From Koi farm to theme park

Reading Time: 9 minutes

And now Koi breeding again!

written by Hugo J. Smal

First handshake in Korea
First handshake in Korea

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) named Incheon airport the best airport in the world. ¥ou notice that when you walk towards the exit. It is modern, efficient and above all, very beautiful. The marble floors shine. The Yi dynasty tribal statues of Confucian scholars and soldiers are tough. I admire modern art – though from the Korean tradition. Everything immediately gives me a reassuring feeling. It was August 2003. I had landed in Korea. In the coming years, it will go from Goyang Koifarm to Beadagol theme park.

In Korea great adventure I wrote:

from Koi farm to theme park
Sanke that had to win. Owner Kim Young Soo.

“From the airport, they brought me directly to the first Korean koi show. I had to give a short speech. The organization wanted me to pass judgment. But I didn’t know if they judged the fish in a Japanese way. They want me to point out the best fish. I noticed one Sanke who should win. The other fish were not of good quality. To my surprise, a Showa won the main prize. This fish was certainly of lesser quality laid ill at the bottom of the basin. “According to our standards, this fish would have been removed from the competition,” I commented to a journalist.
After my remark, a loud tumult broke out. Tumult? Let’s call it a fierce argument. I was put in a car and after a long journey dumped in a hotel room. Somewhat nervously I thought about what had happened and what task I had if it was still waiting for me? ”

The next step is from Koi farm to the theme park.

The next morning Kim Young Soo picked me up at the hotel and we drove to Goyang Si. This city belongs to the Seoul Capital Area, and around 1 million people live there. What was striking was the great contrast. New neighbourhoods with beautiful flats. Old ones that reminded me of Korea as I had imagined. The countryside and the big city; alternating and devouring. Neither of them prevailed.

Once we walked through the always busy Gangnang (Seoul). A thousand people on the street all heading for something. An old lady is sitting in the middle of the street. In front of her a tablecloth with melons on top. Yes, it was hot! She was really in the middle of the stream of people. Nobody touched her or stood on the rug. They bowed and bought a part of the refreshing fruit. Yes, it was very hot!

from Koi farm to theme park
Only ponds and nets.

It was not until evening that we arrived at the then Goyang Koi farm. The office was what you call basic but I saw so far as the eye could see with neatly arched ponds. “A lot of koi have to swim in it,” I thought. Kim Young Soo gave the fish food. The swimmers who came by were the only ones I got to see. That the colours were good was all I could tell.

Do hinders progress my host on his way from Koi farm to the theme park?

The koi farmer said that the nursery would move very soon. A residential area with flats would be created on the spot where fish were still swimming today. The migration from the countryside to the cities was great. The economy was booming. Because of that pressure, companies also had to move. Fortunately, the government compensated for the costs.

On that first trip, Kim Young Soo took me to the palaces in Seoul. Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)  and  Changdeokgung. A big dream came true! For the first time, I visited a Buddhist temple: Yongjusa in Hwasseong. He spent the entire week full of culture, delicious Korean food and koi conversations.

He told me that he wanted to ensure that Korean Koi became known worldwide. The rice from China was too cheap to still be able to grow by Korean farmers. That is why they had to switch to another source of income. My host saw Koi as a good replacement. He wanted to compete with the Japanese growers. I suggested that it might be advisable to involve Korean culture in this.

Read further under the movie.

Second Koi farm but not yet a team park.

From a business point of view, he was made off the right stuff. He had already shown that. He built a second Goyang Koi farm. The only time I was there I discovered that Kim Young Soo paid a lot of attention to its design. The sales basins were arranged in a fairly concealed manner. On the rest of the plot, I saw a beautiful garden in the making. Unfortunately, it couldn’t stay here because flats also had to be built here. An eternal sin. But because of Kim’s deep love for his country, he also overcame this setback. Fortunately, Goyang Koifarm number 3 would be different. It would become the team park.


Many Koreans have this patriotism. Shortly after the Korean War, the Dae Han Minguk was one of the poorest countries in the world. Park Chung Hee, head of the military junta and later elected President introduced economic innovations in the 1970s that led to “the miracle of the Han River”. President Park is very controversial, he did not shy away to use a strong hand, but his economic reforms brought in money. Just after the Korean War, the country was one of the poorest in the world. In 2017 is ranked 11th place. This was one place above Russia, and many Korean are still grateful to him for that, hard hand or not.

The Koi farm is the team park.

In the book, I am writing with the working title “The Koreans and me”. I included the following piece:
“Hwaejeong Dong (the former village is now a district) is already described in the historical books Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa.
The first is the chronicles of the three kingdoms, written by Kim Busik on behalf of King Im Jong and published in 1145. Samguk Yusa is the “Memorabilia of the three kingdoms”. This is written by the monk Ir Yeon and contains legends, folk tales, biographies and historical reports. Originally people from the Han clan settled in Hwaejong Dong but in 18 BC the state of Baekje was founded.

Talking Koi with Kim Jay Ho my language bridge to Kim Young Soo and the rest of Korea.
Talking Koi with Kim Jay Ho my language bridge to Kim Young Soo and the rest of Korea.

Onjo the third son of the founder of Goguryeo, King Dongmyeong, was not allowed to succeed his father. Father had been married before. He fled from Buyeo to Jolbon without his family. There he married the daughter of a local tribal chief and fathered two more sons: Onjo and Biryu. The refugee wanted his state and therefore founded Goguryeo with the capital Sŏgyŏng present-day Pyongyang.
Yuri his son from the first marriage found out about this and soon stood in the palace to claim his birthright.

