“When I told him to stop, he even assaulted me”… The wall of Tapgol Park has become a ‘feces and urine hot spot’

Garbage and toilet paper are strewn about in the sewer under the wall at Tapgol Park in Jongno-gu, Seoul.

“I see it dozens of times a day. Eat and cheap, eat and cheap… It is useless even if you put up signs such as ‘No eating in public places’ or ‘No urination in the open’. The police are also raising their hands, but can we separate it?”

On the morning of the 2nd, a restaurant owner who runs a restaurant near the north gate of Tapgol Park in Jongno-gu, Seoul complained that he had been suffering from the problem of ‘open urination’ for the elderly and the homeless for several years. Even at the moment of talking with the owner, a middle-aged man who was drunk was standing on the wall to do business. After lowering his pants slightly and urinating without hesitation, the man went straight back to a nearby street table and drank his makgeolli.

The warning sign on the wall right in front of it saying ‘no open urination area’ was colorless. The warning said, “This is a cultural heritage protection zone, so those who engage in acts such as urinating in the open can be punished according to relevant laws, such as the Cultural Heritage Protection Act.” Tapgol Park is also the historical site number 354 designated as a cultural property in 1991 as the starting point of the March 1st Movement.

A sign warning against open urination is posted on the wall of Tapgol Park in Jongno-gu, Seoul.

Despite its status as a cultural asset, Tapgol Park seemed to have degenerated into a ‘hot place for excretion’ over the past few years. In fact, in the vicinity of Tapgol Park on this day, it was not uncommon to encounter people urinating openly. Most of them were elderly people sitting in groups of two along the park wall, drinking or playing chess. Certain floors had a yellowish discoloration and were damp with no time to dry. On top of the sewer, unidentified filth and toilet paper, as if something had been wiped off, were strewn about. Around the wall, there was a foul smell mixed with the smell of food and grease.

Why do they feel free to pull down their pants in broad daylight? The elderly people I met here said in unison, ‘because there is no proper bathroom to do business’. There are many small bars without toilets near the park, and complaints are that even if there are toilets, they are too far away. Kim Sang-jin (81), who was looking at the organs, said, “There is no bathroom worth going to around here.” I go far, but people in a hurry just pack it. Everyone does it, so I don’t think it’s a problem.”

However, contrary to their complaints, there were public toilets inside Tapgol Park, an open toilet on the 1st basement floor of the Insadong Cultural District within a 1-minute walk, and a toilet at Jongjong 3-ga Subway Station within a 6-minute round trip. To prevent open urination, the city operates 24-hour open toilets, but it was useless. A man returning from errands said, “The toilets in Tapgol Park close in the afternoon, so you have to go around the wall to go there.” “There were no toilets like this before. It seems that this culture has been established since then.”

Citizens gather in groups of threes and fives near Tapgol Park in Jongno-gu, Seoul to play chess or drink alcohol.

The Jongno-gu Office, which has jurisdiction here, also seemed to be in trouble due to complaints from citizens and difficulties in cracking down. As complaints continued to be filed, in December of last year, a warning notice for open urination was put up and patrols and guidance were started, but the effectiveness was said to be low. An official from the Jongno-gu Office said, “We are patrolling in consultation with the police station, but it is not uncommon to hear abusive language after giving attention to people who urinate in the open, and even getting hit.” are looking for,” he explained.

Jongno-gu Office is promoting a plan to demolish the surrounding fence, pointing out that access to Tapgol Park is poor. First of all, by 2024, a professional service company plans to go through an investigation process and come up with an improvement plan in consultation with the Cultural Heritage Administration and the Seoul Metropolitan Government. The official added, “In the short term, we are considering ways to increase the number of crackdowns on urinating on the street by increasing the number of security guards and installing additional portable toilets.”

Article/Photo = Reporter Kim Soo-yeon [email protected]

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