This blog may contain not-so-strong languages and slightly strong ecchi pictures. Please proceed with caution.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Gracious and Groovy Gaya (3G), Part II: Royal Tomb of King Suro, Gimhae, Southern Gyeongsang - First King of Geumgwan Gaya and Progenitor of Gimhae Kim Clan

King Suro (수로/首露), or Sureung (수릉, 首陵) (posthumous name), (? - 199), commonly called Kim Suro, was the legendary founder and king of the state of Geumgwan Gaya - a part of the Gaya Confederacy; in southeastern Korea. He was the progenitor of Gimhae-Garak Kim Clan. Members of the Gimhae Kim clan, who continue to play important roles in Korean life today, trace their ancestry to King Suro, as do members of the Gimhae Heo clan which is originated from Queen Heo Hwang-ok; they did not inter-marry until the beginning of the 20th century.

According to the founding legend of Geumgwan Gaya recorded in the 13th century texts of the Garak State Chronicles (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization: 가락국기/駕洛國記/Garak Gukgi) of Samguk Yusa, King Suro was one of six princes born from eggs that descended from the sky in a golden bowl wrapped in red cloth. Suro was the firstborn among them and led the others in setting up 6 states while asserting the leadership of the Gaya confederacy.

Also according to legend, King Suro's queen Heo Hwang-ok was a princess from the Indian country of Ayuta (아유타, 阿踰陀). She is said to have arrived in Gaya by boat. They had ten sons and two daughters in all, two sons took their mother's family name. Ayuta is today often identified with Ayodhya in India, and the tale has gained modern significance in the light of the modern-day relations between Korea and India.

The legend as a whole is seen as indicative of the early view of kings as descended from heaven. Notably, a number of Korean kingdoms besides the six Gaya made foundation legends with ties to chickens and eggs. Jumong, the founding king of Goguryeo, is said to have been born from an egg laid by Lady Yuhwa of Buyeo; Park Hyeokgeose-Geoseogan, the first king of Saro-guk, or Silla, is said to have hatched from an egg discovered in a well; and Kim Alji, the progenitor of the Kim dynasty of Silla, is said to have been discovered in Gyerim Forest by Hogong in a golden box, where a rooster was crowing. Aspects of the legend have been mined for information about the customs of Gaya, of which little is known.

According to an "Garakgukgi" in Samguk-yusa, King Suro's Tomb was constructed in 199 A.D., and there was a small building called Pyeonbang (便房) beside the tomb at that time. But the old tomb had a wooden outer-coffin and a lower mound than the tomb we see today. It is generally thought that King Munmu of Silla re-established the royal tomb of King Suro in its present location in 661 A.D. Immediately after being enthroned, King Munmu the Great of Unified Silla gave the following order: "King Suro is my ancestor from my mother's side fifteen generations previous, so attend to him at the shrine of my royal ancestors."

The shrine was not a detached palace, as it is these days. Rather, the shrine was placed in front of the grave. King Munmu likely built a new shrine in front of King Suro's royal tomb, and raised the mound. At this time, King Munmu probably slightly changed the location of King Suro's Tomb and remodeled the interior into a stone chamber with a side entrance, making the tomb look like a typical Silla royal tomb.

King Suro's royal tomb and shrine, thus established, managed to survive through the final days of the Silla Dynasty into the Goryeo Era. However, it faced challenges from new local powers, grave robbers, and the Goryeo Dynasty. The tomb endured because King Suro's descendants in the region managed to maintain some influence into the Goryeo Era. In the latter part of the twelfth century A.D., King Munjong repaired the tombs of King Suro and Queen Heo Hwang-ok and erected a gravestone.

