My obsession with the river began with getting lost.
I wanted to go to Seonyudo, what seemed to be a small island on the river. But after almost an hour-long journey, I realized that I must have passed it and ended up at Seongsan Bridge, one of 27 bridges that cross the Han River. I decided that walking back the way I came is a waste of time, so I crossed the bridge instead.
Thoughts of regret crowded my head the moment I acted on my decision. It was too warm, too sunny, too windy, and too noisy for my likings. Cars and buses whizzed past me and I grew increasingly self-conscious. I was the only pedestrian on the bridge.
But the river was worth the discomfort. It felt too vast for the city. The dark blue waters absorbed all the sunlight had the offer and returned nothing. A long and wide stretch of green space flanked it on both sides, keeping the skyscrapers at bay. Faintly in the distance are mountains that the locals frequently climb with pride. Seoul is a beautiful city, and the Han River is one of its best.
Two-thirds into my journey to the other side, I spot an SOS phone box. “생명의 전화” was noted on the box – a life line.
The sobering reality is that the Han River is the home to many people who have lost their lives in it after jumping off a bridge. The Mapo Bridge, also known as the “suicide bridge” of Seoul, saw over 100 suicide attempts from 2007-2012. Samsung have renovated the bridge and renamed it the “Bridge of Life” in hopes that people can find comfort and solace at times of despair and hopelessness.
Getting off Seongsan Bridge, I was met with the HanGang Park. There’s a park like this by almost every bridge in Seoul and it’s a popular location for locals to spend time with family and friends. Couples also like to stroll or bike along the river in the evening, and many will bring food to eat along the river. I felt a bit lonely as I was by myself (all three times I was at the river, mind you), but the break away from the smothering busyness of Seoul was comforting like hot chocolate on a Canadian February morning.