The Cheong Gye Cheon Stream traverses central Seoul from West to East for about seven miles. For centuries, people gathered at the Cheong Gye Cheon to wash clothing by hand. From 1900 on shantytowns were erected along the stream. My dad recalls seeing North Korean refugees living in cardboard houses on either side during the Korean War. By 1958 the area had become such an eyesore and health hazard that the stream was covered over with concrete, and an elevated highway was eventually built over it. In 2003, a controversial $900 million, two-year restoration project was begun to remove the highway and concrete to uncover the stream once again. People complained bitterly about the disruption and the displacement of businesses caused by the construction, but today the stream is a treasured and popular landmark in Seoul.
For the month of May, it’s decorated for Buddha’s birthday: