World Cup Park
The World Cup Park (월드컵공원; map) sits on and around Nanji Island (난지도; map) along the Han River in Seoul.
During the Joseon Dynasty, the island’s fertile soil grew peanuts and other crops. But in the last half of the 20th century, 92 million metric tons of trash stunk up the site.
What turned around the island’s fortunes? The 17th FIFA World Cup in 2002.
Like the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Korea knew it needed to do some house cleaning when FIFA selected them and Japan to co-host the 2002 FIFA World Cup in 1996. Billions would watch B-roll of Korea and Japan side-by-side. And Korea didn’t want to seem the lesser.
So Seoul cleaned up the trash on Nanji Island and built Seoul World Cup Stadium (서울월드컵경기장; map) and four parks collectively known as World Cup Park.
World Cup Park features twin flat top, side-by-side pyramid plateaus (aerial view) known as:
They rise about a hundred meters just north of Gangbyeon Expressway (강변북로; map).
The city decided it wouldn’t just toss 92 million metric tons of garbage somewhere else. Instead, they buried the toxic rubbish deep, sealed it, and mounded tons of soil on top.
Today, walk the elevated grounds of Haneul & Noeul Parks and spy small pipes sticking out of the earth. These vents release underground methane buildup.
An incineration plant dropped between the plateaus uses the buried landfill’s excess gasses to burn Seoul’s current waste flow.
Four & More Parks
World Cup Park comprises four parks clustered near the Seoul World Cup Stadium. Here’s a quick glance at each.
- Pyeonghwa Park (평화의공원; map; Peace Park) is World Cup Park’s premier park. It connects to the Seoul World Cup Stadium via a concrete bridge and holds Nanji Pond, a plaza, and a picnic area.
- Haneul Park (하늘공원; map; Sky Park) sits on one of two flat-top pyramids. The most popular park, it brings thousands to the park’s ripened grass fields in late summer. The 291 steps ascending the plateau is a popular photo-zone.
- Noeul Park (노을공원; map; Sunset Park) occupies the other of high-rise pyramid. A nine-hole golf course takes up much of the park’s area. But visitors can also enjoy a sculpture park, silkworm and firefly habitats, and bookshop.
- Nanjicheon Park (난지천공원; map; Nanji Stream Park) flows along the Nanji Stream at the base of Haneul and Noeul Park. It offers walking paths, playgrounds, and more.
A few more notable parks lie around World Cup Park.
- Nanji Hangang Park (난지한강공원; map) is a part of the Hangang Park system. Because it lies just over the Gangbyeon Expressway, people often group it with World Cup Park.
- Oil Tank Culture Park (문화비축기지; map) is an old oil tanker field converted into a sculpture park next to Seoul World Cup Stadium.