The Admiral's Legacy Graces Craggy Coastal Destinations

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The Admiral's Legacy Graces Craggy Coastal Destinations

Tongyeong City in South Kyongsang province housed Tongjeyeong, the headquarters of the navies of Kyongsang, Cholla, and Chungchong provinces during the Choson Dynasty. The name of the city is actually an abbreviation of the naval administration's name.

Hansan Island, which falls under the seaside city's authority, is perhaps the area's most famous point of interest. It is where Lee Sun-shin, considered by Koreans as their greatest admiral, defeated an invasion force from Japan in 1592, capturing 12 Japanese ships and setting fire to 47 of the remaining 73 ships. On the island lies the quiet retreat Hansanjeong, where the admiral practiced archery and Korean soldiers kept a lookout on the ocean.

Built after the battle with the Japanese, in 1603, Tongyeong City also houses Chungryeolsa, a memorial hall, and Sebyeonggwan, a commemorative administrative building - tributes to Admiral Lee and his Tongjeyeong administration.

Somaemul Island, located to the south east of Tongyeong City, boasts the most beautiful scenery of all the small islands in the area. The island is divided into two by a shallow strait about 100 meters wide that can be crossed on foot twice a day when the tide goes out. On one side of the island lies a lighthouse, Geulssing-i cave and many interesting rock formations named after the shapes they resemble, such as Dragon Rock, Buddha Rock, Turtle Rock and Candlestick Rock. According to ancient folklore, Geulssing-i cave was where Seobul, an envoy of the first emperor of the Ching Dynasty of China, found an herb that granted everlasting life.

The deep blue color of the ocean around Somaemul Island is marvelous. On nearby hills grass flutters in the wind against a jagged backdrop of cliffs that look like rock sculptures. It takes about an hour to get to Somaemul Island by boat from the passenger ferry terminal in Tongyeong City. The route passes several other small islands, including Bijin Island, renowned for its beautiful women, and Jangsa Island, said to resemble a snake.

At about 461 meters high, Mireuk Mountain is yet another of the city's attractions. From the top of the mountain visitors are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the surrounding area, including the many beautiful islands that fall within the boundaries of the Hallyo Haesang National Park.

The Buddhist temples Yonghwasa and Miraesa, on the mountain, are also great destinations for those wanting to enjoy the peace of nature. Miraesa was founded when a Buddhist monk named Hyobong began praying and training there. It is a good place to begin a hike up the mountain, as it takes only about half an hour to drive to the top - however, not all buses are able to make it all the way to the temple as the road is narrow and rather tortuous. The city of Tongyeong would like to establish a cable car that extends to the top, but environmental organizations oppose the plan.

Dal-a Park, known as Gwanhaejeong during the Choson Dynasty, is a good place to take a breather after a long drive along the south coast. Views of the ocean and surrounding islands, especially around sunset, are very picturesque.

Tongyeong City is home to the delicious chungmu gimbap, steamed rice made into small balls and wrapped in sheets of dry seaweed. Chungmu gimbap is usually served with spicy side dishes, such as pickled radish and squid in chili sauce. The city is a place where oysters are in abundance, and many restaurants in the city offer various oyster dishes, such as gulbap (steamed oyster over rice), guljeon (pan-fried oyster cake), guljjim (a steamed dish of marinated oysters) or a simple plate of clean raw oysters. Gulbap is often served in a set menu, with a bowl of soup and side dishes.

by Kim Sae-joon

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