However, as the result of raids by Mongol and Japanese pirates between the end of the Goryeo Dynasty and the early days of Joseon, the area surrounding King Suro's tomb lay in ruins for hundreds of years. In 1439 A.D., during the reign of King Sejong the Great of Joseon, the provincial governor of Gyeongsang had a rice paddy made at the gravesite and oxen and horses were pastured on the collapsed mound of the tomb. The tomb's boundary was now scarcely thirty feet square. During the reign of King Seongjong toward the end of the fifteenth century A.D., Hoiro-dang and the shrine house were built.

Jibong-yuseol claims that Toyotomi Hideyoshi's forces raided King Suro's Tomb in 1592 A.D, during the outbreak of Imjin Invasion. At that time, it was said that the hollowed-out area inside the tomb was very wide and two young women outside the coffin seemed to have been buried alive with the deceased. In the process of restoring the tomb, gravestones and stone animal figures were erected at the tomb of King Suro and Queen Heo hwang-ok in the twenty-fourth year (1646 A.D.) of King Injo's reign.

Over successive generations, the number of buildings attached to King Suro's Tomb gradually increased. In the seventeenth year (1793 A.D.) of King Jeongjo the Great's reign, the King permitted the local inhabitants to rebuild buildings on the site and construct Napreung's Main Gate and Garak-ru. In the fifteenth year (1793 A.D.) of King Jeongjo's reign, the shrine palace, called "Sungseon-jeon," received letters written on a signboard from the King. The royal tomb and royal ancester's shrine at old Garak-guk were restored.

The Royal Tomb of King Suro which is located at 26 Garak Avenue 93rd Street/Garak-ro 93beon-gil, Seosang-dong 312-beonji, Gimhae City, Southern Gyeongsang Province is accessible by using Busan-Gimhae LRT to Station B117: Royal Tomb of King Suro Station (Gimhae Express Bus Terminal). 

Namo Palbeon Daebosal, Part V: Haeinsa, Hapcheon, Southern Gyeongsang

Haeinsa (Hangul/Hanja/English: 해인사/海印寺/Temple of the Ocean Mudra) is a head temple of the Jogye Order (대한불교조계종, 大韓佛敎曹溪宗) of Korean Buddhism in 122 Haeinsa Drive/Haeinsa-gil, Chiin-ri 10-beonji, Gaya-myeon, Hapcheon County, Southern Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. Located at the slopes of Mount Gaya, Haeinsa is most notable for being the home of the Tripitaka Koreana, the whole of the Buddhist Scriptures carved onto 81,350 wooden printing blocks, which it has housed since 1398 (6th Year of King Taejo Yi Seonggye of Joseon Dynasty).

Haeinsa is one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea, and represents Dharma or the Buddha’s teachings. It is still an active Seon/Zen (선, 禪) practice center in modern times, and was the home temple of the influential Rev. Seongcheol (성철, 性徹), who died in 1993.

The temple was first built in 802. Legend says that two Korean monks returned from China, Suneung and Ijeong, and healed King Aejang's (애장왕, 哀莊王) consort of her illness. In gratitude of the Buddha's mercy, King Aejang of Silla Dynasty (40th Monarch) ordered the construction of the temple. Another account, by Choi Chi-won in 900 states that Suneung and his disciple Ijeong, gained the support of a queen dowager who converted to Buddhism and then helped to finance the construction of the temple.

The temple complex was renovated in the 10th century, 1488, 1622, and 1644. Huirang, the temple abbot enjoyed the patronage of King Taejo Wanggeon of Goryeo during that king’s reign. Haeinsa was burned down in a fire in 1817 and was rebuilt in 1818. Another renovation in 1964 uncovered a royal robe of King Gwanghae, who was responsible for the 1622 renovation, and an inscription on a ridge beam.

The main hall, Daejeokkwangjeon (대적광전, 大寂光殿: Hall of Great Silence and Light), is unusual because it is dedicated to Vairocana where most other Korean temples house Shakyamuni (Kr. Seokgamoni/석가모니) in their main halls.

