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Like many major cities, Seoul, South Korea’s capital, is situated near water, with the Han River running through it. The Han — also known as the Hangang — is the fourth longest river on the Korean peninsula and the second longest in South Korea. Once part of a trade route to China via the Yellow Sea, the Han River is no longer used for navigational purposes because its estuary falls along the North Korean border.

While there are many parks along the Han, it doesn’t feel like Seoul has really discovered this river yet. It’s more used as a utility, not as a way to escape the metropolis.

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The real water attraction is in the middle of the city: Cheonggyecheon is a small creek — about four miles long — that flows west to east through downtown Seoul. In the past, massive development projects have been built near the river — or over the river: From 1948 to 1960, the creek was covered over with concrete and in 1968, an elevated highway was built over it. However, in 2003, the river was given a facelift by Seoul’s former mayor, Lee Myung-bak, who became the country’s 10th president. He ordered the removal of the highway and restored the stream.

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At dusk, the creek comes to life: Thousands of people stroll by the creek, adjusting their pace from never-ending chase to a leisurely walk. Throughout the year, there are lantern and light festivals. I missed all of them. But I was able to see nightly digital installation:growing flowers throughout the night.

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Better late than never: At one point Seoul wised up and understood that you need more than building roads and offices to grow a city. You need a refuge.