Travel 12/4/22

Sangam-dong - A neighborhood built on top of garbage

Sangam-dong is the neighborhood that has risen from Garbage and transformed into the media capital and magnificent parks – all in the wake of the FIFA 2002 World Cup.

A large part of Sangam is Nanjido, a piece of land once a Han River Island. Hence the word ‘do,’ which means island in Korean. Until the early 1990s, this island was Seoul’s landfill or garbage dump. At some point, the landfill rose almost 100 meters, what might have been the world’s tallest waste dump site. Every time I drive by, I try to imagine what a sight it must have been. To some, a pain in the eyes. To others, a livelihood opportunity. Many Koreans lived from the trash they found on the steep hills, at the risk of their health.

Something had to be done: the environmental issues, the smell, the expanding city, and the FIFA World Cup. The Seoul government transformed the landfill into the parks we know today as ‘Sky Park’ and ‘Noeul Park’ (Among many other surrounding parks)—beautiful parks throughout all four seasons, with a view to all directions. An incineration plant between both parks provides heat to many residents, offices, and even the World Cup stadium. The transformation is done incredibly well, and probably most people don’t even notice that this mountain was a landfill.

The bridge to Nanjido (and a view over the World Cup Stadium)

The bridge to Nanjido (and a view over the World Cup Stadium)

You might have read by now that Sky Park is designated as the location to build the world’s tallest spokeless Ferris wheel by 2027. If this article isn’t convincing enough, you can keep this future ‘reason to visit’ in your pocket.

Fall Festival in Sky Park

Fall Festival in Sky Park

An ecological paradise? Sure. An excellent landmark for tourists to visit? Definitely. Hallyu breeding ground? No doubt! Is the government planning a new incineration plant? Yes, and the local people don’t seem happy with this plan. The neighborhood is not far from where I live, and anti-incineration banners can be seen everywhere. I guess we’ll see where this ship lands.

Incineration Plant & Former Landfill Art

During my visit, a demonstration occurred in the middle of Digital Media City, known as DMC. In the DMC, most Korean Hallyu magic happens behind closed doors, and broadcasting companies like KBS, SBS, Channel A, YTN, and MBC sit comfortably in imposing architectures. The modernity attracts me here, the well-planned buildings right at the edge of Seoul’s boundary.

During my walk in Noeul Park, I realized that if both Koreas reunited, this would be the first neighborhood North Koreans would drive through if they took the motorway from Pyongyang to Seoul. The North Koreans would then never guess that this was the world’s tallest land fill. Now, it’s an attractive neighborhood built on top of trash.

Sculpture in Digital Media City

Police presence for the anti-incineration demonstration in front of YTN

Police presence for the anti-incineration demonstration in front of YTN

The last remaining old residential buildings

DMC art

World Cup apartments block


My (former) workplace at TBS eFm radio in DMC