Part of what makes cities like Venice, Amsterdam and Macau special is that they’re all located near bodies of water. Incheon follows in this model, and adds to it a world-class international airport and the site of the 2014 Asian Games.
The sun crosses the water around Incheon and heads west after completing its day’s work. Mountains and rivers are colored red-orange like a ripe persimmon, almost as if they’re grieving over their separation from the sun. Beginning with the islands in the Yellow Sea, they gradually embrace the parting of ways. Soon, night will fall, and the two main majestic towers on Incheon Bridge will shine in the darkness.
I’m sitting at Heungnyunsa, a temple on Mount Cheongnyangsan. This is the perfect spot to look over the Yellow Sea. The dying embers of the sunset hit everything there – thre trees, the grass, the rice fields. The same is not tru in the city. With most people locked up in offices all day, urban dwellers aren’t afforded the same chance to watch the sun go down. It’s ironic that it’s only humans who can’t feel the sun and the wind, and embrace such a beautiful sunset when every other creature on the planet can.
Incheon is a city of sunsets and beaches, while not being very far away from Seoul. Off the coast of Incheon, the sun sets on an endless horizon, capturing everyone’s attention as they stop and turn towards the west. People living here are able to savor that enchanted moment every day.
At the southern tip of the city is a port called Soraepogu. At daybreak, the port is alive with conversation and laughter, echoing the sounds of the splashing fish. The Yellow Sea around the Korean Peninsula may not be home to the largest diversity of sea creatures, but the night’s catch of flounder, black rock fish, gizzard shad, mullets and blue crabs will all be available at the local market the next morning.
Visitors from both Incheon and Seoul swarm to Soraepogu to relish in the vibrant sea life and port market. Many people choose to eat the fish raw, which is called hoe in Korea. Indeed, there are few other things as delicious as hoe wrapped in lettuce with gochujang (hot pepper paste), which is available right next to the market.
Autumn in Soraepogu is the season for saeujeot (salted and fermented shrimp), which is one of the most important ingredients in kimchi. Saeujeot is made by fermenting shrimp caught between May and June for five to six months, then salt is added and it is sealed in a big tin drum. The longer the fermenting period, the higher the price it will fetch.
Saeujeot has a unique taste that adds a delicate flavor to kimchi when fermented. Merchants at Soraepogu are often very generous, allowing market visitors to freely sample any of their numerous products.
Lying west of Seoul, Incheon is Korea’s second biggest port city. Sailors leave through Incheon port when heading to the Pacific Ocean via the Yellow Sea, while the city’s airport serves as a gateway to the rest of the world.
Incheon’s geographical location has historically made it the first Korean city to be exposed to outside influences and adopt new items: daily necessities (matches, glass and soap), foreign food (cider and jajangmyeon, or black bean noodles), and other things like baseball.
For the same reason, Incheon has been chosen by the Korean government as the optimal place to launch a Free Economic Zone (FEZ). Incheon’s FEZ is a special area which aims to attract foreign investment with government support, based on the Foreign Investment Promotion Act. Foreign businesspeople are given various incentives here, including financial support, prime industrial locations and tax benefits.
The city designated the three districts of Cheongna, Yeongjong and Songdo as part of FEZ. Of there three areas, Songdo International Business District is the fastest growing.
HEAVEN ON EARTH
You can ride a water taxi and travel a two-kilometer road created on Songdo’s Central Park while taking in the exotic views of this new city. Skycrapers are going up all around and will remind visitors of international business centers in Asia like Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore. And the skyline, when seen against the backdrop of a pure blue sky, is nothing less than dazzling.
The most impressive building here is undoubtedly the Northeast Asia Trade Tower, a 68-floor building with an observatory on the 65th floor that commands a spectacular view of the sea and the city. Once all the work is completed on this landmark man-made city in 2018, Songdo will certainly attract the attention of the world, and the Northeast Asia Trade Tower will play a key role as a global business hub.
Then there’s Songdo Convensia, the Compact/Smart City, the Tri-Bowl, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club and the many luxury hotels, some of which have completed construction. When all is said and done, this international city willl come at a cost of more than 1.4 trillion won and cover an area of 53.4 sqm. It will be a global business hub that embraces the IT and biotechnology industries with a knowledge-based industrial complex, a bio-industrial complex and cutting-edge industrial clusters.
Today, a source of great pride for many is the Incheon Bridge, which gracefully crosses over the adjacent sea to Songdo. The bridge is 21.4 km long, built with the latest technology, and supported by the two main towers, which are 238.5 m high. It is Korea’s longest bridge and the world’s fifth longest cable-stayed bridge. When you drive over it, you’ll feel as if you’re running on the sea.
The current site of Incheon International Airport was created by reclaiming the land between two surrounding islands, Yongyudo and Yeongjongdo. Part of Korea’s excellent construction reputation stems from its vast experience in reclamation projects that take advantage of its unique ria coast.
Today, Incheon International Airport is positioning itself as a major global hub and has been ranked one of the top airports by the SKYTRAX World Airport Quality Audit for six straight years. Currently, it is the second largest handler of international freight and the eighth busiest for international passenger transportation.
Beyond the airport is a series of islands that feature pristine natural beauty. Two sites everyone should visit are Eurwangni Beach and Angel’s Rock Beach on Yongyudo. Lovers on the stretch of the sandy beaches, seagulls up above, and small restaurants dotting the waterline add to a quiet, beautiful scene of relaxation.
Incheon will soon host the 2014 Asian Games, and is preparing for the prestigious event. Incheon is certain to become one of the most popular coastal cities once Songdo is completed and after hosting the Asian Games.
Source: KOREA People & Culture Magazine, December 2011