Posted by: Matt Kelley | 21 July 2009

Video: Han River – Banpo Park

In lieu of the Eiffel Tower or Sydney’s Opera House, Seoul city officials believe that natural landmarks can best symbolize the city. Like the taeguk, the yin-yang symbol at the center of the South Korean flag, the Han River creates harmony as it calmly bisects the massive city.

Thankfully, 12 riverside parks line the Han River. These 40 square kilometers of park lands are visited by nearly 60 million people annually, and ambitious efforts are underway to improve this already impressive network of green space in central Seoul.

20090721_hanrenaissanceThe renovation of the Banpo section of the Han River Park system is part of a large “Renaissance Project.”

Among the most popular Han River park is the Banpo (한강공원 – 반포) section. Located between the Banpo and Hannam bridges on the river’s south bank, the park was recently redone, with much of the natural vegetation removed in favor of expansive lawns, walking and bicycle trails, and a large play area for children. An inline skating rink and outdoor stages were also incorporated into the new design. This being a riverside park, jet skis vy with water taxis and river cruise boats for primacy on the water.

Several pedestrian-friendly measures were also incorporated into the park’s remodel. A broad and attractive walkway was built linking it with a busy street. A wood-paneled tunnel safely dips under the riverside expressway, allowing easy access to the park. In addition, two lanes of the lower-level Jamsu Bridge were converted into pedestrian and bicycle lanes, creating a safe and enjoyable way to stroll across the river.

It’s always surprised me that Seoul’s riverbanks aren’t where you’ll find the city’s several “centers.” The result is that the river parks are more calming than dynamic, which means they’re a great place for a picnic on a hot summer day. And if you don’t want to lug the food, just flag down a fast food delivery men on his moped. In 30 minutes or less, you’ll have spicy fried chicken, pork bossam or any number of other delicious meals delivered to your picnic blanket. And while you eat, colorful dragons, phoenixes and geometric patterns will fly high above you. Kite flying remains a popular pastime in Korea.

20090721_banpobridgeThe Banpo Bridge emits a colorful water show several times daily.

For six months starting in May 2009, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has organized a series of “Hangang Rainbow Festivals” at the park. The highlight has been the installation of a Guinness Book of Records-certified, world record-setting waterfall installed along both sides of the Banpo Bridge. 380 nozzles spray some 190 tons of water per minute along over 1,000 meters of the bridge. The dancing water show is made to resemble a willow tree in the wind, but by night, the streams are lit by 200 colorful lights. The seven afternoon and evening shows, each lasting about 20 minutes, are already appearing in Seoul tourism spots.

And finally, a key goal of the ongoing Han River Renaissance Project is to make it easier to reach the parks. To this end, water taxi service will be expanded and more bus service will shuttle people between subway stations and parklands. So it sounds like it’s going to become even easier to enjoy the symbol of Seoul.

Getting There:
→ Take subway line 3, 7 or 9 (opening July 2009) to Express Bus Terminal Station (exit 8) and follow the signs to the park entrance (about 800 meters).

→ Or, take bus nos. 401, 406 or 143 to the park entrance. Bus 8401 shuttles between the Express Bus Terminal’s Central City and subway line 6’s Noksapyeong Station with stops in the middle of the Banpo Bridge.

→ Water taxis dock at Banpo Park with service to 14 other locations along the river, including Yeouido and Jamsil..

(A version of this text aired on KBS World Radio on July 8, 2009.)



  1. i like the banpo thing very much!
    it was awesome!
    good filming !
    way to go~

  2. Hi Miss Narsha,

    I’m glad you liked it and thanks for the compliment on the filming. I think I need to take a class though…^^


  3. I went there today at night. It was really nice – clean, new roads and a new Manchester United Bar and Restaurant floating on the Han river!

    Unfortunately there is no rainbow water show lately due to the rain :(…

  4. It rained last night? I departed Seoul for Daegu yesterday around 6:30… if so, you’ve got to love the KMA (Korea Meteorological Admin.)… last I checked they said 90% rain in Daegu and 0% in Seoul last night. It wasn’t raining here! – Matt

  5. what times are the shows at Banpo?

  6. Hi Alex,
    There was a Manchester United bar and restaurant on the Han? Sounds funny… I’d like to see it for myself! ~Matt

  7. Hi Ginny,
    According to the official Hangang Festival website (in Korean here), the 20-minute water shows run:


    all the above plus 22:00

    Saturdays and Sundays
    all the above plus 17:00 and 22:00

    Hope that helps! ~Matt

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