Locked in Everlasting Love

Locks and love aren’t exactly synonymous. Love after all, was supposed to set you free. But at the N Seoul Tower in Namsan Park, South Korea, you’ll find thousands and thousands of locks symbolizing the love between couples. Unearthing Asia takes a peek behind this unusual tradition that has seen tourists both locals and internationals alike flock the site.

A spectacular night view of Seoul from up at the Seoul Tower. Photo credit - ziczic90

A spectacular night view of Seoul from up at the Seoul Tower. Photo credit - ziczic90

With a spectacular night view of Seoul and a wide range of restaurants, the N Seoul Tower (simplified as just Seoul Tower) is emerging as a hot spot for a growing number of romantics, both young and old. Located in central Seoul in the middle of Namsan Park, the tower reaches 480 meters above sea level, allowing a luxurious view of the entire city and the surrounding areas.

During the weekend, the tower is almost always full with visitors, both locals and tourists alike. Most visitors ride the Namsan cable car up the mountain, and then hike up to the tower. As I made my way up towards the base of the tower, I spotted plenty of couples mixed with various groups large and small. Obviously, it was a popular place for lovers, tho I can’t understand why quite yet – I personally prefer peace and quiet for a romantic date, instead of large crowds and boisterous teenagers.

Inside the Seoul Tower. Photo credit - hyku

Inside the Seoul Tower. Photo credit - hyku

The Seoul Tower is actually a communication tower built in 1969, and opened to the public in 1980. At the foot of the tower, there is a plaza with various amenities and facilities. You can find a Food Court, various Multi-Media Show and Media Art installations, as well as a Lobby & Media Zone whose seats were cunningly designed to fit two people just nicely. A great place to relax and enjoy the view.

There is also the Pavilion, a cultural experience space with performances and exhibitions for adults and children. Outside the plaza, the Teddy Bear Museum is always popular with the girls, with cutesy illustrations of Korea’s cultural history.

I eagerly made my way up towards the sky terrace attached to the tower. The air is cool and breezy, with a great open view of Seoul. “This is probably better than the view up at the top, from behind those glass walls,” I thought to myself. The freedom of being out in the open air always excites me, and this was no different.

Because of the large crowd, I had to push my way through to get to the edge of the fences, and thats when I found out why this place was so popular with the romantics.

Thousands of locks adorn the fences on the terrace at Seoul Tower. Photo credit - Jinho.Jung

Thousands of locks adorn the fences on the terrace at Seoul Tower. Photo credit - Jinho.Jung

Thousands of locks adorn the fences, hung by couples both young and old, with the keys thrown away to ensure that the sweethearts’ vows to never separate are kept forever.

Now the idea of a lock as a symbol of love is a double-edged sword. Its a promise and commitment to being together, a vow to never separate. At the same time, it is also the end of freedom, a symbol of being caged in prison for the rest of your life. Fortunately for us, Seoulites has embraced the former much more than the latter.

This idea originated from local tourists a few years ago who saw the same thing at Tokyo Tower. Recently, it’s enjoying a renewal after two stars dated there in a popular reality show. Since then, locals flock the site, and international tourists have similarly embraced this novel idea.

Most of the locks are decorated with writings, drawings and stickers while some cannot even be called locks. Some used chain locks for bikes shaped as hearts, as well as pink and red heart-shaped ribbons on their locks.

The chain fence is in danger of buckling down under the increasing weight. Photo credit - stari4ek

The chain fence is in danger of buckling down under the increasing weight. Photo credit - stari4ek

Unfortunately, the chain link fence was not designed to accommodate this extra weight. As more and more locks are left behind, the weight increases and the fences are starting to bend. With the locks filling the whole area, its almost impossible for children to enjoy the surrounding view. Since the tradition includes throwing away the keys to the lock, there is also a danger that other people under the terrace might be hit.

