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[Seoul Subway Stories] Noksapyeong Station is one big art project

Station a popular filming spot due to unique structure, says Seoul Metro
 

The upper level of Noksapyeong Station in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Yim Hyun-su/The Korea Herald)
The upper level of Noksapyeong Station in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Yim Hyun-su/The Korea Herald)

Noksapyeong Station’s name might not be as widely recognized as Itaewon, the next stop on Seoul Metro’s Line No. 6.

But partygoers heading to the nearby neighborhood on the weekend and residents of Haebangchon and Gyeongridan-gil in the area know well how uniquely the station is structured.

“I used to work at a cafe located in the middle of Noksapyeong and Itaewon. I would get off at Noksapyeong because it was a little closer. But every time I had to climb up the stairs, it felt like forever,” said Yim Hae-jin, a 30 year-old Seoul resident.

The station, which opened in 2000, has five underground levels, but its depth is equivalent to around 12 flights of stairs. A long escalator connects passengers from the platform to the ground level.

It also has a glass dome ceiling -- the only subway station in the country to have one -- through which sunlight streams in. The main hall, 21 meters in diameter and 35 meters in depth, is surrounded with shiny walls and a piece of artwork called “Dance of Life.” It can be more fully viewed by looking up to the ceiling while on the escalator.

Because of the appearance and colorful decorations on the walls, the station is sometimes compared to shopping malls and department stores.

When asked why the station was built the way it was, and in particular the depth, Seoul Metro explained the station was originally designed to serve as a transfer station for Line No. 11, with the idea of moving Seoul City Hall to the Yongsan area. But the relocation plans were eventually scrapped and the city government built a new city hall building just next to the old one.

Efforts to renovate the station into a public art gallery began in August 2018 as part of the Seoul Urban Art Project, the city’s design initiative launched in 2016 to make art more accessible to the public and create more cultural spaces.

The glass domed ceiling at Noksapyeong Station in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)
The glass domed ceiling at Noksapyeong Station in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

Most filmed subway station

According to Seoul Metro, Noksapyeong Station was the site of the most filming during the first half of this year among all facilities owned by the subway system operator.

The station has become a filming spot for various corporate advertisements due to its “unique and beautiful” structure.

“The long escalator installed in the middle of the station is a popular place to film ‘escalator scenes’ often seen in TV dramas,” said one Seoul Metro official in charge of filming projects.

“Commercials are also filmed often near the space where the Underground Art Garden is located.”

In addition to advertisements, renting out subway stations for filming is another source of income for the subway operator.

Filming movies and dramas at subway stations was not allowed between throughout 2020 and half of 2021 due to the pandemic. It resumed in June 2021, but only after operating hours. From October last year, the temporary ban was lifted.

While the number of paid location rentals for filming declined sharply in 2020, it is on the rise again now, with the number of deals in the first half of this year having already surpassed last year’s total.

Underground Art Garden

At the Underground Art Garden, Seoul Metro is taking advantage of its spacious station to accommodate art at public transport facilities.

“Forest Gallery” by Kim Ah-Yeon, an art installment on the ground right above the subway platform, is inspired by the various species of trees on Namsan, including pine, wild cherry, maple and snowbells.

The
The "Forest Gallery" at Noksapyeong Station in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Yim Hyun-su/The Korea Herald)

Efforts to promote Yongsan Park -- a nearby park that recently opened and where the new presidential office is located -- are also in full swing.

At the first basement level there is an exhibition promoting Yongsan’s history and culture, including the modern history behind the US Army base in the neighborhood.

The station is also equipped with a conference room at the fourth basement level where seminars on Yongsan Park and training of guides take place.

On the fifth basement level where the subway platform is located, artwork is sometimes featured on billboards.



By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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