Korea, Streams, Creeks & Rivers, Urban Walking
Comments 15

Feel the Grandeur!

Their roofs, doors, windows and other useful parts were cannibalised long ago. Only their cinder-block-and-concrete shells remain, and perhaps the faded cheer of their pastel overcoats.

Spring seedlings advance to their rubble-littered edges…


Blue Ruin

..here where every available inch of bare earth is a coveted, if ever-shrinking commodity.


Koreans are big believers in plastic mulch

Who knows how long ago these dwellings were inhabited? And why they were abandoned?


A Fixer-Upper

Not far away, the newer and preferred domiciles sprout in clumps in the fertile mountain shadows. Why are these ruins left to stand, when the Koreans, with their talent for bulldozing, could easily shove the whole mess to one side and make more profitable use of the ground?


Something in Yellow

You see them all over the place in this part of Korea, in these places where farmhouses and even villages have been squeezed out of valuable real estate by the advancing tower armies. These are a minute from the banks of the Daecheong. A decade or so ago this would have been farmland.


Something in Blue

Now it’s one of the countless pockets of scrappy wasteland where locals go to toss their trash, till each shell is jammed with putrid mounds of plastic, rubber, styrofoam, glass and metal discards.


If These Walls Could Talk

What astonishes me as I ramble through these urban and semi-urban jungles is how the Koreans tolerate living in constant proximity to filth. I mean, there are inhabited dwellings literally abutting these gaily-painted garbage dumps. In most wealthy countries you’d only find places like this in slums. They’d be no-go areas for most.


Still Functional

Here in — what? — the world’s seventh-richest economy, an environmental ethos is yet to catch up with the rapid “development” transforming a country ruined for much of the last century by wars and dictatorships.


Cinders Among the Cinder Blocks

That’s the charitable interpretation. The less kind one is that Koreans just don’t care about mess and trash and ugly wasteland. I walk many, many miles of Korea every day. This is the land of the shit-pile. Every street has its mounds of curb-side trash, every community garden its rising mountain of filth, its borders of waste and junk.

Maybe the attitude is that sooner or later it will all be bulldozed anyway, so why waste time with beautifying and cleaning up?


Highway Views

There’s no romance and poetry in the gardening here. They just push all the crap to the side and get back to work.


Life at the Edges

So I wander, and wonder, alternating between amusement, fascination and disgust. A typical workday afternoon in Korea for me.

Hearts in Ruins

Hearts in Ruins

Now and then a woman walks out of her place — right there, paces from all this mess — is momentarily taken aback by the sight of the foreigner with his camera strolling with feigned nonchalance through her charming neighbourhood, and then walks on with feigned nonchalance of her own.


Playground in the Rubble

A dog at the distant end of a dirty alley lunges in righteous rage. Reaches the end of his chain, is jerked back to the reality of his predicament. I flip him the bird and wander on.


I would love to know what’s being advertised

A young mother looks the other way as she passes, pushing a pram.


Attempts at Whimsy

I have to say, though, there’s something refreshing to the eye in a nice break from the sterile uniformity of the apartment villages. It ain’t pretty, but there’s character in abundance!


Put Yer Feet Up, Set a Spell

And even here in the rubble, entertainment and diversion are easy enough to find.


Will Somebody Please Teach These People How to Do Graffiti?

Lining up a shot of Dead Man’s Peak, a yapping terrier-ist lunges into frame…


Master of His Domain

..and it seems best to retreat before more locals emerge, perhaps armed with shotguns, empty bottles or rusty tin cans.

Anyway I have a few private students to meet — as usual time has slipped painlessly away, so absorbing are my explorations and excavations.


Plant a Seed of Hope

I trot down to the creek, past this paradoxically swanky vehicle…

Can You Feel It?

Can You Feel It?

..and jump the stepping stones — well, boulders, really; I don’t know how people in wheelchairs survive this place — across the Daecheong, aiming at the bustling, dusty heart of downtown Jangyu.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. The photographs are reminders of how people feel about all the filth around them i.e they are used to it and really don’t care or there’s not much they can do,so life goes on.
    Thank you for this post.

