3 Places On My Bucket List in South Korea
A business or a media trip is perhaps a good way to get introduced to a country. But exploration needs time. I fell in love with the weather, discipline and cleanliness in South Korea during my visit in 2015 (on invitation by the Journalists Association of Korea-JAK). This year, JAK invited us for a zoom conference to discuss peace in the Korean peninsula. This is an annual exercise carried out by the association to build a space for public diplomacy as well as highlight the need for peace in the region. And the governments of Gyeonggi-do province and Suwon City were the partners. So, on my last trip I physically saw some amazing places, this year I saw some virtually. And now three of those are on my bucket list as and when international travel opens up.
Gyeonggi-do is the province surrounding Seoul, the capital of South Korea. It is the most populated province of Korea having about 13 million inhabitants, more than one-fifth of the entire Korean population. It is a hub of economy and industry, housing giants like Suwon Samsung Semiconductor, Hyundai KIA in Uiwang, Paju’s LG Corporation LCD Complex and more. Suwon is the capital of this province.
Gyeonggi-do is also a popular tourist destination with stunning landscapes, amusement parks, excellent shopping facilities and captivating historic sites. Here, Korean Folk Village is a popular site. Even the famous DMZ or Demilitarized Zone is here. This is home to some rare flora and fauna and the most visited places are the JSA, Third Infiltration Tunnel, Dora Observatory, Dorasan Train Station, Imjingak. I have visited all these.
- The south end of DMZ was designated as the Han River Estuary Wetland Protected Area. And this has now gone my bucket list. With beautiful cliffs and magnificent rock formations, Hantan River area has been listed as the UNESCO Global Geopark. The Hantan River flows through Gangwon Province and Gyeonggi Province, joining the Imjin River and eventually the Han River before emptying into the Yellow Sea. The Hantan River Geopark covers an area of 1,165 square kilometers and is located near the DMZ. The unique geological aspects of the Hantan River were formed after a volcanic episode that occurred sometime between 5, 40,000–1, 20,000 years ago. The flowing lava created beautiful valleys and terrain such as basalt cliffs, columnar jointing, and waterfalls.
A total of 26 attractions can be found the area, including Hwajeokyeon, Pigeonang Falls, Jaein Falls, Jiktang Falls, Goseokjeong Pavilion, and Cheorwon Lava Plateau.
To date, UNESCO has designated 161 Global Geoparks in 44 countries. The concept of Global Geoparks embraces a holistic approach to the protection of geologically significant areas.
2. Suwon, located in central Korea, is the country’s first planned city. This large city has a population of more than 2 million people. It’s actually a satellite city of Seoul and other metros, being just an hour’s drive from the Incheon International Airport. Global major Samsung Electronics is located here.
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was registered as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997. Suwon Hwaseong was built based not only on the filial devotion of King Jeongjo but also on the grand ambition to root out partisan politics and promote royal politics. Located in the southern section of the capital, it served as a national fortress.
Hwaseong has both military defenses and commercial functions. The original fortress shape has been preserved and Suwon-cheon (stream) still flows through Buksumun (Hwahongmun). The street network that used to connect Paldalmun, Janganmun, Hwaseonghaenggung and Changryongmun still maintains the major frameworks of the city, preserving the shape of the fortress as it was 200 years ago.
3. Languages are so interesting. They are the only form of verbal and written communication. And it’s fascinating to see how each region had and has its own native language. Suwon Museum consists of ‘Suwon History Museum’ which presents the rich history and culture of the city, and ‘Korea Calligraphy Museum’ which helps visitors easily understands the history of calligraphy in Korea.
Suwon also has another interesting ‘National Map M u s e u m’. This is the only museum specializing in maps in Korea, operated by National Geographic Information Institute, which is an organization responsible for creating maps of Korea. Visitors can find old maps of Korea, equipment for mapping, and models of measurement facilities.
Of course, there’s so much more to see, but for now, this is on my list.