A rich reserve of relics in northern border county

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A rich reserve of relics in northern border county

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Located at the northeastern end of South Korea, Yanggu county appears calm and peaceful. It is so quiet that not many people would guess that the North-South Korean border lies to the north of the county until they see the heavily guarded military bases at its northern end.
Yanggu county has only 23,000 residents, and it is not as well-known as other tourist destinations in Gangwon province. The opening of several museums in the last decade, however, has brought much attention to the rural town ― the Yanggu Prehistoric Museum opened in 1997, followed by the Park Soo Keun Museum in 2003 and the Yanggu Bangsan White Porcelain Museum in June. Before the opening of these museums, the county was mostly known for being the site of the 4th Infiltration Tunnel, the Eulji Observation Tower and the War Memorial Hall. With years of efforts to become a more memorable place to visit, Yanggu has now transformed itself into a haven of museums where visitors can learn about art, crafts and history.
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Though the Prehistoric Museum opened much earlier, it was only with the opening of the Park Soo Keun Museum that the county started to become more recognized. Constructed the birthplace of the artist Park Soo-keun, the museum exhibits his personal journals, oil paintings, watercolors, sketches and print illustrations.
Born in Jeongrim-ri, Yanggu-eup, Yanggu county, in 1914, Park devoted his career to portraying the life of common people. He illustrated simple subjects using clear shapes and lines on a rough surface. Park, who passed away in 1965, is considered one of the best-known Korean artists of the 20th century.
Park first started drawing while a student at elementary school and even then was recognized for his artistic talent. He decided to pursue an art career after being deeply touched by French painter Jean-Francois Millet’s “The Angelus.” Park’s career took off in 1932 when he won a prize at the Joseon Arts Exhibition.
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“I have a very general idea of art. I’ve tried to portray the good nature and sincerity of humankind. Thus human features in my paintings are plain. I like to paint ordinary grandparents and children,” Park once said.
Yanggu country was a place of great inspiration for Park, who repeatedly painted rural scenes of trees or women working on a farm or doing laundry. For more information about the museum, call (033) 480-2655 or visit www.parksookeun.or.kr.
The Yanggu Bangsan White Porcelain Museum, located in Jangpyeong-ri, Bangsan-myeon, Yanggu county, has on display 80 white porcelain pieces from the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties, including much admired white porcelain with an under-glaze of blue peony patterns. The museum is situated near the oldest remaining white porcelain kiln from the Goryeo dynasty. Yanggu county has more than 40 kiln sites, which produced high quality white porcelain from the Goryeo dynasty to the 1930s by using fine white clay from the area.
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The area is renowned as a superior source of white clay, which was also shipped to other kilns in Gyeonggi and Jeolla provinces to produce white porcelain during the Joseon dynasty. Visitors to the museum are offered the chance to craft their own white porcelain pieces at a small charge. For more information, call (033) 480-2664.
The Yanggu Prehistoric Museum, the first museum in Korea dedicated to the prehistoric era, exhibits 650 articles from the Paleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze ages. Without an in-depth knowledge of prehistoric relics or the assistance of the museum’s descriptions, most people would find it difficult to distinguish many of the relics from ordinary stones.
The museum, located in Dolmen park in Ha-ri, Yanggu-eup, Yanggu county, opened with prehistoric relics discovered on the bottom of the Paro reservoir. Many of the relics were from the Paleolithic age, including dolmens, or stone table tombs. For information, call (033) 480-2677 or visit the Web site at http://210.178.146.5/cyber/sunsa/sa_main.html.
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The relics were discovered when the Paro reservoir was drained to build the Peace Dam at the upper reaches of the reservoir in 1987. The construction of the Peace Dam was in response to the building of the Mount Kumgang Dam in North Korea. The Peace Dam was to protect the Seoul metropolitan area from possible flood attack by the North, although it was later found that that the threat had been exaggerated.
The construction of the Peace Dam and military bases in Yanggu county indicate the still deep division between the two Koreas. The 4th Infiltration Tunnel was found in March 1990 in the Demilitarized Zone, which divides the Korean Peninsula, 26 kilometers (16 miles) northeast of Yanggu county. The tunnel was built by North Korea to allow infiltration of the South. Though only four tunnels have been found so far, it is estimated that there are about 20 such tunnels in total. The 4th tunnel is 1.7 meters (5.6 feet) high, 1.7 meters wide and 2,050 meters long. The tunnel reaches 1,028 meters into South Korea under the Military Demarcation Line, which is located in the middle of the Demilitarized Zone.
The entrance to the 4th tunnel is located inside a military base, so visitors need a permit from a checkpoint near the base. The drive from the Yanggu county center to the tunnel is 50kilometers.
The Eulji Observation Tower is located even further north. The tower sits on a high point at the southern end of the Demilitarized Zone, and is 1,049 meters above from sea level. Through telescopes, visitors can see North Korean guards and mountain peaks, among which North Korea’s military facilities are concentrated.


by Limb Jae-un

Express buses bound for Yanggu county leave from the East Seoul Bus Station (Dong Seoul Terminal) at Gangbyeon subway station, line No. 2, exit 1 and Sangbong Bus Station, line No. 7, exit 2. It takes at least three-and-a-half hours to reach Yanggu from Seoul. By car, take the 88 Olympic Expressway and turn off to Chuncheon on the No. 46 Expressway.
The Park Soo Keun Museum and the Prehistoric Museum are located in the county center and are easily reached by taxi from Yanggu Bus Station. The Bangsan White Porcelain Museum is situated further north. Public transportation is scarce outside the Yanggu county center, and those who wish to visit the 4th Infiltration Tunnel and Eulji Observation Tower can use their own car or pay a hefty sum in taxi fares. For more information about Yanggu county, visit www.yanggu.go.kr.

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