A Wild Ride At Yongma Land

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During my innocent high school days, Nick and I used to go back to his dad’s apartment sometimes for lunch. Whenever we would, I’d eat a can of Chunky soup from the pantry, some Carl Buddig turkey (there goes my absurd memory for detail again), and some Kraft singles while I’d wait for my soup to heat up. Then I’d plop down in front of the tele and turn on Unsolved Mysteries. Robert Stack always creeped me the F out in that brown trench coat of his, but I think I really liked it. He was the perfect host for my favorite creepytime show. All of the stories on Unsolved Mysteries were primarily from like, 10 years prior, and the acting on the show was horrendous, but it gave me my daily dose of eerie and it made me happy slash vigilant in always looking behind me.

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Why am I telling you this, you ask? Because I wanted you to know that I’ve always loved spooky things, ok?? Especially movies like The Shining which I watched for the first time in high school at 2am, and still haunts me to this day. That’s why I had to purchase the REDRUM t-shirt you see in the following photos. It was the perfect dress for the occasion, because you know I never miss a chance to play a little dress up.

Remember when I broke into that abandoned insane asylum last summer? That was so cool, and still tops my list of favorite things done whilst in Korea. Since then, I’ve read about quite a few other haunted or abandoned places on this peninsula, and one of them that happened to be closest to Seoul is Yongma Land, an abandoned amusement park. It looked like more of a carnival to me, but that’s neither here nor there, and it went out of business sometime in the mid-nineties due to a lack of Yongma Land-goers.

Since I’ve been dying to go, I grabbed my fellow abandoned places explorer, Joshy, and a very appropriately dressed Veny, to check it out with me. From Seoul, we all hopped the Jungnang line to the Mangu Station exit where we had about a 20 or so minute walk (if we hadn’t gotten lost en route) to the park. As you would expect, we took the very scenic route (read: the wrong way) after being detoured by some picnicing ajussis in the bushes. We walked along the path they told us to, but veered off to our other left instead of following this here sign like we should have. But should doesn’t make for the most enticing story, now does it?

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Our other left took us around a golfing range and into what we discovered to be the back entrance and what was probably at one point the water park of Yongma Land. Before dredging through the mushy hills and spiderwebs, we modeled in the once upon a time pool, and on the decomposing water slide filled with crap and a burnt teddy bear.

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We finally decided to try one of the staircases leading up to who knew where, and our first try proved to be a ghastly mess of monster ants and spider webs up the ying yang. Take two led us up this staircase on the left.

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And Joshy, forging the way for his ladies, took this route, which we did not.

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Instead, we went rock climbing, which Veny did not enjoy but cameraman up there did.

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If he’s anything he’s a gentleman!

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Behold! Back door entry to mounds of crap for everyone!

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Once arriving at the park, or sneaking your way in like us, the entry is 5,000won to Mr. Youn who still minimally maintains the grounds. When we arrived and dusted ourselves off, we thought we snuck in for free, but alas, a 6’4″ white man and his ladies stick out. The park has actually become quite popular for shooting k-pop videos and commercials, so we weren’t surprised to find quite a few groups there for photo shoots.

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Or this pervert and his muse.

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We let the perverts carry on as we explored and got our hands and butts a delightful shade of dirty. First up, dat Disco Pong Pong all the kids love so much. Joshy the giant was terrified during this photo opp.

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WALL-E!

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Office chair graveyard by Aladino and his magic carpet.

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Air vehicle graveyard.

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Always the gentleman, he carried our bags as we (dis)mounted large objects.

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K-Love bus buddies since day one!

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Hardcore rockin n’ rollin in this one. Their complimentary weights really balanced it out.

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Methinks I’m too big for this one.

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Jump on it, ride it, dat pony.

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Views at the top, in the castle and bumper car graveyard.

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Back to the future with this generic video game called…Video Game.

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And when we were ready for a bath and a meal, we left through the way we should have come in had we followed directions properly.