The Temple of Haeinsa and the Depositories for the "Tripitaka Koreana" Woodblocks, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. The UNESCO committee noted that the buildings housing the Tripitaka Koreana are unique because no other historical structure was specifically dedicated to the preservation of artifacts and the techniques used were particularly ingenious. The temple also holds several official treasures including a realistic wooden carving of a monk and interesting Buddhist paintings, stone pagodas, and lanterns.

After the Gwangbokjeol, when the Korean War broke out, Haeinsa encountered a crisis. In September 1951, after the Battle of Inchon, South Korea turned the war around but then North Korea did not retreat so the remnants of one thousand North Korean soldiers around Haeinsa enacted guerrilla war. UN forces were ordered to bomb Haeinsa with four bombers. However, at that time Kim Young-hwan, Leader of Air Force pilots worried about the loss of Haeinsa Tripitaka Koreana and did not obey the command. Due to his lack of action, Haeinsa weathered the crisis and did not experience the bombing. The monument of Haeinsa Gongdeokbi honors him with the landscaped grounds of Haeinsa.

The 52nd Korean Republic National Treasure: Janggyeong Panjeon (장경판전/藏經板殿)
The storage halls known as the Janggyeong Panjeon complex are the depository for the Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks at Haeinsa and were also designated by the Korean government as a national treasure of Korea on December 20, 1962. They are some of the largest wooden storage facilities in the world. Remarkably, the halls were untouched during the Japanese invasion of Korea and were spared from the 1818 fire that burned most of the temple complex down. All told, the storage halls have survived seven serious fires and one near-bombing during the Korean War when a pilot disobeyed orders because he remembered that the temple held priceless treasures.

Janggyeong Panjeon complex is the oldest part of the temple and houses the 81,258 wooden printing blocks from the Tripitaka Koreana. Although the exact construction date of the hall that houses the Tripitaka Koreana is uncertain, it is believed that King Sejo expanded and renovated it in 1457. The complex is made up of four halls arranged in a rectangle and the style is very plain because of its use as a storage facility. The northern hall is called Beopbojeon (Hall of Dharma) and the southern hall is called Sudarajang (Hall of Sutras). These two main halls are 60.44 meters in length, 8.73 meters in width, and 7.8 meters in height. Both have fifteen rooms with two adjoining rooms. Additionally, there are two small halls on the east and west which house two small libraries.

Several ingenious preservation techniques are utilized to preserve the wooden printing blocks. The architects also utilized nature to help preserve the Tripitaka. The storage complex was built at the highest point of the temple and is 655 meters above sea level. Janggyeong Panjeon faces southwest to avoid damp southeasterly winds from the valley below and is blocked from the cold north wind by mountain peaks. Different sized windows on the north and south sides of both main halls are used for ventilation, utilizing principles of hydrodynamics. The windows were installed in every hall to maximize ventilation and regulate temperature. 

The clay floors were filled with charcoal, calcium oxide, salt, lime, and sand, which reduce humidity when it rains by absorbing excess moisture which is then retained during the dry winter months. The roof is also made with clay and the bracketing and wood rafters prevent sudden changes in temperature. Additionally, no part of the complex is exposed to sun. Apparently, animals, insects, and birds avoid the complex but the reason for this is unknown. These sophisticated preservation measures are widely credited as the reason the woodblocks have survived in such fantastic condition to this day.

In 1970, a modern storage complex was built utilizing modern preservation techniques but when test woodblocks were found to have mildewed, the intended move was cancelled and the woodblocks remained at Haeinsa.

Suseungdae, Geochang, Southern Gyeongsang: Are you sending anxiety or victory to our entourage?

Geochang County is situated in the mountainous inland area in the northwestern part of Gyeongnam Province and shares borders with Gyeongbuk and Jeonbuk Provinces. Suseungdae (수승대/搜勝臺) is located in Mount Deogyu National Park (덕유산국립공원), which is located in the center of the adjoining three provinces. Suseungdae is one of Geochang’s oldest tourist attractions. It is located at 433 Songgye Avenue/Songgye-ro, Hwangsan-ri 750-3 beonji, Wicheon-myeon, Geochang County, Southern Gyeongsang Province.

