Homeless in Seoul

The following is a thoughtful post written by my sister after she visited Seoul.

I was in Seoul early this year and was a little disappointed. Not that the city was not a vibrant fun place, but I was looking for something with a starker contrast to Singapore – you know, getting out of the urban setting for some fresh air. I was looking for something that reveals a bit of the soul of a place.

It was on the last day of my trip that I spotted this beautiful colonial train station next to the modern bustling Seoul Station.  It was actually the original Seoul Station before a newer and bigger train station took over its role.


I walked towards the old station and realized it was abandoned. All the gates were locked but what I didnt expect was that it has become a much needed shelter for the homeless of this big metropolis.

The first sign was a homeless man sleeping in the midst of a bustling walkway and passing pedestrians.

It was a sunny Sunday and there was a mobile van turned into temporary sanctuary for a church service. There was a makeshift projector and even sound system with some church workers holding a service for the homeless or anyone who is willing to stop to listen. The church workers wore bright yellow vests and were singing in Korean, but I felt a sense of peace floating through the air even though I didn’t understand a word!

As I crossed the main atrium and walked behind the building, there was a bridge where you could see the railway tracks, but the first thing that hits you is the smell of urine.


There was an old man wrapped in thick blanket sleeping in the corner, and I guess a bottle of beer next to him.

There were more homeless men sleeping at the corners and along the bridge.  There were make shift beds using cardboards, plastic sheets and I guess any materials they can find.

It was a very different face of Seoul that I stumbled upon. Life can be harsh for those left behind in the relentless quest for globalization. Strangely sad but ubiquitous by-product of urbanization it seemed. I left wondering who these people are, how they ended up on the streets, what would happen to them when the weather turns too cold to stay outdoors…