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Korea, South

The island and province of Jeju

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, November 17, 2013 at 04:09:13 :: Korea, South

Crater lake at the top of Mount HallaLocated 130 km southwest of the Korean Peninsula, Jejudo Island or Jeju Island is South Korea’s largest island and coterminous with the province of the same name.

Jeju Island, also known as the "Island of the Gods" measures 73 km from west to east, and 31 km from north to south for a surface area of 1,846 sqkm. Its capital and largest city, Jeju City, is served by Jeju International Airport. The city is a well-known resort, with prestigious hotels, wider range of bars and restaurants, and public casino facilities. Other cities on the island include Seogwipo (home to Jeju's World Cup Stadium), Gimyeong, Seongsan, Gangjeong and Hallim.

In 2007, UNESCO has recognized 3 sites as World Heritage Site under the name “Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes”: Hallasan Mountain, the fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, and the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System.

Hallasan Mountain

The dormant volcano Hallasan, located in the central part of the island, stands 1,950 meters above sea level. 360 satellite volcanoes are around the main volcano. The whole area makes Mount Hallasan National Park which includes a unique flora such as the 1,565 vascular plant species recorded around.

➜ Continue reading "The island and province of Jeju"
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Korean diversion, Suwon, South Korea

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, July 31, 2008 at 12:04:29 :: Korea, South

Suwon, capital of Gyeonggi-do Province that shares its border with North Korea, is proving a nice escape from Seoul.

Story by KARNJANA KARNJANATAWE
Photos by Landolia

From a young age Korean children are required to learn three things: be grateful to parents, love their country and protect nature, which they memorise by heart not in classrooms but by visiting cultural and historical places.

And perhaps no where in South Korea is this trait more in evidence than in Suwon city, 35 kilometres south of Seoul. Suwon is the capital of Gyeonggi-do, a province bordering North Korea.

Suwon view and Hwaseong Fortress area, Suwon, South Korea


According to Hong Ji-Hee of the Korean-Thailand Communication Center, it is mandatory for schools to organise study trips to royal palaces, museums and cultural sites in order to engender in students a sense of affection and love for their roots and motherland. Korean history dates back more than 5,000 years, she said, but not many ancient artefacts are left today because for most of its existence the country had been at war.

Take the Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon for example. Built in 1794 by King Jeongjo in the shape of a lotus bloom and declared a World Heritage site in 1997, very little of the original three-storey structure that sits in the middle of a compound 5.7km long remains standing today. It was crumbling and had to be restored brick by brick, specially the surrounding walls and guard towers. To Koreans, lotus is a symbol of gratefulness.

Visitors can walk the compound or take a tram tour complete with English-speaking guides. Inside they will find Haenggung, the royal residence, where on display are royal arts, traditional costumes and court culture. For entertainment, it also has a section where you can try your hand at traditional Korean archery.

At first glance the palace architecture looks similar to what you see in China and Japan, but there is one difference: the roof of a Korean palace has a shallow curve in the middle, while Chinese palaces have none and those in Japan have a deeper curve, said Bea Choong-Ho, our guide. The other major difference is that Japanese palaces are less colourful than their Korean counterparts.

Janganmun north gate, Hwaseong (Brilliant Fortress - 수원 화성) located in Suwon (수원시), in Gyeonggi-do (경기도), South Korea (대한민국)


"There are five colours that we reserve for painting temples and palaces: red, green, blue, yellow and light blue. Normal people can not paint their houses in these colours," he noted.

Kindergarten and primary school students could be seen everywhere. "Our children learn history before they are allowed to visit amusement parks," he added.

Also on display are models of King Jeongjo, his queen, courtiers and a banquet for his mother hosted to mark her 61st birthday anniversary. The room from where the king discharged his official duties is open to the public, who are kept entertained with a 30-minute martial arts performance re-enacting famous battle scenes from the past.

The fortress is pride of Suwon, said, Ra Su-Heung, director of the city's culture and tourism division.