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If you are itchin’ to get out of Seoul, or want to fulfill the inner lust for the abandoned, shlep yourself to Yongma Land! It was super fun and an out of the norm way to spend a weekend taking colorful photos.

To get there, take the Jungnang line to Mangu Station exit 1. You’re going to walk straight out the exit down the main road where you’ll pass an Emart with a McDonald’s written all in Korean. Turn left when you get to the next main intersection. Keep walking straight until you come to the next major intersection. The road will sort of curve to the right into a smaller street. Walk down this street and keep following it. A little ways up when you hit a cake shop on the right it’ll curve around to the left and FOLLOW THAT. We made the “mistake” of just walking straight up the small street but that led us the super round about scenic route way (which you may enjoy). If you go the “correct” way, it’ll lead you up a street littered with little restaurants and straight to the entrance above. There’s also a sign with Mr. Youn’s number on it if you need to call him to let you in.

Happy riding!

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Freaky Friday: The Day I Broke Into The Abandoned Gonjiam Insane Asylum

Since school is out for summer, as English teachers last week and this week consist of  teaching a 3 hour a day English camp.  That means we get off work at 12:40pm everyday! Not too shabby!

At around noon on Friday, Jee texted me, Josh and Tim asking if we had any plans for the rest of the day. Our plans basically consisted of errands and laundry.  That is until Joshy remembered reading about an abandoned insane asylum and threw out the crazy idea of breaking into it. Of course we were on board….except for Tim, who gets a bad case of the willies when anything scary is involved. Scaredy cat.

From what I’ve read briefly on the World Wide Web, the history of this particular asylum is hazy. It officially shut its doors in 1996 after a slew of mysterious patient deaths, and the head doctor fled to the states. From the looks of it, they ran in a hurry because the place is in complete disarray with overturned chairs, jackets dangling from closets, patient files scattered all over desks, and towels still hanging in the public shower area. The abandoned building gets about 1,000 bold and daring adventure seekers per year, and made it onto CNN’s list of the freakiest places on the planet!

Our Friday was about to get a whole different kind of CRAY!

Jee had Mama Kwon’s car for the weekend, so she fetched Josh and I from Hyehwa, and then we sat in traffic for about an hour before even getting out of the center of Seoul. What was supposed to be about a 30 minute drive to Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do, took about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Am I back in LA??

The only real directions we had as to the location of the Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital were a pair of coordinates that Joshua kept telling us to plug into Google Maps: (37.362433, 127.33474). Well, those didn’t help us much, but thanks to our resourceful Korean, after arriving in Gonjiam, we crossed a bridge and continued up a narrow street which felt creepier and eerier as we got closer. Then, low and behold, there was the barbed wire enshrined gate and a massive DO NOT TRESPASS because CCTV has its eyes on you, sign. And voila! We had arrived!

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After jumping out of the car, not forgetting Josh’s mom backpack fully equipped with the necessities:  whisky, candle, bloody props and tarot cards, we came face to face with our first creepy sight of the afternoon. Looks like somebody was sent running for their life and poor Havaianas got left behind.

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And after rounding the corner of the building just past the barbed wire fence, we stumbled upon a shed filled with mannequin heads and busts.

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Just a wee bit spooked by now, we found the trail that would lead us into the unknown. Note to future trespassers: Wear runners because your feet will get MUDDY. Don’t dress in the name of fashion with studded sandals like I did.

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After trekking through spider webs and muddy forest, we reached the road that leads up to the building.

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When we finally got to the building, we were greeted by broken glass everywhere, cigarette butts, broken windows, swampy moldy stairs and the ever present predicament of how on earth we were going to break in!

To the right of the main staircase, there’s a wide green ladder perched to one of the top windows.  This ladder is secured in place by nothing but what appeared to be a heavy duty airplane seat belt, or belt used to buckle crazy people to their beds.  When Josh took the lead to try and climb in, he got a little freaked and thought it was going to fall or break, or that we’d contract some disease from the rust and dripping something coming down from the window.

