Seoul, Korea, is home to 3 distinct amusement parks. For our son’s 6th birthday we chose to take him to SeoulLand based on its reviews as the most family-friendly of the three parks.
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Here is our experience and some things you should know before going to SeoulLand!
Our Scary Experience at SeoulLand
Our son is a daredevil. A true Adrenaline Junkie, he loves rock climbing, rappelling, all things fast and tall, small spaces, dark places, water sports, and anything else that gets your heart pumping.
His very favorite activity, though, is riding roller coasters.
We hard-core celebrated when he was big enough to ride Expedition Everest and Space Mountain, for example. He’s done every roller coaster he qualifies for at Disney World, Universal Studios, LEGOLand, Cedar Point, Carowinds, Canada’s Wonderland, and King’s Dominion.
In fact, as we’ve been travelling around the world he’ll wake up and say, “Are we doing something as fun as a roller coaster today?” Usually our answer is no, and he finds a way to always stay happy and positive.
That’s why we chose to surprise Whit with a day at one of Seoul’s amusement parks for his birthday!
We were really excited for our day at SeoulLand. Entry is cheap ($17 USD) and Whit was tall enough to ride everything- perfect for his birthday celebration!
As soon as we entered SeoulLand it felt like an abandoned theme park. Music was playing, but there were no people. Ride attendants were guarded inside watch booths, so we even had to yell “Hello!” as we approached an attraction. The colors and characters have started to fade and seem outdated, making the entire place seem forgotten.
At first we thought having a theme park to ourselves was really cool. We took pictures being the only people on each ride and planned which ones we may want to get on repeatedly.
Ben eventually asked an attendant why no one else was there, though, and his response surprised us: It’s too hot.
It was 90 degrees F (32 C) outside as we ran from ride to ride, only going on 2 lackluster attractions before heading to the big coaster section of SeoulLand.
The Double Loop coaster, one of the main attractions, was closed for a few hours when we got to it, but it’s sister coaster, the Black Hole 2000, was open. We headed there, excited that Whit, at 121 cm, barely made the 120 cm height requirement and to have the entire ride to ourselves once again.
We regretted our decision almost immediately.
Most rides at SeoulLand are outdated by American standards, including the smoothness of their tracks. This coaster was even worse than old-fashioned wooden coasters! We were bounced and pulled from side to side so much on it’s many twists and turns that half-way through Whit was crying and I was instinctively trying to hold my head. Ben thinks Whit may have even passed out, as his head was flopping around his chest during one of the loops. With a running time of 2:45, the torture seemed to last forever.
We got off and Whit was crying hysterically. We think the Black Hole 2000 has broken his love of roller coasters.
We sat on a bench and held him as he sobbed, complained of a headache and backache, and asked to go home.
To be honest, I felt the same way.
We didn’t want to leave on such a bad note, though, so we slowly walked back to the entrance/ exit and talked about some of the cool “small” rides we were passing. We convinced Whit to try two more rides and the indoor playground before pulling the plug on SeoulLand.
We were there for around 2 hours.
Whit had stopped crying and was trying to get into a better mood, but was still cranky and complaining of a headache and being tired. He didn’t want to stop for any of the suggested Birthday treats we gave him. He repeated that he just wanted to go home.
I held him for our walk back to the subway station, and he fell asleep on my bouncing shoulder. He stayed asleep on my lap as we waited for the train. He slept on Ben during our train ride. We took him home and he slept for 2 hours until we woke him up for dinner.
When we woke him up we were concerned he might have gotten a minor concussion on the roller coaster, so we started asking him questions. His eyes were bloodshot and his body kept jerking as he struggled to answer our questions. He seemed so out of it! He didn’t want his favorite candy and even forgot that it was his birthday. He also seemed really hot but was complaining of being cold, so Ben took his temperature: 102.4 F.
We called a local American ER doctor working for the Army hospital in Seoul we had met at church that week. He very kindly talked to Ben about Whit’s symptoms and said it sounded more like heat exhaustion than a concussion, and that sleep and water would help Whit feel better. Oh good! We were off to a good start!
We gave him plenty of water throughout the night and sent him to bed without watching any screens, as instructed.
I was terrified.
One of my worst fears right now is that Whit will get into an accident while we’re travelling and we won’t know how to help him. I kept thinking, “This is it. This is it. Something is wrong. He hit his head and has a brain bleed. An aneurysm. We’re going to lose him. He is going to die on his birthday.”
The relief I felt when he woke up on July 19th was incredible!
Looking back, I’m not convinced it was just heat exhaustion. We have been outside walking around for hours every day since we arrived in Hong Kong 3 weeks ago, but Whit got heat exhaustion when we’d only been out for 2 hours? We’d even stopped for lots of water breaks!
It had to have been related to the coaster, right? All of his symptoms (except the temperature) started after the coaster. He had been so happy before that, but was tired, in pain, and acting unusual immediately afterward. It was like a switch had flipped.
We didn’t check his temperature until after his nap (which is the symptom that distinguishes between concussion and heat exhaustion for children), but he had been sleeping in sunlight from his window so many the heat symptoms started then?
We think he had a combination of a minor concussion (from the coaster) and heat exhaustion (from sun exposure) that day, which is so scary. Either of those things could be deadly if experienced on a grander scale, and we feel so lucky that he recovered within a day!
Understanding Different Safety Standards
What really bothers me is that Whit had qualified for the big coaster. And this wasn’t his first one! He’s been on big coasters in the past with no problem whatsoever. What made this one different? Should the height requirement have been higher? His head had been low in the seat, after all.