Another popular spot for students is the Waujeongsa Temple in Yong-in city, east of Suwon. It was built in 1987 by a North Korean who prayed for reunification of South and North Korea.

Said Choi Eun-Ha, a volunteer guide who also teaches English at a primary school, "Highlight of the temple is Buddha with a large head sitting atop a pile of rocks 80 metres high. The statue is not finished yet, not until the two Koreas unite. Then, to the head will be added the body and the complete statue will be 100 metres tall."

The temple's other eminent feature is a reclining Buddha carved from juniper that, she said, is the largest of its kind in the world. Twelve metres long, wood for the statue was sourced from India. People come here to pray for reunification.

The Korean Folk Village is the city's other attraction. Stepping inside, it reminded me of Ancient City in Samut Prakan. It features traditional Korean houses that trace the lifestyle and ambience dating as far back as 1345.

The village opened in 1974 and exhibits around 360 different types of houses and 18,000 traditional items. "Most of the houses are originals sourced from different parts of the country and reassembled here," said James Jong, a guide there.

"We want to preserve them so that succeeding generations of Koreans can come here and learn how their ancestors used to live and at the same time propagate folk wisdom."

The houses, reminiscent of styles native to both North and South Korea, are not there just for show but they have occupants, and variously depict the residence of government officials and farmers. Also present are medical stores and a traditional market.

Busy shopping street downtown Suwon, South Korea


Walking the village I came across a house where in evidence was the ingenuity of Korean farmers to help them survive the harsh winter. Its thatched roof with eight layers of straw padding plus cardboard doors and windows offered insulation from cold outside, while for warmth heat from kitchen fire was channelled via pipes that ran under its raised floor. Koreans call this home-perfected way of heating ondol.

The village is a popular location for film shoots, including the period TV drama Daejanggeum (The Irresistible Woman). It also hosts traditional dances and wedding rites.

On a field trip, it's only after they have studied and learned about their traditions, roots and heritage are Korean children allowed into amusement parks, and the biggest of them is Everland, a water park also located in Yong-in.

For the kindergartners, it is time for fun. At Everland they particularly enjoy an activity called Splash in which staff impersonating cartoon characters zap them with water guns, drawing cheers and screams from the kids.

Tourists and primary grade students, however, prefer the recently opened wooden roller-coaster and its 77-degree drop. The entire ride lasts just three minutes but it seems like a lifetime, and it is non-stop fun. "I screamed and screamed," said Rossaporn, a visitor from Thailand. "It's the most fun I have had at an amusement park."

There is another park, Tiger World, that attracts loads of primary school students. It is located in Pocheon city. Among its various attractions is a ski dome fed by snow all year round where you can go skiing or skate-boarding. Visitors from Thailand might find it a bit cold because temperature inside the dome is maintained at a constant minus two degrees Celsius.

Kang-Sik Kim, manager of Gyeonggi-do Tourist Association, summed up the charm of the province saying, "It is a vacation destination for all Koreans, especially for residents of Seoul, for it offers an interesting perspective on our history, culture, food and entertainment."
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In The News

Christmas goes global - Seoul, Korea, South

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 19, 2010 at 04:27:05

Typical Seoul, South Korea's largest city with over ten million peopleAlmost a third of South Koreans profess the Christian faith, the largest proportion in any Asian nation bar the Philippines. Christmas in Seoul, then, has a deeper meaning than in most Asian capitals, yet on Christmas Day, a public holiday, most people go out and about to enjoy the lights and go shopping as usual. In a country famed for its electronics, the light shows are brilliant and ubiquitous in downtown Seoul; for most people, Christmas is just an excuse for more razzle-dazzle and fun than usual, something to brighten up mid-winter.

A speciality is the Korean Christmas cake, creamy with strawberries on top, and popular as a gift. Santa Claus is big with children: Santa Halabuji, "Grandpa Santa", they call him.

Churches hold Christmas pageants and conduct special services. After the Christmas Eve service, many young Christians go caroling to the homes of older church members and are treated to hot drinks and snacks.