Suseungdae is the place where the streams of Seong-cheon, Sansu-cheon, Bungye-cheon from Mt. Deogyu and Gal-cheon from Songgye meet and make Wi-cheon. As Suseungdae is a big turtle-shaped rock(of 10 m height and 50 sq m area), it is also called Guyeondae or Amgudae. 

Suseungdae was originally named Susongdae (수송대/愁送臺) which means literally as the place to send anxiety in English, since it was a place where Baekje dispatched its envoys to Silla during the Three Kingdoms Era. Later, in the Joseon Dynasty, the name was changed to Suseungdae which means the place to send victory. Old-style lecture halls and pavilions provide great lookout points for visitors. The attraction is also fully equipped with an outdoor swimming pool, a camp site, and various other facilities. On August evenings, it is also the place of The International Theatre Festival.

Designated as a national tourist site, Suseungdae is frequented by family tourist groups. The waters of the valley flow around the Confucian academies and pavilions. Across from Suseungdae stands Yosu-jeong, where Yosu Shin Gwon studied and played. Now the facilities here include accommodations, shops, sports & leasure facilities, a green zone, a camping site, a cooking place, a swimming pool, a sleighing place, water supply facilities and toilets.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Philip Jaisohn a.k.a Seo Jaepil: First Korean to become Naturalized United States Citizen

Big Phil loves Tsugumin's ASS.
Philip Jaisohn (Born: January 7, 1864 – Died: January 5, 1951) was the anglicized name used by Seo Jae-pil (서재필/徐載弼), a noted champion for Korea's independence, journalist, the first Korean to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, and the founder of the first Korean newspaper in Hangul, the Independent News a.k.a Dongnip Shinmun/독립신문. He was coming from Dalseong Seo Clan which is originated from Dalseong County, Daegu Metropole. 

He was one of the organizers of the Gapsin Coup in 1884 as well as the 1896 to 1898 Civil rights movement and other suffrage movements. However when the Gapsin Coup failed, he took refuge in the United States, where he became a medical doctor. During his time in the United States he became the first Korean to gain American citizenship. From 1895 to 1898 he returned to Korea as chief advisor of the Joseon dynasty government and returned from 1945 to 1948 as chief advisor to the American Stratocracy of Korea. His nickname was Songjae (송재;松齋), Ssanggyeong(쌍경;雙慶), ather name was Philip Jason. Chinese style name was Yoon Gyeong (윤경;允卿) and he wrote under the pen name N.H.Osia.

Seo Jae-pil was born in Ganae Residence, Yongam-ri 528-beonji, Mundeok-myeon, Boseong County, Southern Jeolla Province, Republic of Korea. His family was one of the Joseon Dynasty's noble families. He was the second son of a Seo Kwang-hyo (also known as Seo Kwang-ha), who was a local magistrate in Boseong County. He was raised by one of his relatives in Seoul. At eight years of age, he was adopted by Seo Kwang-ha, the second cousin of his biological father Seo Kwang-hyo.

Seo's family was from the upper echelons of Joseon Society. He was the eight generation descendant of Seo Jong-je, a father to Queen Jeongseong. She was the wife to the 21st King Yeongjo. Seo Kwang-beom, who shared similar ideological beliefs was also from his family.

During his adolescence Seo studied at Kim Seong-geun and Park Kyu-su's private school. When Seo was a teenager, he was already had already been exposed to the reformist ideals of Kim Ok-gyun.

