Visit to South Korea (from 2017-07-17 to 2017-08-04)
Visit to South Korea, and all the linked pictures,
is made available under
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
I travelled to South Korea to attend the Universal Congress of the Universal Esperanto Association
and also to take part in the planned excursion before it, and one of the post-congress excursions.
It was a place, which I had never visited before, and did not know what I would see. Before I set
out I spent some time getting used to the fascinating alphabet, but unfortunately did not read enough
about the history. So I had some surprises.
My first view of Seoul was the road
outside the hotel, a normal road one might see almost anywhere nowadays. For example the
architecture seems as modern
as in any other town.
The following day we set off by coach southwards from Seoul. The
view through the window
showed the apartment blocks en which the majority of the people live. These tall thin buildings
were found around the outskirts of every town. Afterwards we saw the
type of countryside
which can be seen almost everywhere between low steep hills densely covered in forests
and creeping and climbing plants. For that reason there are not many fields to grow crops
and the Koreans import a lot of food.
Our first real stop was at Jinju, a town near the south coast, which has a strong history of
defence against the attacking Japanese armies. The most famous event happened in 1592, when
General Kim Si-min
with a small group of soldiers successfully defeated a much larger Japanese army while defending the town.
Unfortunately he was killed by a bullet to the head during the battle, and the Japanese took the
fortifications the following year. But the story does not end there due the actions of a brave
"gisaeng" (similar to a Japanese geisha) called Nongae.
She invited the Japanese commanders to a party on a rock by the river. While she danced
with the chief, she held him tightly and jumped into the river, drowning them both.
Now you can see
The pavilion Chokseongnu
stands nearby, and gave us our first close view of their
method of construction
and colouring of the traditional Korean architecture. We discovered that the same colours
were used everywhere. Just to prove we were there, here is the picture of our
group in the pavilion.
Then we moved on to the town of
which is a modern industrial city, whose factories make particularly heavy machinery, such as trains.
The commercial centres of Korea are connected by a good system of railways. But we were going to the
of the United Nations. Each country, which lost soldiers in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953,
has its own section en the park, where they may remember
the loss however they prefer. Also in the park there is a
en which one can see
attractive stained glass windows.
In the evening, we ate with chopsticks our first
typically Korean meal,
consisting of many small dishes, at a restaurant in a
In the morning of the second day, I noticed that the hotel was trying to display its modernity with some
in the entrance hall. But soon we set off to the park at Haeundae, where there is something to
represent the damage mankind is doing to the ocean by discarding plastic. Near the
there was a description of how the currents in the Pacific ocean concentrate rubbish at different
islands, and is destroying the environment there. I suppose it was mostly aimed at children.
On the top of a little hill, was yet another
Later we travelled on to the
rocky promontory of Daewangam.
At first in 1904 during the war between Russia and Japan, the Japanese used lightposts.
Later in 1910 the built a 15 metre high
As you see in the picture, there are two lighthouses there, but why two? Well, also in 1910 they
planted a forest of pines across the local area, and trees grow, don't they? So in 1987 the second
was built, because the first became invisible. The 24 metre tower now stands
above the trees.
Our next stop was the Bulguksa temple and
At the entrance to the Buddhist temple stood the usual
two on one side, and the other two opposite. The
has an interesting method of construction. At the bottom some very large rocks, generally round, create
a foundation on which the more regular blocks sit. The reason is that the temple stands in
an earthquake region, so the rocks move enabling the upper walls
to remain undamaged. It seems it works, because it was built between 741 and 774, and has survived
Inside lots of
hung from the ceiling under one of the long open corridors on one side of the courtyard.
carpentry en the construction, together with typically colourful ornamentation. The statue of a
is thought to represent a desire for prosperity.
Outside the National Historical Museum we found the bronze
which weighs nearly 19,000 kilograms, and was made in 771 in memory of King Seondeok.
Every 20 minutes, a recording of its sound
was played, a very deep bass with reverberation lasting several seconds. Also in the museum,
we saw copies of
from Bangudae, perhaps chiselled during the Bronze Age or probably earlier. The Koreans probably
are descended from tribes from Siberia thousands of years ago and have kept their identity ever since.
