Saturday, November 28, 2009

Locking Your Romance

Namsan, the southern mountain of four key mountains that once nestled Seoul is now nestled within Seoul's sprawling urbanness. The top of the mountain is no longer for religious events or calming and cooling retreats from the summer heat of Seoul. Its age-old history with its segment of creeping 18km of protective wall has been subsumed by modern culture into a park for the Seoulites and a hangout for lovers.

Lovers flock up the mountain via the cable car on the northern slope, via buses up the southern road and by climbing up the various foot paths to enjoy the scenic overview. They come to feed themselves on the salty-buttered popcorn, misty pastel clouds of cotton candy and fastfood while some with a deeper desire to enjoy a seat in the fancy revolving restaurant at the top of Seoul Tower with its panoramic view of Seoul wait in long lines for the romantic pleasure.

But one particular "lover" event is rather unique to Namsan - it is the Rooftop Terrace where lovers come to eternally confess their love to each other by symbolically leaving a padlock with its personalized lover-message on the Terrace fence. Then to symbolically demonstrate that their love will forever remain unbroken, until recently they would throw the key into the forest below so as never to open and remove the lock of eternal declaration. Nature was not so happy about the keys tossed on it and with the rise in concern for environmental problems, sign postings are now intermittently hung advising lovers not to dispose of their keys on nature. Padlocks of all shapes and sizes are visible and the new trend is to weave colorful bicycle chain-locks in a heart-shaped pattern amongst the mesh of the fence and the other padlocks. And if a pair of romantic birds forget their padlock before climbing Namsan, the shop at the top has a wide selection of padlocks for the unprepared.

A huge curiosity I have about the eternal-declaration thing is that boy-/girl-friends are casually made and easily broken now so what happens when one lock is hung, it can't be undone, and someone straggles up the mountain with a new boy-/girl-friend and another symbolic padlock? Seems rather inevitable as Namsan is now at the heart of Seoul and is a fashionable place for lovers to confess their (changeable) hearts.

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