Gwacheon National Science Museum
Located at Seoul Grand Park subway station, on the #4 line south of the Han River, is the Gwacheon National Science Museum. Exit #5 will take you right to the science museum.
Most of the exhibits were designed with Korean speaking children in mind. However, you can still have a lot of fun and learn something as an English speaking adult. Most major exhibit descriptions have some English explanation, even if the instructions for the interactive hands on opportunities are in Korean. You’re at a science museum. Use your imagination and reasoning skills and figure it out.
Pick up an English language brochure from the information booth at the entrance. It provides maps and area descriptions and is more than helpful when it comes to navigating the 6 main areas of the museum: Basic Science, Advanced Technology, Children’s Exploration, Natural History, Traditional Science and an Insectarium. The brochure also breaks down which exhibits in each of the 6 main areas were designed with what age group in mind. Kindergarten, elementary, middle school and high school aged children were the targets of most exhibits.
Behind the main building you will find the Planetarium, Insectarium, and various outdoor exhibits including a Dinosaur Park, Space Launch Vehicles, Radio Telescope, Astronomical Observatory and Eco-park. It was a hot and sticky Saturday during our visit, so we concentrated our efforts on the indoor, air conditioned areas.
This included the Planetarium. There are 5 shows a day. Since we missed the only English version at 11:30am, we attended a Korean language version at 3:30pm. The first 10-15 minutes was a constellation explanation, followed by a 40 minute movie. Our movie was about Black Holes. I’d be lying if I said the darkness, reclining chairs and audio non-comprehension didn’t put both of us to sleep. But it was a nice interlude in the middle of a hot, busy day.
A few areas of the museum stood out. Something that has always fascinated me, the section on aircraft and space travel was a lot of fun. You can see space suits, lunar landing modules and the inside of passenger jets. Our favorite was the section on food eaten in space by the first Korean astronaut in 2008. This included sticky rice, ramyeon, hot pepper paste (gochujang), tuna and even kimchi. For more information on the process of making kimchi safe for space travel, check out this New York Time’s article.
An exhibit with roots in my part of the world featured the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, AKA Galloping Gertie. The original bridge came down in 1940 when 42 mph winds caused a phenomenon known as aeroelastic flutter. Not only did this destruction take place so close to home, but a good friend of mine worked on the construction efforts of the most recent version, currently in use. During construction, his team dumped a part of this bridge in the Puget Sound below, forever giving us the excuse to give him a hard time about his construction engineering expertise and success record.
With plenty of reasons to end up at Seoul Grand Park Station this summer, (Seoul Land. Seoul Zoo. Seoul Racecourse Park Station is one stop away, where you can gamble away your hard earned money on the ponies) don’t forget about the Gwacheon National Science Museum. You won’t learn more at the other destinations. The interactive nature will make you feel like a kid for an afternoon. And you might find something to remind you of your friends at home.