It is worth noting the number of whales in the artwork, more than anywhere else in the world.
Between about 57 BC and 660 AD there were three kingdoms on the peninsula, one of which was Silla.
The picture shows golden
ceremonial crown and belt
from the period.
Afterwards our bus took us to the village of Hahoe. Now it is a museum and World Heritage Site
and contains traditional articles. One could imagine from study of the
how the river almost completely surrounds it, and so it was defend. Among the exhibits there was
and a traditional small building. Elsewhere
they cultivated lotus,
flowered in many places. Also to be seen were traditional
with straw roofs tied down with ropes to stop them blowing away. After we left the village,
we saw a pleasant pavilion with six sides, as you can see from its
Next we travelled on to Wonju to look at the Paper Museum, where they gave us first
an unfinished box and pieces of coloured paper, which we had to glue on to the box
to make a traditional Korean box. Initially it looked
And the finished product, well, my version anyway, was
The museum was worth visiting, because it had a very clear description
of the method whereby paper is manufactured, which includes steaming,
drying, soaking in lye, cutting, boiling, bleaching, beating,
tearing, mixing in water, moulding, pressing, draining, drying in the sun or by a fire,
and more beating. In fact it seemed to me that one thought of an action and did that
to the paper. The description started with the bark of the paper mulberry tree,
and finished with the high quality result.
According to the museum, Wonju was known as the centre for the best paper for centuries.
Finally we went by a road completed only the month before, through innumerable tunnels and
across many bridges to
on the coast in the north east part of the country, where we spent the night.
On Friday we at first went to the National Park Seoraksan, which we entered through
the usual ornamental gate
with a roof coloured with the usual four colours, but this time en a
more interesting design.
Soon we saw the
perhaps also a warning about wandering in the mountains in the park, of which we saw only a small
However that was the closest we came to any wild animals during our visit.
But before we reached the temple Sinheungsa itself, we walked past a gigantic
statue of Buddha
in his customary seated position. Around the base there were detailed
Other wise the temple consisted of the
While in the garden, we walked across the dry river by means of good modern
Next we drove to the little town of Gangneung to see the pavilion
which stands on the edge a lake not far from the sea. It is famous for its good views
across the lake and other directions from different levels. We stayed long enough
for two of us,
Jomart and Natasha,
to give us a short concert, which we much enjoyed.
Then we turned towards Yeoju, but I noticed on the way the
unusual traffic signs,
where the drivers were allowed to do U-turns, when the lights permitted.
was the most respected of the very successful Joseon dynasty. He ruled from 1418 to
his death in 1450, and established the rules of government and founded an institution,
which made scientific inquiries with tools, which he helped to create. We were on the way to
Some of his implements were large and complicated, like this
to measure the position of stars and other astronomical bodies. But others were
simple, like something to measure
with lines chiselled in it to find the depth of water during floods. Perhaps the most
useful was a
very precise sundial,
on which the lines in the hemispherical bowl showed the hour for different seasons in the year.
And so ended the pre-congress excursion, and on the Saturday I found the building where it would be held
on the campus of HUFS (i.e. Hankuk University for Foreign Studies). I got to the
which was also the place where most of the smaller meetings would take place.
on the ground floor it was light airy, and more importantly air-conditioned.
the open terrain was pleasant, although the temperature varied between 30 and 35 degrees with humidity
of 80% or more.
Fortunately it hardly rained at all during my time in South Korea, but it was continuously cloudy.
At night the top of the highest building there
The main hall, where the more important events were held was called the
where there were always some folks busy with their cameras. So
I want at this point to congratulate the Korean organisers for an excellent arrangements for the
UK-102. In particular the
did a good job of answering questions and supporting the smooth operation during the week.
My first half day excursion took me to the
Seoul National Museum,
which held many things of interest, not just another version of the
Silla crown and belt,
but also other
from the 15th century.
That evening I listened to a concert by the esperanto group
Over the next days I went to several lectures, and other events, but in
the evening of Monday we went to the
in Seoul, where the originals of some of the statures and articles from the tomb in Yeoju can be found
and which I saw the previous week. Here there were the
water depth gauge
under a roof to protect it from the weather, and
Afterwards we ate the
of many dishes, perhaps as many as 50 served from stations along three walls of the room.