UNESCO World Heritage

Korea, South, Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 23, 2013 at 05:45:39

Location South Korea
Coordinates N36 32 21 E128 31 0
Property 600 ha
Date of Inscription 2010

Brief Description (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1324 )

Founded in the 14th-15th centuries, Hahoe and Yangdong are seen as the two most representative historic clan villages in the Republic of Korea. Their layout and location - sheltered by forested mountains and facing out onto a river and open agricultural fields – reflect the distinctive aristocratic Confucian culture of the early part of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The villages were located to provide both physical and spiritual nourishment from their surrounding landscapes. They include residences of the head families, together with substantial timber framed houses of other clan members, also pavilions, study halls, Confucian academies for learning, and clusters of one story mud-walled, thatched-roofed houses, formerly for commoners. The landscapes of mountains, trees and water around the village, framed in views from pavilions and retreats, were celebrated for their beauty by 17th and 18th century poets.

Photos from Landolia

Hahoe Folk Village Yangdong Folk Village

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Korea, South, Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 23, 2013 at 05:36:17

Location South Korea
Coordinates N37 11 50 E128 27 10
Property 1,891 ha
Date of Inscription 2009

Brief Description (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1319 )

The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty form a collection of 40 tombs scattered over 18 locations. Built over five centuries, from 1408 to 1966, the tombs honoured the memory of ancestors, showed respect for their achievements, asserted royal authority, protected ancestral spirits from evil and provided protection from vandalism. Spots of outstanding natural beauty were chosen for the tombs which typically have their back protected by a hill as they face south toward water and, ideally, layers of mountain ridges in the distance. Alongside the burial area, the royal tombs feature a ceremonial area and an entrance. In addition to the burial mounds, associated buildings that are an integral part of the tombs include a T-shaped wooden shrine, a shed for stele, a royal kitchen and a guards’ house, a red-spiked gate and the tomb keeper’s house. The grounds are adorned on the outside with a range of stone objects including figures of people and animals. The Joseon Tombs completes the 5,000 year history of royal tombs architecture in the Korean peninsula.

Photos from Landolia

Tomb of King Seongjong Tomb of Sejong the Great

More photos and localization on interactive Google Map


Korea, South, Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 21, 2013 at 04:55:37

Location South Korea
Coordinates N33 28 8 E126 43 13
Property 9,475 ha
Date of Inscription 2007

Brief Description (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1264 )

Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes together comprise three sites that make up 18,846 ha. It includes Geomunoreum, regarded as the finest lava tube system of caves anywhere, with its multicoloured carbonate roofs and floors, and dark-coloured lava walls; the fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, rising out of the ocean, a dramatic landscape; and Mount Halla, the highest in Korea, with its waterfalls, multi-shaped rock formations, and lake-filled crater. The site, of outstanding aesthetic beauty, also bears testimony to the history of the planet, its features and processes.

Photos from Landolia

Seongsan Ilchulbong, Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes Hallasan, Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes

More photos and localization on interactive Google Map


Korea, South, Gyeongju Historic Areas

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 21, 2013 at 04:46:20

Location Gyeongju City, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, South Korea
Coordinates N35 47 20.004 E129 13 36.012
Property 2,880 ha
Date of Inscription 2000

Brief Description (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/976 )

The Gyeongju Historic Areas contain a remarkable concentration of outstanding examples of Korean Buddhist art, in the form of sculptures, reliefs, pagodas, and the remains of temples and palaces from the flowering, in particular between the 7th and 10th centuries, of this form of unique artistic expression.

Photos from Landolia

Royal tumuli, Gyeongju Historic Areas Bunhwangsa Pagoda, Gyeongju Historic Areas

More photos and localization on interactive Google Map


Korea, South, Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 21, 2013 at 04:09:47

Location Gochang-gun County, Jeollabuk-do Province; Hwasun-gun County, Jeollanam-do Province; Ganghwa-gun County, Incheon Metropolitan City, South Korea
Coordinates N34 58 0.012 E126 55 45.012
Property 52 ha
Date of Inscription 2000

Brief Description (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/977 )

The prehistoric cemeteries at Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa contain many hundreds of examples of dolmens - tombs from the 1st millennium BC constructed of large stone slabs. They form part of the Megalithic culture, found in many parts of the world, but nowhere in such a concentrated form.

