Eastward Ho!Jeongseon in Gangwon province is a mountainous area through which passes Baekdudaegan, a mountain chain that begins at Mount Baekdu in North Korea. Jeongseon is full of mountain ridges and high mountains, including a dozen that stand more than 1,00 meters. The area is also well-known as the origin of arirang, an extremely popular traditiona folk song.
But this vast region is a little hard to reach. To get the most out of a road trip to the Jeongseon area, you need good directions.
The best way to Jeongseon, which lies approximately 200 kilometers east of Seoul, is to take the Yeongdong expressway, exit at Saemal Interchange and then head toward either the Pyeongchang or Jinbu interchange. You will know when you are getting close to Jeongseon because the road becomes increasingly steep.
The Eight Scenic Sites of Hwaam
One of the best ways to look around Jeongseon is by driving. Take the local road No. 424 at Jeongseon-eup and head toward Samcheok. On the way, you will find Hwaam-palgyeong or "The Eight Scenic Sites of Hwaam." They are: a cave, a mineral spring, a swamp, two rocks, two valleys and a cliff.
Of those attractions, Hwaam cave is probably the one that children like the most. The cave, with its many stalactites, was found several decades ago while people were digging pits for a gold mine. The cave and the pits were developed as a theme park for tourists. The cave trail is about 1.8 kilometers long.
Hwaam mineral spring is a nice spot to take a break. There, you can try spring water that leaves a bitter and tangy taste. The water is rich in minerals that are good for your health, including iron and calcium.
Sogeumgang, another one of the eight sights, is the name given to the beautiful cliffs and valleys near Molun-ri village. The place looks so wonderful that people often call it a small version of Mount Geumgang, in North Korea, one of most beautiful mountains on the peninsula - hence the name, Sogeumgang (Little Mount Geumgang).
On the south of Sogeumgang are the Molundae cliffs. There is a local myth that angels, riding on clouds, used to visit Molundae to enjoy the great views. At the foot of Molundae is a small village where you can see sun-dried golden corn piled up in the yards, which adds a nice touch to the peaceful farmhouse scenery.
If you follow national road No. 42 between Jeongseon-eup and Donghae city via Imgye, you will come to Auraji, a junction of two streams, Songcheon and Goljicheon. The former begins from Daegwallyeong, a mountain pass between Gangneung city and Pyeongchang county, whereas the latter begins from Geomnyongso, the origin of Han River. The name, Auraji, comes from the Korean verb aurajida, which means to unite or to join together. In the old days, Auraji was the starting point for local rafts carrying logs to Seoul. More recently, it was the setting for the Korean film, "One Fine Spring Day" ("Bomnareun Ganda"). In the film, Sang-woo (played by Yu Ji-tae) and Eun-su (Lee Young-ae) record the sound of the stream together.
Soybean Paste Village
In Jeongseon, there is also a village well-known for producing homemade-style soybean paste. A Buddhist monk and his wife, a cellist, live in this hamlet. The couple runs a factory that produces meju, or blocks of fermented soybean, the main ingredient for soybean paste. In the yard, you can find more than 1,900 jars-of various shapes and sizes - all filled with homemade traditional Korean condiments such as doenjang (soybean paste), ganjang (soy sauce) and gojujang (red pepper paste). The cellist offers tea and a cello performance for groups of 10 or more visitors. Remember to book in advance. To visit the village, follow national road No. 42 from Auraji toward Donghae city.
For more information, call 033-562-2710.
Riding a train with only one coach can be an interesting experience. It takes about an hour to travel the Jeongseon line, a 45.9-kilometer route between Jeungsan and Gujeol-ri, by Kkoma train. Kkoma, which means a little child, is a nickname for the one-coach train that runs the Jeongseon line. The route is full of great scenery, especially between Jeongseon-eup and Gujeol-ri. A ticket costs about 1,700 won ($1.30). Mount Mindung, a well-known site for eoksae or reeds, is a 20-minute walk from Gujeol-ri station. The mountain is crowded with climbers on weekends.
by Sung Si-yoon