I much enjoyed the tasty food, the cooking was simple and varied, and always fresh everywhere.
At the congress Koreans showed various works of arts and crafts, for example
hand painted fans,
and one could be photographed wearing
By chance Wednesday was the last one in the month, and on such days, so-called culture days,
one could enter museums and other cultural sites free of charge, however, also without a guide.
The free day was Wednesday, so I visited two of the palaces in the city.
The term 'palace' does not mean the same as in Europe, but refers to a collection of pavilions
among courtyards and gardens. The palace
was very close to the commercial district of Seoul. Just inside, behind the entry gate, one
finds oneself standing in a large courtyard looking at the
whose structure seemed to me somewhat unstable. Behind it was another large courtyard in front of a
Around the edges of the square ran
away from the heat of the sun. The strange carved stone
also were worth studying, while the
inside of the pavilion
appeared invitingly cool and airy through the open walls.
Within a walkable distance was a place known as the Eastern Palace, Donggwol,
which contains several palaces and pavilions, en two parts. Initially I saw a
on the edge of a lake in the complex Changdeokgung. Afterwards I went along the
through some gates. In fact there were at least two large palace regions. One was
Changdeokgung, the other
which was a relatively modest place, where the king lived, with the queen's quarters behind it.
from the town was imposing, like all entrances to such places.
During my time in Seoul I travelled through the city by
which was very pleasant, clean, efficient and cheap. The platforms in the
were longer than those in London.
above each train showed the last station and the next, and the direction
in which it would go.
At the end of the week, I had most of a day free, so I went to the
Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
It is a place, where you can find museums, but because it opened only recently, I thought that
it needed more exhibits, and perhaps it has now, I don't know. The famous architect
Zaha Hadid designed it, as you might guess from its
When they dug out the ground for the foundations, they came across an important
which is now a central feature of the area, where people can meet.
On the way back to the hotel I passed Cheonggye Plaza, from which flows the small
The people have turned into an area for free time as it flows west before
it meets the main river Hangang.
The next day Sunday found a group of us flying to the island of Jeju for a short visit.
Even coming out of the
one noticed the difference, the plants were more tropical, and the public stone
artworks have their own characteristics.
Because the weather was almost unsustainably hot we soon went to an unusual so called theme park, where
away from the outside temperature of over 35 degrees, we suddenly plunged into minus 5 en a
museum of ice.
Due to the drastic change of environment, we each received a
for the time we walked around the exhibition.
In another part of the building we saw some good trompes l'oeil,
which are just painted scenes. For example you could hide behind a
en the middle of a battle, or play with a
or pretend to be
Next we went to the History Museum of Jeju, at the entrance to which there were
boulders with holes,
so the question is, how did the natural holes get into the rock. In fact the whole island
is the result of eruptions from its central volcano. Lava flowed around a tree, which then
burnt away leaving a hole. Elsewhere there stood a statue of an
leaning into the wind while carrying a heavy load. The museum contained
which was worked by a horse walking in a circle pushing a bar to turn the stone.
In the afternoon we watched the show Nanta, which was a comical combination of dance and music
made using kitchen implements as musical instruments. Outside the theatre was the
artwork made out of kitchen implements. The show has been taken around the world and is now famous.
If you get a chance to see it, do so. And finally in the evening we
On Monday after breakfast we drove along the south coast of the island, and I at first
noticed the enormous number of dragonflies.
is dotted with four of them, if you look carefully. The first point of interest was
a large vertical column of rock rising out of the sea in a small bay. It also has the name
"General Rock", due to a legend about an event, which happened towards the end of the Goryeo
dynasty, perhaps about 1375, during the war for liberation from the yoke of the Mongols.
The Korean general Choe Young dressed Oedolgae as a gigantic general, which so frightened
their enemies, that they fled from the fight. It's also worth noting, that vegetation easily
grows on the top of the column. The island of Jeju is about 5 million years old, and principally
formed from lava under the sea. In that way the solid rock is full of tiny holes, making it very porous,
and it absorbs rain very easily, so allowing vegetation to thrive everywhere, even on the bare rock.
