South Korea Has a Towering ‘Shoe Tree’ Made of 30,000 Worn-Out Shoes, but Not Everyone Is a Fan

If the idea of 30,000 worn-out shoes amassed together to form a “shoe tree” doesn’t sound impressive on paper, just wait until you see the photos.

According to The Korea Herald, the art installation outside of South Korea’s Seoul Station railway was unveiled Saturday and has already been met with mixed reactions.

The project, known formally as Shoes Tree, is the brainchild of environmental artist Hwang Ji-hae and is literally a living, breathing tree in the making, as each of the 30,000 used shoes have been filled with flower seeds.

The installation was created to commemorate the opening of Seoul Station’s Seoullo 7017 park, which The Korea Herald says is inspired by New York City’s High Line park.

“Both Shoes Tree and Seoullo 7017 are given new life with new meaning, reborn as a creative upcycling art and a unique park, respectively,” said Choi Kwang-bin of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s city gardening department.

Designer Hwang says the shoes serve as an homage to the handmade street shoes found on Yeomcheon-gyo, which is located near Seoullo 7017.

“Each of these shoes, whether they are high heels, baby shoes, sandals or running shoes, carry different stories, memories and meanings of those who wore them,” Hwang said.

But not everyone is pleased with the massive installation.

“At first I thought it was a pile of garbage,” said Seoul resident Kim Gui-ri. “Looking at it close, it is surely a garbage mountain and smells really bad.”

“The idea of recycling worn-out materials is creative, but since it was created as public art, whose artistic meaning is to be appreciated by citizens, I personally think Shoes Tree is not serving its purpose correctly,” said Seoul art journalist Cho Sook-hyun.

Those who have been critical of the towering shoe art won’t have to put up with it much longer. Its stay at Seoullo 7017 will come to an end next Monday.

“Since Shoes Tree will be removed after nine days, I wanted to make it strong and impressive during a short period of time,” Hwang said. “I hope Shoes Tree speaks for who I am as an artist.”

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