Trouble in the family.

With families like that, this never goes without drama, so Onjo and his younger brother Biryu fled to the Hangang Delta. He founded Wiryeseong in Seoul there. Biryu ignored his older brother’s good advice and moved on to the west coast. He founded Michuhol, which is now called Incheon. The saltwater and the marshes made life there impossible. Onjo predicted just that. Biryu committed suicide and his followers joined Onjo. This one was not resentful and welcomed them with joy.

He called his state Baekje. The meaning of this name is explained differently, but “Hundred of houses grossed the sea” is the most beautiful one. During the reign of King Koi (243-286) the state structure was established and in 384 monks Marananta came from Gandhara Pakistan and told the newly installed King Chimnyu about Buddha.

This story connects Hwajejeong Dong, the former village where the final Koifarm is located with Baekje. Whether the name Baedagol has to do with this history, I do not know. I will ask Kim Young Soo. The piece of land is not that far from the centre of Goyang Si. First, an office, a large greenhouse and a large number of ponds were built. The koi week could start.

A man is full of passion.

from Koi farm to theme park
Kim Young Soo a man with a passion

Kim Young Soo is very much aware of his Korean roots. Confucianism flows through his veins. He links this to a great love of nature and perhaps even greater social awareness. Or link? Perhaps this is embedded in philosophy. He visits his Shamanic Mudang once a year and then receives a large ceremony. Just to clear the soul and the mind.

Talking to everyone in full, he enlarges his network. He prefers to visit farmers and growers. He seems to know everything about vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and he invariably goes into discussions with the people who conjure this up on the table. It is a teacher that I love to listen to. This is s a bit strange because I don’t understand Korean but his way of talking speaks volumes. Take a look at the video at the bottom of the page and you see.

Kim Young Soo, Hugo J. Smal, Kim Jin Soo

A cultural mistake.

During one of my first journeys, we lost our interpreter due to a cultural error. You would think: “Kim Young Soo no English and Smal no Korean; that must be very annoying. ” We visited all kinds of farmers for a week and had a great time. With hands and feet, we come a long way together.

It was hilarious when we went to buy grapes from an old woman. We just sat down to eat on a curb. The woman came to sit with us and a passionate conversation about grapes arose. Together they looked at the grape and discussed it. And yes, after half an hour a Jerry can arrived and food became drink. It tasted very good.
I think it is an honour to be able to call Kim Young Soo my friend. During Chuseok I bowed to his ancestors and I felt included in his family circle. It is good to be there.

natural base in Goyang Si
natural base in Goyang Si

Koi farm and theme park are results of goals.

Kim Young Soo had greater ambitions than just breeding koi. According to his youngest brother, Kim Young Soo has set himself three goals. First, his family had to be cared for. In Korea, it always concerns the extended family. So not only wife and two children, but also mother, sisters, younger brother and everything around it. His father Kim Jae San died when Kim Young Soo was about fourteen years old and the poverty in the then underdeveloped Korea was very great.

Growing roses.

He took over his father’s rose nursery. The young men sold the flowers he grew on the street. He later discovered a way to grow roses from seed. Together with a Japanese breeder, he started a new company with which he earned enough money to start breeding lotuses and then switch to ornamental carp. In this way, for example, he could also fund Jin Soo’s training as a structural engineer. This, in turn, would design and build the buildings on the Baedagol theme park.

from Koi farm to theme park
Welcome to Beadagol

His second goal was to help the Hwajeong Dong people. Baedagol theme park is the final result. The park has a major economic impact on its immediate surroundings. After all, it provides work. The suppliers are not getting any worse either. His third objective was the Korean community. Hence the desire to give nature in Goyang Si a basis. The Goyang Koi Farm became the Baedagol theme park. The theme, of course, is the koi.

Fall in love with the Koi farm or the team park!

I already told you. My wish was to visit a Buddhist temple someday. Standing in front of Daegu-jeon, the main building of the Yongjusa temple, I let the area take possession of it. The beautiful exuberance of the buildings. The rhythmic chanting of the monks. The beautiful surrounding landscape. Birds chattering in the air and the Ginko already turned yellow. A fantastic counterbalance to the bright red Acers. I planted my feet firmly on the ground. The environment absorbs me. I fell in love with Korea.

My first trip to Korea also marked the start of an in-depth study of Korean culture. The moment Kim Young Soo noticed that I wanted to have the bottom stone up in this regard, he asked me to promote beautiful Korea. In the end, that was the start of and the road that my host travelled from Koi farm to theme park.

And then again the Koi breeding.

Go Sanke at Baedagol
Go Sanke at Baedagol

I can see it happening. The first Zen Nippon Arinkai supported koi show in Korea at the Baedagol theme park. There are enough growers to fill the basins. Of course, I hope that there are also enough hobbyists to participate. The required knowledge must be transferred. So that it can also be carried out safely. There must also be a flourishing association. So there is a lot of work to do. If Kim Young Soo wishes I will go for it.

The Baedagol theme park is not only a swimming paradise for Koi. During the hot days of summer, it attracts thousands of visitors every day for a refreshing dip in the swimming pool. There is a petting zoo for the little ones. Their parents can enjoy a large Bonsai exhibition or visit the folk museum. You can eat in the restaurant but you can also prepare your food. In the winter you can skate there. 

For more information theme park Baedagol  Koi farm  Goyang Koi farm

You can follow me and Mickey Paulssen’s Baedagol adventure on Facebook