Later we stopped at a small Tea Museum, which included tea cups from all parts
of the world. These ceramic cups came from the pottery of
in England. The museum belongs to the firm Osulloc, which grows tea locally. Quoting them,
the climate is very suitable for tea with temperatures over -5, and an average between 14 and 16 degrees.
The soil is rich in minerals, and he water from the rain is clean.
In 1968 a chinaman Bum-Young Sung decided to develop a piece of wasteland into a garden, and so
started work on a so-called "spirited garden". The locals thought that he was mad, but he
continued against all difficulties, until he opened it to the public in 1992. Now it is
world famous as a garden full of
The quiet wide
relaxed us, and the
added to the feeling. Even the
near the restaurant showed some imagination.
The island also boasts a botanical garden under glass, where one can examine plants from
various climates. In some parts the humidity was so high, that the camera kept collecting
condensation on the lens. However I did succeed in getting pictures of
from the jungle, and the water
provided better conditions, ideal for cacti.
Afterwards we went to the sea again, this time to look at the rock formations at
where the basalt solidified into
And of course we had to have obligatory
The first of August was the hottest of the trip. One of us wanted to see the
of the artist Lee Joong Seop, and so we started there at the traditional house with its thatched roof.
Entry to the living area was not permitted. But in a nearby gallery many of his
paintings were hanging.
Some of them
somewhat childish, but others reminded me or European artists of the early 20th century.
Later our guides surprised us by leading us to a quiet room for a
foot massage. They gave us the necessary
oils and towels,
and we got instructions on how we would use them ourselves to massage our own feet.
Part of the procedure consisted of mixing a sweet smelling oil into the water and
in the vapour. I did not know whether the place was foot massage parlour with attached
or vice versa a café where you could get a foot massage. In any case they sold
coffees from everywhere, where it was cultivated, as we understood from the long row
of containers fixed to the wall behind the counter. Apart from that there was also a small
of items relating to coffee.
In the north east of the island there was a very interesting museum about the women divers called Haenyeo.
They were always women, and have been swimming under the sea for at least two thousand years
now acknowledged to be experts. They have transferred their experience to other countries, starting
similar groups in Japan and elsewhere. The museum had examples of old traditional
as well as various
After considering the underwater world, we took a boat ride to see the cliffs of Sangumburi.
Due to the heat plans had changed. The intention had been to climb to
the top of the crater, but not everyone was willing to do that, so instead we saw from the sea
the 230 metre high cliff, which demonstrated interesting
It is worth mentioning that although the volcano en the centre of the island has not erupted for a few
million years, about 5,000 years ago a powerful explosion occurred at
Sangumburi, which blew the top off the hill leaving a crater. Despite the temperature
two of us did walk up the
to look out across the dense vegetation, which now thrives in the
On the way to the airport the following day we stopped at the "Magic Road". This
convinced me more than others of a similar type, which I ad seen elsewhere. Is the road going up
or down? I took the photo of the road facing uphill.
At the end we saw
or Dragon's Head, about which there appear to be many stories. But it owes its shape only to
wind, rain and the sea.
That was the last item on Jeju, and afterwards, we flew back to Seoul,
and the end of the after-congress excursion.
I had ordered one more day in Seoul for myself, so I managed to revisit one
of the palaces, this time with a guide. The Confucian shrines
act as a memorial to all the kings of the Joseon dynasty. They lie
in two long buildings, each with an enormous square in front of them. By chance when the
last prince of the dynasty died, exactly one room remained unused.
After the first row of rooms was filled, the second row was built,
so how did they know how many kings there would be in the future?
Ceremonies still take place nowadays a few times a year, and an example
could be seen.
After that I walked to the palace
opposite the city hall in the town centre. It looked, to my eyes, like
other palaces, with coloured wooden
with opened walls. Close to the palace was the Seoul Art Museum.
Unfortunately I did not get good photos inside the museum, but here is something
I next looked at the map of the town and saw something odd. In clear
letters it said The Hammering Man. What was that? It was not far, so
I found it, a very tall
which moves his arm, about once per minute.
The next day I flew home. That's all, folks!
Visit to South Korea,
and all the linked pictures,
is made available under
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.