Taking a trip down the road of historyOn the road to Dangjin from Seoul, past the Asanman seawall from Hwaseong to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi province, on National Highway 39 is the Sapgyo tide embankment, where President Park Chung Hee made his last official trip. Park met his fate on the evening of the embankment’s opening ceremony.
Hamsang Park is located inside the tourist site of Sapgyo Lake. Two decommissioned Navy vessels became part of the park in 2002. Inside one of them is a museum that showcases the Korean Navy.
Here, visitors can get a glimpse of the fierce violence of the more recent marine battles between South and North Korea, which took place in 1999 and 2002.
The Mangnoori beach attached to National Highway 38, leading from Sapgyo Lake is known as a fine beach but has had some damage.
“Due to the effect of construction on Haengdam Island, it seemed that baby clams have diminished in numbers,” says Sang Chul Lee, an owner of a camp facility nearby. “But we have started to see more baby clams and sea worms recently.”
The Haengdam Island Resort and Seohye Bridge have brought a lot of changes to this region. With the construction of the bridge, the surface of the beach turned flat as layers of sand built up.
At low tide, the sand and mud clear away, showing a stretch of vast land.
If you buy one ticket for Hamsang Park (041-362-3321 www.sgmp.co.kr), Asan Spavis or the World Botanical Garden, you can get a 20 percent discount for admission to the the other sites.
If you want to go to Mangnoori Beach, from the Sapgyo Lake Tourist District, follow the directions to Songak Nadeulmok on National Highway 38. Then turn to the direction of the beach at the Maesan-ri crossroad.
For visitors staying overnight, the Seohye Tourist Farm in Dangjin County (041-356-2025) gives an interesting look behind the scenes at a farm. The owners do not accept couples.
From Dangjin, it’s off to Ganghwa Island. The journey starts with the “Ganghwa Museum” (032-933-2178), near the Ganghwa bridge.
Not many people know about the island’s varied history. The stone tombs on Ganghwa Island are Unesco World Cultural Heritage sites. The Goryeo Dynasty settled on Ganghwa Island for 39 years to fight against the Mongolians that infiltrated Korea at that time.
Many people do not remember that the first metal printing press was invented in Korea, which was used to print the eminent “Sangjeonggogeumyemun.” Also, the Palmandaejanggyeong, 80,000 wooden blocks, were carved here.
The museum also depict the military history of the island. During Jeongmyohyoran, an invasion by the Qing Dynasty during the Joseon Dynasty, King Injo fled to Ganghwa Island.
With such indignities, King Hyojong prepared to attack the Qing Dynasty forces and set up military bases on Ganghwa Island. King Sookjong also erected 53 warning signal towers all over the island.
Also part of the unforgettable history of Ganghwa Island is the relationship between Korea and France. The recent issue of returning stolen books, the Whegyujanggak, that belonged to the library of the royal court is being discussed between Korea and France.
Apart from the books, Byeonginyangyo (1866), an incident in which French vessels infiltrated the island, also occurred here. Historic sites include Gwangseongbo, Deokjinjin and Chojinjin, which were sites of the Battles of Byeonginyangyo and Shinmiyangyo (the infiltration of American war ships).
The Japanese Unyang Vessel incident also occurred on the beaches of Ganghwa. The road from the Ganghwa Museum to the Choji bridge can be said to be a truly historical pathway.
There is a place called Yoorimaeul, or “glass village,” also known as Gimposi Wolgotmyeon Gunhari, just before the Ganghwa bridge on National Highway 48.
Artisans make bottles by blowing glass with special nozzles, and they can be seen from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For information call 031-981-2727 or go to www.glassvill.co.kr.
The Ganghwa Gaetbeol (tideland) Center (032-937-5057) in the south part of Ganghwa Island displays photographs of the island’s tideland eco-system.
Dongmak beach, which is famous for its tidelands, is 10 minutes away by car from the center.
One place to stay would be Ganghwa Royal Hotel (032-427-2000, www.royalspa.co.kr) near Jeondeung Temple. The hotel, which opened only a year ago, includes an outdoor swimming pool with a sauna. One can use the sauna and swimming pool for 10,000 won.
A mountain holds echoes of the past
In a poem, Toegye Lee Hwang, a renowned scholar of the Joseon Dynasty, said, “People say reading is like wandering around the mountains.
“But seeing it now, it’s better to say that wandering a mountain is like reading.”
The poem was based on the late scholar’s trip to Mount Cheongryang in Bonghwa County, North Gyeongsang province, where the streams of Nakdong River start in Hwangji Lake.
Mount Cheongryang, known as a breeding ground for pine mushrooms, is a provincial park of North Gyeongsang.
It’s not one of the peninsula’s highest mountains, rising only 870 meters above the sea, but visitors can’t keep from marveling as soon as they get there.
Every corner of the mountain is full of stories. In Korean history, it is one of the largest Buddhist pilgrimage attractions.
With 27 small temples, ancient scholars like Kim Saeng and Choi Chi-won spent time here away from home, just to study.
The mountain’s delicate front is deceiving, say locals.
“Mount Cheongryang might look frail on the outside,” says Jeong Min-ho, the curator of Cheongryangsan Museum who accompanied our trip. “But it’s strong on the outside. As you walk in, the place is mostly rocks. That’s why people compare Lee’s scholarly journey to this mountain.”
As you reach Geumtap Peak, one of the range’s 12 peaks, rising 620 meters above the sea, you get to Eungjinjeon, a small hermitage attached to Cheongryang Temple. Many Koreans know the temple as a place where Princess Noguk and King Gongmin carried out their lifelong romance.
Near the end of the Goryeo Dynasty, King Gongmin (1330-1374) was forced into an arranged marriage with Princess Noguk, the daughter of Won Nara, from a colony of China. Noguk poured her heart into supporting the king and the citizens of Goryeo, earning the people’s love.
But after eight years of marriage, she remained infertile.
The king took the advice of senior statesmen and added a concubine, but he felt sorry for the princess for the rest of his life.
After one war, the couple escaped to Andong and lived there for three months.
The record writes that the princess came to Eungjinjeon to pray during this period. One could guess what she was praying for.
She returned to Gaegyeong and became pregnant, but she died while giving birth. Her death put the king into a state of shock, so much that he spent his later years suffering from mental illness.
There are still many temples on Mount Cheongryang, where rituals commemorating the couple’s deaths are held.
Stories about the mountain and the area go on as long as history does. Filmmaker Kim Ki-duk, who spent his childhood at Mount Munsu in Bonghwa, not too far from Cheongryang, said that what he remembers the most about his hometown is the vast stretch of pine trees there.
“It was incredibly cold,” he says. “If I think of it now, it’s in the middle of nowhere. But if I hadn’t been born there, I wouldn’t have made films like ‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring.’ The years I spent there are the greatest memories of my life.”
On the way past Geumtap Peak is Eopungdae, one of the best spots to enjoy the scenery, with lotus leaves surrounding it.
Cheongryang Temple sits in the center of the mountain.
Walking further, there is a cave where Kim Saeng is said to have practiced his calligraphy skills. There are other historical relics in the area including a pagoda set up by the followers of Lee Hwang, called Cheongryang Jeongsa.
In the end, it’s not too difficult for visitors to the park to “read” the mountain, following the footsteps of many great scholars.
by Sung Si-yoon
Cheongryangsan Museum (054-672-6193) opened in June at the foot of the mountain. It offers background information about the mountain’s history and its natural resources. To contact the management office, call (054) 679-6321.