Cheonggyecheon Stream winds through downtown Seoul, a once bustling but fouled waterway that was concreted over after the Korean War to build the expressways needed to accommodate the city’s expansion.
Now reclaimed, the stream is a public park. With the city emptied out during Lunar New Year, it becomes a place of pilgrimage for solitary walkers—almost always men—tiny against the massive pillars and the pale expanses of yellowed grass. The sepia landscape, the half-demolished infrastructure and the whiplash winter winds blowing down from streets that have emptied for the holidays lend the whole city an apocalyptic air.
Shrinking family sizes, an ageing population and a gradual deterioration of the traditional sense of Confucian duty are creating an atomised society and driving an epidemic of loneliness in urban Asia.