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Coex Aquarium and Bongeunsa: Facing Korea’s Two Sides at Once!

Coex is an exhibition venue located at Gangnam-gu, Seoul, but is also a shopping mall complex that includes shopping facilities, hotels, and theaters. Lots of people visit Coex to enjoy the shopping and entertainment. Across from Coex, however, there is Bongeunsa, a representative Buddhist temple of Korea in the middle of the city. At this time, when Kingos visit Gangnam after midterms, how about stopping at some special places? The Sungkyun Times (SKT) went to these places where people can feel the different sides of Korea.

COEX: Refreshing Your Mind and Restoring Your Heart

Welcome to COEX!

Coex, a large shopping mall complex located at Yeongdong-daero, Gangnam-gu, opened in March 1979. It was built and funded by the Korea International Trade Associat ion (KITA) for exhibiting Korean export goods and global events. On four stories above ground, there are exhibition halls and conference facilities, and major events including Coex Food Week and Korea Electronics Show are regularly hosted. International meetings such as the G20 Summit in 2010 were also held. On level B1, there are clothing and shoe brands stores, and restaurants. Hotels, foreigner exclusive casinos, and a city airport terminal are all located near Coex. As a result, Coex is not only a main global cultural platform but is also an attractive tourist zone.

Entrance of Coex

How to Get to Coex

From the Humanities and Social Sciences Campus, Kingos can take the Jongno 02 bus at the back gate of the campus and get off at Anguk Station. Then, take subway line No. 3, and transfer to line No. 2 at Seoul Nat’l Univ. of Education Station. After that, get off at Samsung Station and walk for 10 minutes. If you are traveling to Coex from the Natural Sciences Campus, take bus No. 7800 to Sadang Station, and then transfer to subway line No. 2. Like before, get off at Samsung Station and walk for about 10 minutes. Both journeys take about one hour and 10 minutes.

1. Coex Aquarium

Coex Aquarium, which opened in May 2000, is located at B1 of the Coex building. It has more than 40,000 aquatic organisms from over 50 species. In fact, Coex Aquarium is the biggest shark habitat in Korea, and you can see about 110 sharks from 17 different species here. You can also meet a manatee that is supersized and endangered, and Humboldt penguins which live in South America.

A Manatee Humboldt Penguins

Story of Korean Fish and the Garden of Korea

In this zone, various native Korean fish are on display. A giant catfish lives here. The size of this catfish is over 140cm, and the fish is really huge considering the size of an ordinary catfish which ranges from 30cm to 50cm. In the Korean Garden, there are long-winged koi, which exude Asian mystique because their tails are longer than the original ones, and they look like waves on a lake.

Long-Winged Koi

Amazonia World

Amazonia is a huge tropical rainforest that covers most of South America. Significantly aggressive fish live in this zone. Among them, pirarucu is the biggest freshwater fish in the world. It is an endangered species and also called a living fossil as it existed from an ancient age. It has very hard skin similar to the structure of a bulletproof jacket, so it has been known as a natural enemy of piranhas. If you see pirarucu in person, you may feel a little overwhelmed.

Pirarucu

Deep Blue Sea Tunnel

The next zone is a sea tunnel which is dome-shaped, the common thing people think of when it comes to an aquarium. There are various familiar aquatic organisms, including rays, sharks, and green sea turtles. In particular, the sand tiger shark looks like the shark in the movie Jaws, and the green sea turtle is really similar to the turtle in the film Finding Nemo.

Green Sea Turtle Sand Tiger Shark

2. Starfield Library

The Starfield Library in the center of Coex mall is a special library with bookshelves at a height of 13m and a total size of 2,800m2. In 2018, the Design for Asia Awards, which has the highest authority in design awards, gave the grand award in the environmental design category to this library. The Starfield Library has four themes: space, healing, books, and events. Everyone can use this area for free. A total of 70,000 books are here, and there are 400 different kinds of magazines in the library. Plus, various cultural events including talk shows with authors, poetry readings, lectures, and book concerts are often held.

Starfield Library

Bongeunsa: History Remains in the Center of Seoul

Bongeunsa is a Buddhist temple located on the opposite side of Coex. It is known that the temple was founded by the National Master Patriarch Yeonhoei in 794 during the Silla Dynasty and played an important role nationally during the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties. Panjeon, a place preserving wooden printing blocks, is designated as the Tangible Cultural Property No. 425 of Seoul, and the signboard of Panjeon is the last piece of art written by the famous calligrapher Kim Jeong-hee.

Jinyeomun Gate, the Entrance of Bongeunsa The Last Piece of Art by Calligrapher Kim Jeong-hee

Yeonhoeidawon

Yeonhoeidawon is a Korean traditional teahouse that was built with the hope for many people to make a good relationship in Bongeunsa. As Bongeunsa is located at the front of Coex, over 10,000 people visited per day before coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) struck. People can enjoy Buddhism culture and traditional tea here. For the menu, various Korean teas, such as puer tea, lotus root tea, lotus leaf tea, and burdock tea, are on sale, and the price is about 5,000 won per cup.

Beopwangru

Beopwangru is the place where Budda stays and 3,300 small statues of Avalokitesvara, which is the incarnation of mercy, crowd the wall. A lot of believers and visitors pray and bow here. There are some murals at the entrance of Beopwangru. Among them, there is a famous mural that depicts the story of Master Wonhyo when he found enlightenment after drinking rotten water in a skull.

A Mural About the Story of Master Wonhyo

Mireuk Daebul and Daewoongjeon

Mireuk Daebul is the great statue of Maitreya Buddha built by 10,000 participants from 1986 to 1996, and the height of the statue is about 23m. In front of the statue, there is a square where people can pray. The square is sometimes used for cultural events. Daewoongjeon is the main Budda hall serving three big Buddha statues, and there is a large painting called Sinjoongdo. The size of Sinjoongdo is 200cm in height and 245cm in width. You can see court ladies’ active religious lives in the late Joseon Dynasty through the painting.

Mireuk Daebul, the Great Statue of Maitreya Buddha

서혜준  sdw11882@g.skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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