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Oido, a Subway Ride to the West Coast

Take Seoul subway line four (light-blue) south bound and get off at the last station, Oido. Once at Oido station, take a bus for another ten to fifteen minutes heading for the sea and you will reach the Sihwa Industrial Complex at Ansan on the western coast. Environmentalists are currently opposing a further reclamation project to be imposed on the area, claiming the beach has already lost many of its original marine features. Transportation wise, however, the subway line enables people to easily approach the seaside in about an hour from downtown Seoul. (Map of Seoul Subway Lines) The fare is W1,300 for the subway, the most expensive fee on the Seoul subway system, and an additional W600 for the bus ride. On the road between Oido station and the seaside, one can see the Sihwa Industrial Complex on either side of the road. The site represents Korea's efforts to form an industrial area within the metropolitan area.

The subway line extended through Oido permits residents of Seoul and the metropolitan area to get a quick, refreshing outing into the open air and enjoy a calm sea breeze. It is not natural beauty one must seek at Oido, but rather it should be regarded as a living example of the Korean people's dilemma between so-called "development" and natural preservation. Unlike the reclamation project being disputed at Saemangeum further down south, the natural geological landscape of Oido has already been depleted. Oido can become a good education spot to enhance the importance of environmental protection to the general public.

Despite the manmade disappointments, the waters of Oido still produce enough fish resources for the villagers to make a modest living. Freshly caught clam shells are not displayed in clean styrofoam plates, under brightly-lit refrigerators with fluorescent lights, but in smudged, unattractive plastic boxes that seem far from the world of sanitation. Yet, this is what the undisguised Oido looks like and how its residents have made their living over the years. Nature (the clams) mixed with the modern and artificial (plastic strainers and boxes).

A small, quiet marketplace surrounds the port at Oido, where old women sit by the road and cut open oyster shells. The women generously offer tourists a taste of their fresh oysters, but once again outsiders cannot easily accept the unexpected gift even though they do not wish to hurt the kind ladies' feelings if one worries about the sanitary state of the women's gloves. For those tourists who do not care about the possible existence of germs, and are willing to taste samples of fresh oysters for free, Oido is the place to visit.

Meanwhile, fishermen can be seen mending their fishing nets on their boats by the small port. One common characteristic in the women's attire at Oido is that they seem to cover their heads with a scarf, presumably to protect their fragile facial skin from the harsh sun and wind they are prone to by the sea.

(Written by Jinna Park, Photos by Namkyu Lee)


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