He passed the civil service exam at the age of 18, becoming one of the youngest people to ever pass this exam. As a result he became a junior officer in 1882. Thereafter he was appointed to Gyoseokwan Bujeongja (교서관 부정자;校書館副正字) and Seungmunwon Gajuseo (승문원 가주서;承文院假主書). In 1883 he was appointed to Seungmunwon Bujeongja (승문원 부정자;承文院副正字) and Hunryunwon Bubongsa (훈련원 부봉사;訓鍊院副奉事). In the following year, he was sent to Japan where he studied both at the Keio Gijuku (the forerunner of the Keio University) and the Toyama Army Academy. In July 1884, his adoptive mother died, but he quickly returned to public service under special orders.

In his reports to the king, Seo explained that in the new world Korea's armed forces were useless and obsolete. This annoyed powerful conservatives, but it made Seo widely known and respected among like-minded young intellectuals. By that time, a small but growing number of young intellectuals understood that fundamental reform had to occur or Korea would fall victim to the imperialist powers that he was appointed to Joryeonguk Sagwanjang (조련국 사관장;操鍊局士官長).

In December 1884, Seo, following Kim Ok-gyun, was involved in the Gapsin Coup, a radical attempt to overturn the old regime and establish equality among people. Seo and Kim Ok-gyun, Park Yeong-hyo, Yun Chi-ho, Hong Yeong-shik, and others had planned a coup for seven months, from July to December 1884. 

He was appointed the Vice-Minister of Defense. The coup was defeated in three days, as China intervened by sending military troops. As a result, his two younger brothers were killed and his biological father Seo Kwang-ha and biological mother Lady Lee of Seongju were executed under a guilt-by-association system. His first wife Lady Kim was sold into slavery, but committed suicide. Convicted of treason, Seo Jae-Pil lost his whole family and had to flee Korea to save his life.

The majority of the 1884 revolutionaries fled to Japan. Unlike them, Seo moved to the United States. He saw Japan as essentially a conduit for Western knowledge and ideas, but preferred to deal with what he saw as the source itself.

In 1885, early in his stay in America Seo worked part-time jobs. In 1886, Seo lived in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and attended the Harry Hillman Academy (Wilkes-Barre, PA) thanks to the help of John Welles Hollenback. He began to use the name "Philip Jaisohn" at that time. In 1890, he became the first Korean American to acquire United States citizenship. He studied medicine at George Washington University, and was the first Korean to receive an American medical degree in 1892. In 1890, he became a U.S. citizen and from then he was often referred to by his American name Philip Jaisohn.

In 1894, Japan defeated China in the First Sino-Japanese war which occurred on the Korean Peninsula. The Korean cabinet was filled with reformists. Along with these political changes, the treason of the Kapsin Coup was pardoned enabling Jaisohn's return in 1895. In December 1895, he went to Incheon. The Joseon government wanted to appoint him to Foreign Secretary but he refused to take the position. In Korea, he endeavored to politically educate people. Jaisohn published a newspaper, The Independent (독립신문), to transform the Korean population into an informed citizenry. He was the first to print his newspaper entirely in Hangul to extend readership to lower classes and women.

In the 1896 to 1898 Civil rights movement and suffrage movements. Seo’s goal was to ensure that Korea would drift away from the Chinese sphere of influence but without falling too heavily under the influence of Russia or Japan. He was also behind the construction of the Independence Gate, which was initially meant to symbolize the end of Korea’s ritual subordination to China. Apart from his journalistic and political activities, he delivered regular lectures on modern politics and the principles of democracy.

He promoted national independence as the principal political ideal and emphasized neutral diplomatic approaches to protect Korea from China, Russia and Japan. He also underscored the importance of public education, modernized industry and public hygiene. The Independence was particularly critical of misconduct by government officials, which caused strong reactions by the conservatives. Under the aegis of the Independence Club (독립협회;獨立協會), Jaisohn organized the All People's Congress, an open public forum to debate over political issues. The Congress was hailed by young reformers and began to establish nationwide chapters.

In November 1897, Seo enabled the construction of the Independence Gate (독립문;獨立門). At this time he also ended the policy of Yeongeunmun (영은문;迎恩門). Yeongeunmun was the Korean policy of welcoming the Chinese envoys, Yeongeun roughly translates from Korean to English as "Welcome to beneficent Envoys of suzerain's."