Photos from Landolia

Gochang Dolmens Ganghwa Dolmen Sites

More photos and localization on interactive Google Map


Korea, South, Hwaseong Fortress

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 21, 2013 at 03:56:59

Location Gyeonggi-do Province, South Korea
Coordinates N37 16 19.992 E127 0 29.988
Date of Inscription 1997

Brief Description (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/817 )

When the Joseon King Jeongjo moved his father's tomb to Suwon at the end of the 18th century, he surrounded it with strong defensive works, laid out according to the precepts of an influential military architect of the period, who brought together the latest developments in the field from both East and West. The massive walls, extending for nearly 6 km, still survive; they are pierced by four gates and equipped with bastions, artillery towers and other features.

Photos from Landolia

Walls, Hwaseong Fortress Hwaseomun Gate, Hwaseong Fortress

More photos and localization on interactive Google Map


Korea, South, Changdeokgung Palace Complex

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 21, 2013 at 03:40:33

Location Seoul, South Korea
Coordinates N37 32 60 E126 58 60
Date of Inscription 1997

Brief Description (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/816 )

In the early 15th century, the King Taejong ordered the construction of a new palace at an auspicious site. A Bureau of Palace Construction was set up to create the complex, consisting of a number of official and residential buildings set in a garden that was cleverly adapted to the uneven topography of the 58-ha site. The result is an exceptional example of Far Eastern palace architecture and design, blending harmoniously with the surrounding landscape.

Photos from Landolia

Changdeokgung Injeongjeon Nakseonjae, Changdeokgung Palace

More photos and localization on interactive Google Map


Korea, South, Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 19, 2013 at 08:51:38

Location South Korea
Coordinates N35 46 60 E129 20 60
Date of Inscription 1995

Brief Description (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/736 )

Established in the 8th century on the slopes of Mount Toham, the Seokguram Grotto contains a monumental statue of the Buddha looking at the sea in the bhumisparsha mudra position. With the surrounding portrayals of gods, Bodhisattvas and disciples, all realistically and delicately sculpted in high and low relief, it is considered a masterpiece of Buddhist art in the Far East. The Temple of Bulguksa (built in 774) and the Seokguram Grotto form a religious architectural complex of exceptional significance.

Photos from Landolia

Bulguksa Temple Seokguram Grotto

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Korea, South, Jongmyo Shrine

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 19, 2013 at 05:15:17

Location Seoul, South Korea
Coordinates N37 32 60 E126 58 59.988
Property 19 ha
Date of Inscription 1995

Brief Description (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/738 )

Jongmyo is the oldest and most authentic of the Confucian royal shrines to have been preserved. Dedicated to the forefathers of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), the shrine has existed in its present form since the 16th century and houses tablets bearing the teachings of members of the former royal family. Ritual ceremonies linking music, song and dance still take place there, perpetuating a tradition that goes back to the 14th century.

Photos from Landolia

Jongmyo Shrine

More photos and localization on interactive Google Map


Korea, South, Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, December 19, 2013 at 05:05:41

Location South Korea
Coordinates N35 47 60 E128 5 60
Date of Inscription 1995

Brief Description (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/737 )

The Temple of Haeinsa, on Mount Gaya, is home to the Tripitaka Koreana, the most complete collection of Buddhist texts, engraved on 80,000 woodblocks between 1237 and 1248. The buildings of Janggyeong Panjeon, which date from the 15th century, were constructed to house the woodblocks, which are also revered as exceptional works of art. As the oldest depository of the Tripitaka, they reveal an astonishing mastery of the invention and implementation of the conservation techniques used to preserve these woodblocks.

Photos from Landolia

Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon Haeinsa temple

More photos and localization on interactive Google Map



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