Seohae Bridge Brings the Coast Near SeoulSeven years in the making, the mighty Seohae Bridge opened to traffic Friday, a beautiful sight stretching 7.3 kilometers across Asan Bay and Haengdam Island from Pyongtaek city to Tangjin county.
The bridge is the longest in Korea and is expected to be the gateway to a new tourist area on the island. It will also bring the coast and its many attractions within an easy drive from Seoul by reducing traffic congestion and cutting the travel time to Tangjin by at least a half hour.
"The route has long troubled us with heavy traffic congestion," said Kang Chun-soo, public relations director of Seohae Bridge of the Korea Highway Corporation. "But this bridge will solve the problem. It will cut 30 to 40 minutes of the trip between Seoul and Tangjin."
Mr. Kang also predicted that the bridge would become a popular family tourist site. To mark the opening, National Road Route 38 from Songak Interchange to Hanbo Iron & Steel was temporarily open to the public.
Besides its practical benefits, the bridge is a stunning piece of engineering and a treat for the eyes. When night falls and the sun's rays slip beneath its 182-meter (600-foot) pylons, the lamps of the bridge cast a glimmering light on the dark water below.
After crossing the bridge from Seoul, you can continue on to the coast, just the place to relax, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. If you are lucky, the tide will be out, leaving some tasty morsels. Let the children gather clams while you dig for octopus. That should take care of dinner.
Haengdam Island will be no ordinary resting place. A huge leisure center is due to be completed by 2004, according to the Korea Highway Corporation. The corporation plans to raise private funds to build an entertainment resort town there.
Hanjin-Pogu, 10 minutes from Songak Interchange on the right-hand road, offers an excellent view of Seohae Bridge from Haengdam Island up to Pyongtaek Harbor.
Driving past the Kodai Industrial Complex at Hanjin-Pogu and Bugok, you will see a great chimney, standing tall and somewhat intimidating. It belongs to Dongbu Steel and Hanbo Iron & Steel companies. It is a reminder of the size of the Korea's heavy industry.
Ansum Park (041-355-7118) is a resort in Naedori (Songak Myeon, Tangjin-Gun Kodai-Ri). The resort covers 6,000 pyong (1,820 square meters) and offers accommo-dation, restaurants and an observatory. In the evening, the owner Kim Sung-tae, 51, plays the clarinet for visitors. People who go to the observatory can take in the views of Kukhwa-Do, Pang-Do and Nanji-Do.
Sungumi-Pogu, just before Sukmun Dike, is well known for its kanjemi-muchim (seasoned skate). The fish is raw, and remem-ber, Koreans love their food hot and spicy. Salt is also produced here, and visitors can see it being dried in the sun.
Continuing on from Sungumi-Pogu, you will come to a broad stretch of water. Korea's longest lake is cut short at the end near the West Sea by Sukmun Dike. Drivers can continue 10.6 kilometers (6.6 miles) to the end of the dike and a picturesque spot. The peaceful fishing boats and beach are eminiscent of a bygone era.
Passing through Janggo-Hang, noted for the dike and extensive farmland, the next stop is Yeomok Village, where visitors can view spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Drive 10 more minutes and there is Daeho Dike, which connects Tangjin and Seosan city.
Daeho Dike is large enough to have a resort inside. From Dobido Sightseeing Resort (Nanjido-Ri, Sukum-Myeon, Tangjin-Gun, 041-351-6867), visitors can take a boat excursion for a closer look at the Nanjido beach.
The resort offers modern accommoda-tion, an observatory, a sea water swimming pool and other facilities. There are 95 rooms, which cost 40,000 won double ($36) a night. A dip in the seawater pool costs 5,000 won. Better hurry because it will soon be too late to reserve a room on weekends. The place is also a joy for birdwatchers, who can see many species on the reclaimed land.
Pilkyongsa in Bugok-Ri, Songak-Myeon, Tangjin-Gun also offers excellent scenery. The old house was the home of Shim Hoon, one of Korea's best-known authors, who launched a rural enlightenment move-ment with his novel "Sangnoksu" (1935) dur-ing the period of Japanese colonization from 1910 to 1945. The place is marked Historical Monument No.107.
Because of the opening of Seohae Bridge, it will be little trouble to reach the hot springs at Asan Onchon (041-541-5526). Within the Asan Onchon complex is a theme park dedicated to good health. It is due open next spring.
by Kim Sae-joon