Samseong 2-dong, Gangnam-gu
HOURS: Tues.-Sun. 6 a.m.-9 p.m.
COST: ₩1,000 adult, ₩500 child
SUBWAY: Seolleung (Line 2)
A natural and historic sanctuary in the middle of a relentlessly urban landscape, Samneung (Three Tombs) Park is the resting place of Seongjong (1457-1494), the ninth king of the Joseon dynasty, as well as one of his wives and a son.
Their tombs are typical of those reserved for Korean royalty. Large grassy mounds on stone bases, they are encircled by low stone fences and carved guardian symbols, including priests, warriors, and animals, that were believed to ward off evil and help direct energy to the burial chambers.
The tomb of Seongjong, who distinguished himself as a consensus-oriented and reformist leader, is distinguished by a small T-shaped shrine housing an honorary stele.
The graves are linked by paths that run through dense, hushed woods and circumvent several other interesting structures, including a jaesil (traditional house used to prepare sacrificial rites for deceased kings) that is used to this day.
With peace and space in such short supply in the area, it’s no surprise that the park is a favorite retreat of workers from the nearby office towers of Gangnam, and it can get quite busy around the lunch hour or in the early evening.
If possible visit in the early morning, when the tombs stand largely alone and exhibit the maximum mystique.
© Jonathan Hopfner from Moon Seoul, 1st Edition