Ultimately this is on us: his parents. We should have known that he was too small even though he passed the height check and has been on coasters before. We should have checked his head placement while in the restraint to see where he was most vulnerable in case of bad turbulence.
In checking the picture the ride attendant snapped before we left it’s clear that Whit’s head is too low in the harness. It’s in the perfect place to bump against the sides on a rough ride, without having the torso support he would need. From now on we’ll check this placement to make sure his head is higher in the harness, or stay away from rides with this type of harness altogether.
Does this mean we should abide by American roller coaster standards no matter where we are? Maybe. We could check each ride’s stats, compare them to rides in the States, and go by the height requirements for the American equivalent instead of wherever we are.
I feel like this could have been avoided if the Black Hole 2000 had been a smoother ride. To me the deeper issue seems to go back to poor or outdated engineering, not the passenger’s height. If it had been a smooth coaster Whit would still have been whipped around and may have passed out again, but he wouldn’t have knocked his head and been jerked against his back so often he left with a concussion.
Maybe tough height requriements are in place as an additional measure in case rides are bumpy?
I definitely don’t understand roller coaster safety as well as I want to, but I’ll be much more careful with my precious cargo from now on!
If he sets foot in another theme park, that is.
Here’s some helpful info on SeoulLand in case you’re still interested in going!
Take the #4 train towards Oido and get off at the Seoul Grand Park stop.This is also the stop for the museum, Seoul zoo, and botanical garden so the train may be crowded!
Leave via Exit 2 (beside the large mural on the left side of the station) and walk down the large sidewalk toward the big building on the opposite side. You’ll see a large fountain in front of the building. Here you’ll find the ticket booth for the Elephant Train, which is a tram to take you to the entrance of SeoulLand.
Getting Tickets for SeoulLand:
You can buy tickets to SeoulLand one of two ways: all-access tickets online or specified use tickets in-person.
We bought tickets online and had to go to the Information station to get our tickets printed before heading into the park. This was fast and easy once we arrived at the gate!
You can also buy tickets from stands inside the park. These tickets work as a punch card. Paper tickets cost a certain amount of money and are good for so many punches. You carry around the ticket and show it to the teller at the attraction for punches. You’ll have to watch your punches and decide how many you’ll want to get through the entire park, but it can be worth it if you don’t want to do as much!
SeoulLand Character Town:
Comprised of Fantasy Land and Adventure Land (sound familiar?) More than half of the park is designated “Character Town” and displays cartoon character and cartoon-themed rides and decor.
The reason we chose SeoulLand for our son’s 6th birthday was it’s characters. The park is definitely geared toward smaller children! There is a big rides section on the other side of SeoulLand, but you’ll mostly see Asian-style cartoon character cut outs and vibrating coin cars as well as brightly-painted patterns on the walking path. Our son wasn’t as into this as we’d hoped, since he didn’t recognize any of the characters.
If you’re with small children or are young at heart you’ll enjoy the decor, though!
In addition to Korean cartoons such as Larva (Seriously. Cartoon larva eating poop balls and farting was a big thing.) there is also a disturbing (but expected) amount of knock-off Disney and other American cartoon decor. Animal Kingdom is a small section of the park which displays Lion King-like banners, Tobot Train is a small circular kid’s coaster made to resemble Rescue Bots/ Transformers, an outdoor ropes course is guarded by Planes lookalikes, Adventure Land is straight out of Peter Pan, etc.
We were able to find Dippin Dots, caramel corn, and candy shoppes, but also Asian goodies like dried cuttlefish!
There was also an impressive number of restaurants. There were themed restaurants like the Restaurant de Rodeo (Which serves spaghetti and fried pork with Indian decor for some reason) as you’d expect from an amusement park, but also a couple of Lotteria’s (a MacDonald’s-esq fast food joint) and a Dunkin’ Donuts.
Rides at SeoulLand:
This is the main reason for going to a theme park, right?
Well… don’t get excited. There are a lot of rides and attractions, but they’re all pretty lame. The main height requirements are 80 cm, 100 cm, and 120 cm, and a variety of rides from kiddie to adult fit all of these sizes.
We were lucky that Whit is just over 120 cm, so we were able to do anything at the park.
Character Town (the kid’s main zone) has 30 attractions including a carousel, bumper cars, swing, flying pirate ship, and others you’d expect.
Tomorrow Land (big ride zone) has 15 attractions including 2 big coasters, 2 drop towers, and other thrill rides.
Final Thoughts on SeoulLand: Do we recommend it?
I’m really torn on whether or not to recommend SeoulLand. Partly because I’m pretty mad at them for their safety standards right now.
On the one hand it’s a great value. Definitely the cheapest park we’ve ever been to, and it is full of attractions. Even if you only want to go on a few rides the price makes it worth a quick trip.
On the other hand you should not go on a hot day. You should also be careful going with small children! Be cautious when taking kids on big coasters, as the Asian safety system isn’t as strict as it is in America.
Don’t expect a glamorous park. SeoulLand has lots to do and fun food stalls, but it’s not pretty. The characters and street paint are outdated, there’s no decoration on the floor of coasters, etc.
But if you’re into theme parks and are willing to walk in, tour, and walk back out you may as well go!
If you go to SeoulLand please share your experience below! We would love to hear what you think of it!
Enjoy roller coasters and theme parks overseas? Pin this article for later to remember safety standards!
*We were NOT given tickets or compensation for our visit to SeoulLand. All recommendations and opinions are our own.*