There is a small abandoned theme park in Seoul, South Korea, with a quieted carousel, bleached-out images of ’80s pop icons, and “dodgem” cars that have long-since quit dodging. But unlike most amusement parks that have gone idle, this one invites the public to share in its slow crumble.
Yongma Land was built in 1980, and had a fairly solid run as a small family-oriented amusement park. By 2011 tastes had moved on, and with attendance dwindling it closed down. Despite stories of a haunting or two, the root of its demise was likely just a matter of profit, when the construction of several, much larger and better located, theme parks lured the thrill-seekers away.
Now in the hands of an enterprising local businessman, the old Yongma Land is open again, but this time to revel in the poignant charm of its decay. For a small charge of 10,000 won per adult (about $9, a bit more for professionals) and 5,000 won per child, visitors are free to roam the old rides, no fence-jumping needed. And for 30,000 won, the owner will turn on the lights of the ghostly merry-go-round for you after 8:00 pm.
The fading colors and jumbled figures have proven attractive for musicians and other artists too, inspiring several K-pop videos (most notably Crayon Pop’s “Bar Bar Bar” video) and other photo shoots. With piles of dodgem (or bumper) cars, a rusting octopus ride, a Viking ship, and a displaced clown-motif roller coaster, there is still plenty of carney magic to inspire even amateur photographers.
Know Before You Go
Mangu Station is the closest train station to Yongma Land. From there, you can take a bus most of the way or walk. Head for the gate and pass through the first one to a second gate, where there is a ticket booth. If the owner is in the office he’ll take your entry fee. And if not, there is a phone number you can call. Just mention 'Yongma Land'. Although none of the rides work anymore, the owner does keep the toilet facilities maintained, and you can purchase some vending machine items (and balloons for photos) on-site. But be careful—the site is run down and things are rickety. And if the weather is a bit drizzly, chances are you might have the place all to yourself.