A Vibrant Abandoned Railway Station
Story by: Wendy Palomo
Photos by: Wendy Palomo
Recent years have solidified the gentrification of Seoul. Perhaps, the most talked about area we have seen is the unfolding of Seollo 7017, once a highway overpass that became a safety risk. Located near Seoul Station, it used to be an alternative route for buses and cars. It is now a sky garden adorned by various plants and flowers. Another safety risk that dramatically became a haven for artists is the Oil Tank Culture Park, located near the World Cup Stadium in Mapo-gu. After a consultation with the citizens, it was redeveloped and is now a picturesque eco-park. It features exhibitions and performances that draw people in. It is alive with energy and creativity, a stark contrast to its eerie state not so long ago.
But, alas! There is one place that keeps luring visitors to its abandoned state. Byeokje Station in Goyang summons the curious. What makes Byeokje enticing for visitors?
The staff in the few neighborhood restaurants, who are mostly ajummas, appear to be used to daily new faces whose purpose is predictably a visit and a photoshoot in the abandoned station. Both local and foreign tourists vie for space and the best view possible and drop by the restaurants before or after their photo sessions. This is to the delight of the ajummas in the restaurants. Clearly, visitors are good for business.
From the main road where one alights from the bus, one follows a narrow road that goes to the abandoned railway. It cuts in the middle and requires a choice: Going right or going to the left first?
Going to the right leads you to a small dilapidated structure that unmistakably served as the ticket station. As if mocking its current state, a broken clock, visibly attached to one of its rails, shows that time had stood still for this abandoned railway station. The rust and the peeling that comes from its steel bars, the run-down and deserted office, the torn down windows all paint a spooky picture.
And yet… the metal railway, lined by leafless trees in the dead of winter, is charming in its melancholy. The same trees turn a vibrant green in spring and summer. The railway stretches far, its end not in sight. However inexplicable it may seem, it evokes hope. Then there’s the railroad lamp, standing still, a remnant of the station’s bustle when it was still serving the population it was designed to serve.
The left side of the road leads to the abandoned tunnel. It is supposed to be just one of those ordinary, dark tunnels until its end opens to the scenic backdrop of the Bukhansan ridges. This is when it becomes mesmerizing and dramatic. Visitors have been going here season after season and naturally brings out the tunnels’ beautiful landscape, no matter what season they choose to come.
Lovers crave the romantic glow they get from the photos. Friends rejoice at the versatility of the mood the tunnel offers. On a great day, you have to wait for your turn to have your photo shoot as you want them done as the place can be filled with people whose purpose is probably the same as everyone else’s: a great photo. It is a place that silently welcomes everybody. No rules, no formal entry points, no aesthetics. It is as raw and as abandoned as it can get.
But despite the absence of formal entry points and regulations, visitors come and leave with a sense of respect. Unspoken but highly observed: those who come leave with appreciation and reverence. It is not often that a place neglected can welcome visitors openly and amiably.
Address: 8-15, Hoguk-ro 1430beon-gil, Deogyang-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do
(경기도 고양시 덕양구 대자동 산139-4 벽제역)
How to go there: Go down Exit 8 of Bulgwang Station (Line 3 and Line 6) and take Bus No. 774.
Get off at Byeokje Station.