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This ended up being the way we broke in, but for now we decided to put a hold on that way of entry and scope out the rest of the building for an easier way in. We found a window on the lower left side that we climbed through.  We scoured past moldy chairs and glass to go up a flight of stairs, only to find that it was shut tight.

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Not ready to give up, we walked to the far end of the building and found some rusty bars and old bed springs blocking what we thought was maybe the entrance to a dining hall.  We shimmied on in there, tiptoed over a path of junk on the muddy floor, and found tons of graffitied walls, an old table and overturned chairs and trash.  Unfortunately this was as far as we could go from this entryway since everything was boarded up tight. LET US IN!!!!!

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Two fails behind us, we went back to old faithful Mr. Wobbly Ladder. Josh went first to forge a path for his ladies. After getting caught in the seat belt fastening, making lots of strange man-grunts and moans, he had successfully moved the tetanus filled desks, chairs and cabinets that were barricading the door shut. I had a moment of panic while climbing through the window. With my history of falling in Korea, I saw my life crashing down 30 feet below me. But alas, I set a new record and successfully made it through, only to have a chair fall in front of the door forcing me to flex my muscles and move it myself in order to get into the asylum halls.

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AND WE WERE IN!!!! Once inside, saying it was creepy is an understatement. The halls were so swampy and wet and reeked of the stench of mold, cigarette and hospital having a baby together. The Dr’s office was cluttered with piles of old patient records, overturned cabinets and jackets on the floor, and the bathrooms still had towels and buckets and blankets scattered everywhere. We even found a letter on the floor of one of the bathroom stalls, though it looked freshly written, so was probably placed by one of the other 1,000 sneaky daredevils.

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We ended up squishing through all three floors before heading up to the roof with a view. Too bad we didn’t have any makkoli to cheers our daring feat and ward off any ghosts.

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After coming down, we went back into the “KILL ROOM” for a seance of sorts. Remember those Spanish Tarot cards and candle Joshua brought with him in his mom bag? Well, our fortune teller took those out, handed out props and had us pick our fates in card form. With a swig of whiskey, a light of the candle and a knife through Jee’s head, fortunes were told.  Looks like Jee will be getting a visit from the Devil and/or a douche bag disguised as a gentleman. Or so the spirits told him.

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Of course we left behind our candle. The marker of our presence there, and a token in hopes of no spirits following us back to Seoul.

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We ended up getting out a much easier way than we got in. We went out this door that was thrust open from the bottom up, saw where a massive tree had fallen and brought the whole structure down with it, and then shimmied ourselves out between some rusty bars.  Cue second mini panic attack as I thought the bench we had to step on was going to fall forward as I stepped.

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With the spirits, tetanus and mold behind us, we forged our way out through the spiderwebs and muddy pathway back to the car, where water bottle and hand sanitizer showers were in order. You can’t really tell here, but my feet and sandals were covered in mud, and not to mention, dirt and mosquito bites all over my arms and legs. It was well worth the adventure though!

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This was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve done in Korea, and really ever! I love reading stories and watching shows about haunted places, so to actually have the chance to creep through one was awesome! Thanks Joshua for the random Friday jaunt suggestion!

For those looking to do something spooky in Korea, you have to head to Gwangju in Gyeonggi-do (NOT the one in the South). We didn’t take a bus there, but I know you can get one from somewhere in Gangnam.  You have to get to Gonjiam, and from the center of town cross a little bridge and turn right and keep going up the narrow road.  It’s a ways up, but the path starts just after you pass a 2 story brick house (pretty vague, I know). If you want, you can try and plug the coordinates into Google Maps: 37.362433, 127.33474. We weren’t too Google Map savvy, so we didn’t figure out how to do that, but it’s worth a shot if you know what you’re doing!

Happy Haunting wild thing!!