So, without much decorum (and only a little anxiety from myself), we slipped inside behind the doors and broken down card soldiers to an eerie and amazing place of the absurd.

The entrance.  Really, the perimeter wasn't secure at all.  There were large gaps between the things that I think were supposed to keep people out.  Maybe the locals respected the shoddy effort at restriction, but I considered it a dare to come inside.

Our only observers

Like any good 20-somethings, we whipped out our cameras. 

All over the park were these interesting chairs.  They looked like fairy monster thrones to me.   Blake was much better at looking ominous in them.

Fairy Monster Throne of Doom

The craft room

We took turns leading through the mazes and jungles.  As a side note: save a few strays, the only mosquito bites I've gotten all summer came from our Alice Park escapade.  Those dirty bugs.

It's not usual that you see Blake's face of pure amazement, but this one was very real.  For inside the building was...

We were not expecting this.

The ceiling.

Just wow.

And, for those of you who might think this place was all play and no work even in its heyday, here's a snapshot of what really went down in this room.  I think children had to pick up these balls and make sentences with the words they found.


I'd be a little morose, too.

I suggested that this is why the park is abandoned.

Staff party

Overgrown

Some areas required more caution than others.

A building shaped like a cat
He seemed a little too pleased to see us.

A building shaped like a shoe
This one was locked.

This is where the party happens.  Obviously.  Not sure if the soju bottles were left by folks who might should be putting the park back in order or by people like us who found an awesome place for a tea party.

More fairy monster thrones
Reminded me of some counsel that would meet in Mirkwood or something...

The caterpillar and his pipe

What kind of English were they teaching here, anyway?

This was in the room I assume was the director's office.  It was sitting on a bench across from a desk with a printer.  And I know it's not exciting, but let this be a testament of all the cool things that we found undisturbed and that Blake and I honorably left undisturbed.  'Cause, man, would that print look awesome in my living room.
Blake found toys.

I found a reflective surface.

And then there were many.

There was a beautiful clock collection.  This picture shows only a few.
Among these clocks, there were loads of other things left from the park's working days as well as personal affects of workers.  Work boots, a scarf and hat, papers, craft supplies, printers, office chairs, broken keyboards, a mess of keys, business cards, all untouched.  I'll say again that I'm pretty impressed by the other trespassers who went before us for leaving the place in such fine condition.  

Mirrors and clocks

Good bye See you
Alice Park
Johnny Depp's looking stranger than usual.

And, as always, CCTV!
If you're ever looking for an adventure in Seoul during your week-long summer vacation, you've found your mission.  I hope this place will still be here in a few years.  Just imagine what it will look like then!

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This is what Alice Park looked like when I saw it after the demolition crews got to it.  The only salvageable thing I found was a retro clock face (the one you can see above with the blue frame, actually).  Now I really wish I hadn't been so respectful about leaving everything where I found it, because if all those clocks were destroyed, it would be a shame.



9 comments:

  1. What! That looks like the coolest place ever! Except at night, when it would probably be the creepiest place ever. Kind of like carnivals.

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  2. Fascinating! I've been waiting to see these artsy fartsy pictures since I heard about your adventure.

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  3. Wow, that's a cool adventure! I just wonder why it was abandoned, and everything just left as is, instead of being packed away or sold.

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  4. now all i wanna know is what the hell is in the locked shoe building!

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  5. These are awesome. Great stuff. =)

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  6. One. That is freaking awesome!
    Two. It's hard to tell from the mirror pictures, but it looks like your dress matches the Alice theme of red and black.
    Three. This would make such a great intro to a movie - the whole abandoned theme park thing. I mean, it probably already has, but still...it could be a creepy murder movie or a fantasy one - like Alice in Wonderland (duh).

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  7. @Felicia : I so wish I knew, but it remains a frustrating mystery. The rumor goes that people were trying to build it back up again, but obviously that didn't get very far.

    @Hype : Man, I REALLY wanted to know what was inside the shoe building!!

    @Scout : It was technically navy, brown, and dark orange, but the coloring worked out great. I actually pinned this dress on my "Asia for Fashion!" board.

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  8. Ah gool 'ol Alice Park. I worked here up until the day it died in 2011. Basically the Yangjae river flooded the place and caused a lot of structural damage. The owner took out a large loan to rebuild it. It would have been a safe bet, but the company that loaned him the money, also insisted on taking over the booking to ensure that the park would have a steady flow of student/customers. The park had always been busy, but the guy's company dropped the ball on the booking. They went from doing ~80,000 students a year, to less than 20,000. It was sad. Then, to make things worse, it flooded again over Chuseok. I walked down to the park (I lived near that costco at the time) and found it under 3ft of water. I knew that was the end of the line. Two days later, the owner quit. I handed my two weeks notice because they hadn't been paying me. (Or anyone else.) It closed around 11/2011. I had sex with my girlfriend in that big cat room once. That was pretty cool. Sometimes we'd climb up on that top hat and drink soju.

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    1. Wow, thank you so much for shedding light on the mystery and for sharing your story! The park looked super cool once it was disheveled, but I would have liked to have seen it when it was in working order, too.

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