From 2010-2011 I lived in Incheon in Korea. Songdo is a strange part of Incheon, itself one of the cities which make up greater Seoul. Mud flats were reclaimed from the sea and Incheon lost a valuable bird habitat but gained an International Business District. It’s the city of the future but it was still sparesly inhabited (unusual for a Korean city) with lots of empty apartments. This cold, futuristic eeriness is compounded by the gigantic Old Testement exhibition in Songdo’s Central Park. It’s hard to imagine where such structures wouldn’t have looked out of place but they were not what I expected to see amidst the shining skyscrapers. It was badly damaged in the typhoon of September ’10 and little effort was made to repair them or make them safe apart from healing the giant, decapitated Jesus in the lake. Presumably this would have been too much for people. Almost 28% of Koreans are Christian, of which Protestents are the majority. These structures might make more sense when we consider that there is a vibrant strain of proselytizing Protestentism in Korea with its roots in the USA.
After a walk through the Claddagh I always swing by the shape-shifting scrap heap at the docks. I don’t know how often the metal is collected but the only lengthy absences I’ve noticed were during the Volvo Ocean Races.
Here I’m often reminded of my scenic highlight of the Murmansk tour of the lowlands in 2004. We were on a train somewhere in the industrial wastelands of Belgium when I got out of my seat to gaze in awe at the mountain range of rusted scrap filling up the vista for miles on either side of the train. My bandmates were bemused at my enthusiasm and perhaps it was heightened by the lack of natural topography in the low countries. I couldn’t help comparing this range to the humble scrap heap back in Galway. Better beer, infrastructure, public transport….even the scrap heaps were better in Belgium. Of course the Galway heap has the advantage of a city centre location and being accessible to tourists. For me the joy lies in being able to walk all around, towards and away from it appreciating the heap on different scales. Chaos cubed and falling away into disorder, decay and rebirth: it’s all here.