Romantics from all over the world certainly hope that this beautiful tradition can continue, but what can be done to safe the overburdened chain fences? Simply replacing it with a new one may prove to be an unpopular decision with the various couples whose locks adorn the fence. In the mean time however, Seoul Tower’s locks of Love remains a memorable, must-do event for both local and foreign tourists.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. Freelance graphic artist and travel fanatic. Twiter-addict and social media novice. Adventure budget traveler and stay home weekend worker. Before working on Unearthing Asia, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now that he’s settled down for the time being (till 2010) in Jakarta, he’s focusing his efforts on social media and his location-independent-service-provider career.


17 Comments on "Locked in Everlasting Love"

  1. Nik on Fri, 20th Feb 2009 3:09 am 

    @Mich: I should’ve added a lock for you and me when I had the chance huh? We.. just have to go there and do it ourselves I guess 😉

  2. Michelle Lee on Fri, 20th Feb 2009 6:05 am 

    Hmm, let’s not squeeze with the crowd. We’ll find another romantic yet obscure place to put ours. =) That’ll be… interesting… =D~

  3. Craig on Sun, 22nd Feb 2009 11:33 pm 

    We found a few places with this in Europe. Riga, Latvia being the one that really springs to mind. It’s such a strange phenomenon, huh? How does it get started?

  4. admin on Mon, 23rd Feb 2009 4:50 pm 

    Oh it’s a worldwide thing! Nice.. I guess its one of those silly things that just caught fire and started a trend.

    I’ve never been there but.. I imagine it’ll be nice to leave a lock on the top floors of the Eiffel Tower!

  5. Nadia Tjhin on Wed, 25th Feb 2009 6:52 am 

    i should have do the same thing lyke what nik said! loL*

    bah.. please change the admin pic!!!

  6. Melanie Waldman on Sun, 1st Mar 2009 5:12 pm 

    Nik, this is amazing — now my husband and I want to go to Seoul for bulgogi AND the Locks of Love! (He may not know it yet, but someday he’ll also be going The Teddy Bear Museum…)

    I’ve had a great time sampling Asia on your site and choosing romantic places to visit — please consider yourself linked!

  7. Nik on Mon, 2nd Mar 2009 12:48 pm 

    Thanks very much Melanie!

    There are plenty more to share about South Korea, definitely a place I enjoyed. Really wish I could’ve stayed longer and explored more than just Seoul and Jeju Island.

  8. montreal florist on Thu, 3rd Sep 2009 8:59 pm 

    It is really interesting “Thousands of locks”.

  9. Positive World Travel on Thu, 1st Jul 2010 5:01 pm 

    Really Interesting! Great photos too!

  10. locks of love « Mr. Kate on Sat, 14th May 2011 5:58 am 

    […] seoul, south korea, young couples flock to the namsan tower to fasten padlocks to the fence to show their love for each other.  some people chose to put the locks in the […]

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  12. Luanne on Sat, 14th Jul 2012 4:15 pm 

    This is an informative piece, and I love the pics. I’ve put up a link to your piece on an upcoming post because you explain the story of the locks at the tower very well.

  13. Summer Holiday at Redang Island | Island Resorts Maldives | Holiday & Travel Guide on Mon, 10th Sep 2012 1:56 am 

    […] and Attractions all around Asia. He dreams of white sandy beaches at Patong Beach, and the night scenery at Seoul Tower, amongst […]

  14. KnowledgeOfAsia on Mon, 15th Oct 2012 3:43 pm 

    I’m just about to visit this place and add my lock to it but now I realize it might be a burden to the structure. I wonder if they’ve done anything to strengthen it?

  15. Leave For Korea But Don’t Leave Your Cat | linxiatour on Thu, 17th Jan 2013 8:22 am 

    […] can also visit the popular “Locks of Love” in the tower to witness yourself the symbolization of the everlasting love between lovers’ […]

  16. jude on Wed, 20th Feb 2013 12:09 am 

    Wow, I was on the Pont des Arts today and I was struck by the number of locks, which has increased significantly since the last time I was there. And now i learn there is some in South Korea too, i though it was just an european tradition.

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