There is a small abandoned theme park in Seoul, South Korea, with a frozen carousel, fading images of ’80s pop icons, and dodgems that that no longer collide. But unlike most amusement parks that have gone totally dead, this one invites the public to share in its slow decaying.
Yongma Land was built in 1980 as a humble, family-friendly amusement park and was a popular location for local families for the first decade after it opened. However, when Lotte World opened in 1989, people lost interest in this little, neighborhood amusement park. Lotte World is, in fact, a major recreation complex in Seoul and this is the world’s largest indoor theme park, with an outdoor amusement park called “Magic Island”, an artificial island inside a lake linked by monorail, shopping malls, a luxury hotel, a Korean folk museum, sports facilities, and movie theaters. It receives 7.3 million visitors each year.
Moreover, already in 2011 tastes had changed, and the park officially ceased operation in the same year. Despite stories of a haunting or two, the reason of its abandonment was likely just a matter of profit.
Today the structure is in the hands of an enterprising local businessman, and the old Yongma Land is open again, but this time to have fun in the disturbing charm of its decay. For a small sum of 10.000 won (about 7€) visitors are free to roam the old rides, and the “profit” earned will be used to maintain a certain level of dilapidation in the park. For 25.000 won, the owner will turn on the lights of the ghostly merry-go-round for you after 8:00 pm.
Though it is no longer operating as an amusement park, the decaying atmosphere continue to attract visitors, and the fading colors and abandoned figures have proven attractive for musicians and other artists too, inspiring several K-pop videos, like Crayon Pop’s “Bar Bar Bar” video, and other photo shoots. It is also a hot spot for cosplay and various other trends and with piles of dodgem cars, a rusting octopus ride, a Viking ship, and an old clown-like roller coaster, there is still plenty of atmosphere to inspire even amateur photographers.