Hello, good-bye Incheon

A recent hike through the Incheon station area, located, not unsurprisingly at the end of the Incheon line. The station had the usual refinements, being an above ground station, it was a simple matter of walking out the doors. Putting on sunscreen (and later a hat) inside of the station seems normal enough. Only it attracted an unwanted stare from some older-middle aged Korean man. I stared back, he kept starring back, I turned, only to check later if he was still starring. Essh. What a cycle. Welcome to Incheon, home of the xenophobic throwback Korean men.

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The odd contrast to this initiation was the Chinatown that had been build. It was plush. Cobble-stoned streets and preserved buildings from Koreans’ colonial era. Ben and I made a bee-line for Jayu park. This is significant for the fact that it holds a statue of Douglas MacArthur, and other adornments celebrating the Korean war and (surprisingly) Americans. Found in the park were two rather esoteric sculptures. One of them under certain conditions could look like giant turd. Personally I found the graffiti that was on it a more interesting composition than the inscription found across the square from the sculpture. Built to commemorate Korean-American cooperation during the war. Well, something like that. Further inside the park there was a life sized bronze statue of MacArthur himself. Mounted on a pillar no less. Beside it was something more interesting, a wall frieze of MacArthur and his staff making for the beach. Presumably during the historically notable Incheon landings, you could actually see MacArthur’s bronze hand showing signs of wear, that it had been touched, and ‘shaken’. For an expression of appreciation or just a chance to even come close to a man of such reputation I can only speculate.

Onwards and downwards to the Chinatown. Exiting the park, we both noted elderly people that seemed to congregate in the park. I noted the same thing too in China. My walking companion observed that the old people there are more appreciative foreigners since, they would have seen and experienced the Korean war, unlike their younger, fellow citizens born after the war. Maybe the ajossi at the train station could do with a change in attitude.

The Chinatown had cobble-stoned streets and was well taken care of. Perhaps falling under the influence of Jayu park above it. Very much a show piece of Incheon, it was part tourist trap (there were tourist shops on every street, and on almost every corner), and historical site with the actual Chinatown having many buildings from the period of colonization from the Japanese. Ben and I went into a former bank to have a look, but also with the ulterior motive was to get out of the sun and cool off. The museum/ 1st bank of Japan was wonderfully air-conditioned. It has massively thick walls, arranged in what seemed to amount to a maze of rooms. I had my photo taken infront of a stage set, of the street, as it was back when the bank was constructed. The one and only helper at the front desk was mature, pretty and very helpful. Exiting, Ben and I gave the donation box some notes.

Back to wandering through the streets, a school kid started to speak to us in English. I blew him off, but Ben being more patient, answered his questions while I hurried around the corner of a building and onto the main road.

Leaving behind the Incheon station and into more conventional streets, I took a photograph of a ‘shop’ that sold just anchor chains. Looking at the amount of heavy metal he had, I’d say he’d cornered the market comprehensively. I didn’t see a shop that sold only anchors, but would have been very pleased if I did!

After all that, walking toward Bupyeong station was all a bit of an anti-climax. To cap off the walk, we went through Dong-Incheon underground shopping center. Corridor on corridor of mindless crap that I personally could never think of buying. I’d always thought that underground shopping centers and even the underground subway lines in Seoul also serve a dual purpose of acting like bomb shelters a’la the London blitz of world war two. Would they, could they, withstand a direct hit? Would the North Koreans use gas in their warheads? What’s more would the gas be heavy, and go down, into the subways? Would there be enough kim-chi to out-last the siege? Ben and I walked out and onward to our final destinations.

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4 Responses

  1. Ah, Incheon. Best damn yeogwan I ever stayed in Korea, as good as these boutique hotels they go on about.
    Do they still have the riot police at Jaya Park protecting the Macarthur statue? BTW the sculpture frieze is of Big Mac wading ashore in the Phillipines 1944.

  2. The last time I was there they had some sort of film crew shooting something at the foot of MacArthur’s statue (see slideshow). No riot police in attendance. On the whole, the anti-American sentiment has died down.

    The frieze is of MacArthur’s return to the Philippines is a tribute to MacArthur’s efforts?

  3. Most famous photo of Macarthur is the ‘wading ashore’ one. Photo at Incheon just shows him observing from the command ship USS McKinley surrounded by his army and navy unit commanders. Don’t even think he went ashore, but back to Japan. Though, he was in Seoul to handover the government back to Syngman Rhee a couple of weeks later.

  4. I spent the whole day thinking about what you’ve written here. It seems that your blog now resides in my head. Good job lol.

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