  2. Good post. I get immensely frustrated and discouraged when I go on trips to mountains and see just piles of garbage. Partly, I think it’s because Korea has some strange aversion to garbage cans. When your own country, municipality doesn’t seem to care, why should you? It’s going to take mass public disgust for it to change. Who knows if that will happen in the time I’ll be here?

    • Yes, the lack of garbage cans is perplexing. I have tried several times to find out why but never understand the explanation. I was told they used to have them but got rid of most of them for some reason. I see school kids drop their food packaging on the street all the time. It makes me furious — I mean more furious. Then again, there’s also an attitude it’s fine to spit your guts out onto the street right in front of everyone else. Maybe anything goes outside the front door?

      My mission statement for this blog includes my pledge to instigate mass public disgust at any opportunity. Just doing my bit for the country!

      Thanks for the comment, and stay sane in the Land of Morning Calm!

  3. Really interesting. Why all the rubbish? When did modern-society-as -we-know-it take over from a peasant/rural way of life? Perhaps in preindustrial societies a lot of waste is simply composted. Perhaps it takes us (wherever we live) time to realise (I mean know from experience, not just “know” in the abstract) that modern consumer goods and building materials don’t turn into benign compost. What were “Western” societies like in this regard soon after the industrial revolution? As a species we don’t like being told what to do – we only learn by often bitter experience what we don’t want to accept. I’ll stop rambling on…

    • Ramble on anytime, Dominic! I agree with you about the composting mentality. Shame none of these folks will be around long enough to see the fruits of their meticulous composting regimen!

      I suspect part of the explanation here lies in the Asian (North Asian, anyway — I’ve only spent time in Korea and Japan) talent for “not-seeing” what’s of no immediate concern. Blinkered eyes. Every time I go on a rant to students or co-workers about the trash problem here, they stare at me like I’ve just suggested the world might be round. They will tell you to your face that this is a “beautiful country” despite all evidence to the contrary.

      A hundred, even 50 years ago, that might well have been true.

    • Thank you, Rachael. That one took form pretty fast after bashing the content around in my head over a few walks. Perhaps that’s the key?

  4. The plastic mulch is a big thing here too.
    Use it for one season, then throw it away. (Or surreptitiously burn it and blame the dioxins on China)

    • Well, in Korea, you don’t even need to throw it away. You just leave it where it lies, or at most toss it in the ever-growing pile of plastic crap in the corner of your vegetable patch. It’s such a shame. You can’t even line up a shot of a nice vegie garden without mentally cropping out (hey, nice pun!) the plastic…

  5. Unfortunately in Russia is easy to find a pile of debris. Recently watched a picture of the forest are scattered all around garbage. I think it always will be.

    • Thanks for the comment, but I hope you’re wrong! Perhaps long-term public education campaigns are in order. In my country the “Keep Australia Beautiful” campaign that started in the 70s probably did a lot of long-term good.

    • Thank you, again!

      A dead…goat?! Yikes! Nice listing — amazing the things comes up with to keep itself occupied on long journeys, eh? I remember walking through Hokkaido counting coffee cans thrown from car windows. And deciding which brand was the most favoured by discarders (Boss, from memory).

      Over here the single most consistently dumped small item, apart from cigarette butts of course, would definitely be the small paper cup used to contain the foul excuse for (instant) coffee that concludes every meal here. It’s like custom dictates it must go on the ground (from whence it came?) afterwards…

  6. My favourite colour is powder blue, so that house at the start is looking alright! Mm… I’ve no idea about the system of throwing away stuff over there. Are there any environmental groups with a tiny bit of profile around?

    My only experience of Asia is Thailand and I seem to remember Bangkok was slightly polluted. In my mind I can figure out why, with the population and lack of infrastructure etc for it to be any different. It sounds like that’s not the case where you are though?

    It’s different here of course, but in some way the amount of crap that goes through a fairly reliable stormwater system might cover it up? I’m amazed at the amount of plastic bottles that get caught up in the Yarra River waste traps after rain, and that’s crap that floats. What else is there that I’m not seeing?

    • Yeah, the colours of those ruins appealed to me as well so I bumped them up a tad with my settings there! I really don’t understand the recycling system (for want of a better word) here at all, and you could just about count the rubbish bins in my city on one hand.As for those plastic bottles, let’s hope that bottle deposit system that’s been proposed for our country gets passed despite the lobbying of Coca Cola and Co.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s