When I was first introduced to 용마랜드 Yongmaland, I remember I felt particularly confused. I had never heard about it before, and when I was suggested by a Korean friend to reach an abandoned amusement park and have a walk there, I had no clue why someone should ever recommend a place like that for a day trip and, above all, why someone should ever accept.
However I did it, and thanks to my curious attitude I visited one of the most IN places in Seoul for Instagrammer wannabes and more.
Actually, Yongma Land is a well-known place, especially among K-pop affectionate fans. The reason for its popularity is due to the fact that multiple K-Pop groups (including Twice, Crayon Pop and B.A.P) have filmed their MV in this abandoned amusement park. To be fair, the park is pretty unrecognisable in those edited-into-detail music videos, but some parts of it are still well identifiable.
Yongma Land was built in the 80’s in Seoul’s outskirts and, as for any other amusement park in the world, the owner’s aim was to create a space for families to spend time together and let their children play in a fairy and thrilling place. However, good intentions were not followed by favourable events: in 1989 the colossus Lotte Corporation opened in Jamsil a huge and innovative amusement park, the well renowned Lotte World, which soon stole the show to the humble Yongma Land and marked its end.
In real fact, the small park situated in the outskirts of Seoul survived until 2011, the year of its downfall. Even before the date which put a definite end to the activities of this park, however, the park faced a huge crisis because of the loss of customers and a change in their demand: the park, indeed, offered limited and outdated attractions which couldn’t possibly compete with its gigantic rival.
So, as already said, the park saw its gate definitely close for one last time, signalling the end of an unfortunately unproductive interlude of the story of this neighbourhood.
However, it was not the last we had heard on the matter: surprisingly, as soon as the park was dismissed from its primary role, people started gaining interest and revaluating this disgraced place. Especially photographers reassessed the potentiality of this space, starting using Yongma Land as the set for their photoshoots. The word about the existence of an abandoned amusement park, with dark and spooky connotations, started spreading and more and more curious gathered in the park in order to discover its secret corner and get overwhelmed by its grim atmosphere.
Back to my trip, as I have already mentioned, I had no clue about what I was going to visit, nor about what to expect. To be completely honest, as soon as I heard the word ‘abandoned’, I immediately thought about a real discarded place, overrun by nature and ravages of time, decorated with the usual intimidating signs calling out to trespassers. I was genuinely expecting an adventure which included bypassing gates or fences, but during the journey to the park, I couldn’t not notice the genuine calm shining through my friend’s face: that look wasn’t the naughty look of someone who was going to do something illicit… It was the simple look of a person going to on a visit.
Soon after I would have discovered that the so-known ‘abandoned park’ is not as abandoned anymore: it became a new attraction for the curious, for photographers and for K-Pop pilgrims.
As a matter of fact, I wasn’t simply not going to climb over a fencing – which actually was a relief for me, not being that athletic-kind of person: what I needed to do to enter in Yongma Land was actually paying a disappointing entrance fee amounting to 10,000₩. Yes, you read it well: South Korea has an abandoned amusement park for which you need to pay 10,000₩ per visit. This clearly ruins the whole experience, not only because of the objectively high amount of money: it deprives you the chance to feel the classic kind of thrill that only the visit of an abandoned place can transmit. However, I accepted the payment of the duty and I stepped in Yongma Land.
What stood before my eyes was pure desolation: excluding a group of kids taking photos on one of the attractions, my friend and I were left wandering around with the sole company of dusty sculptures, cracked rides and an army of mosquitos. The place was particularly humid and soggy, due to the fact it was the first day without rain after one entire week. The sky was still cloudy signalling uncertainty on the persistence of fine weather, so this is probably the main reason why few were the people gathering in Yongma Land that afternoon.
The absence of a crowd made the visit much more quaint and suggestive than what I could hope for: feeling myself left alone in an abandoned amusement park, out of prying eyes and surrounded by nature’s sound, made me even forget the ignoble duty I needed to pay at the entrance. It was just me, my friend and the ghost of a theme park which used to gift children with smiles and amusements.
So I started wandering around, completely overtaken by the mystery of this place: many were the rides that I recognized among the ones I loved during my childhood years, but many were also the weird sculptures scattered around the park. Some of them gave me chills, some others left me puzzled.
The atmosphere was getting gloomier and gloomier the more we were walking away from the group of kids and getting in the depths on the park. I’m not sure if it was done on purpose or not, but it was when we were completely left alone that my friend decided to tell me the legend explaining the reason why the amusement park really stopped its activity, tale that was found on a Naver forum. As I have been reported, the story involves the death of a girl riding the Viking: during one of the times that the boat swang up her long hair got stuck into the machine and, as soon as the boat went down, her scalp got pilled off causing a severe exsanguination which led her to an inexorable death. Although the story is clearly invented and way too sophisticated in the description of such gruesome details, at that moment I had no doubts about the veracity of the narrated facts. Being the extremely cowardy and susceptible person I am, I started having doubts about my safety in the park and began looking around suspiciously, in fear of chancing upon the spectre of the dead girl, probably blood hungry and seeking revenge.
As you might imagine, no bloodthirsty ghost came to meet me in my way through the park, but the visit totally kept its creepy atmosphere. This is definitely due to the fact that the day we chose to go on an adventure was a cloudy day with uncertain weather conditions, which discouraged sightseers from paying a visit to what is commonly perceived as a thrilling photo shoot. The absence of amateur models and photographers indeed helped me to enter in the mood of this dismissed place, which is certainly not as neglected as it may sound, but which undoubtedly preserves the sinister vibe of a place which once lived a life which was later deprived.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it inspirational in your search of possible destinations to cover on a future trip to Seoul!
Yongma Land might not be a must-do, hence there are much better and more stunning places in the capital city, but it definitely is an unusual location worth to pay a visit to. Plus, how can you refrain from getting the chance to make your friends jealous by posting photos online of yourself sitting on a dismissed ride? It definitely gives you a fearless and naughty look, and there are not many (legal) places in the world which can give you this same opportunity, so grab this chance!
In case you are interested in reading more about my adventures in South Korea, let me direct you to other articles I have already published on my blog!