In 1898, conservatives accused Jaisohn and the Club of seeking to replace the monarchy with a republic, and the Korean government requested Jaisohn to return to the US. After his return, Korean government ordered the Club to disband and arrested 17 leaders including Rhee Syngman.

In April to August 1898, he accompanied an army to the Spanish–American War. In 1899 he found employment as clerk for the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. In 1904, worked with Harold Deemer, who was a year yonger, to create the "Deemer and Jaisohn shop." It was a stationery and printing industry store. In 1915,the shop became called the Philip Jaisohn Company, and specialized in the printing industry.

In the United States, Jaisohn conducted medical research at the University of Pennsylvania and later became a successful printer in Philadelphia. When he heard the news of the March 1st Movement (1919), a nationwide protest against Japanese rule in Korea, Jaisohn convened the "First Korean Congress", which was held in Philadelphia for three days. After the Congress, Jaisohn devoted his energies and private property to the freedom of Korea. He organized the League of Friends of Korea in 26 cities with the help of Rev. Floyd Tomkins, and established the "Korean Information Bureau." He published a political journal "Korea Review" to inform the American public of the situation in Korea, and to persuade the U.S. government to support the freedom for Koreans.

In the 1920s, Seo, who had just turned 60, returned to research and spent his 60s and 70s working as a specialist doctor and micro-biologist, as well as occasionally publishing in peer-review academic journals.

Five years later in 1924, Jaisohn went legally bankrupt due to his political engagement and had to resume practicing medicine to make a living. At age 62, he became a student again at the University of Pennsylvania to renew his medical knowledge. After this, he published five research articles in the medical journals specializing in pathology. During World War II, he volunteered as a physical examination officer with the belief that the victory of the U.S. would bring freedom to Korea.

Jaisohn returned to Korea once again after Japan's defeat in the World War II. The U.S. Army Military Government which was in control of the southern part of Korea invited him to serve as the chief advisor. In December 1946, he was elected to Lawmakers of South Korea Interim Legislative Assembly (남조선과도입법의원의원;南朝鮮過渡立法議院議員). In May 1945, liberalists and moderate socialist intellectuals selected him as a South Korean candidate for presidency, but he was declined. When the date of the first presidential election was confirmed by the United Nations, Jaisohn was petitioned to run for presidency by 3,000 people including a young Kim Dae-jung, but he refused in the end.

Jaisohn felt that political unity was needed for a new nation despite his uneasy relationship with the president elect Syngman Rhee. He decided to return to the United States in 1948. Suffering a heart attack a week earlier on December 29, Jaisohn died on January 5, 1951 during the Korean War, just two days before his 87th birthday.

His body was cremated, and his ashes were buried in Bib church in Philadelphia. In 1994 his remains were repatriated to South Korea. His ashes was buried in the National Cemetery of South Korea in Seoul Dongjak-gu.

Admin's Rants and Shits, Part III: Korea-Japan Relationship is under Limbo?

This could be butt hurt for the KanMusu. 
First of all, I would like to apologize to KanColle fans for this provocative picture. I do like the Kantai Collection however, the Koreans' sensitivity on the black memories of Japanese Colonization Period (1910~1945) is prioritized so that's why I intended to do so. Every relations have ups and downs but the most interesting topic for this blog is Korea-Japan relations which is soured countless times. Let's take a look to the present-day.

Relations between Tokyo and Seoul began to sour two months after South Korean President Park Geun-hye took office. In late April, 168 Japanese Diet members and several government officials decided to visit the controversial Yasukuni shrine, prompting Seoul to abruptly cancel ministerial meetings with Japan. Matters deteriorated when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe questioned the definition of aggression in the Murayama Statement of 1995, and reaffirmed one week later his goal to revise the Japanese Constitution. Comments by Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto in early May, defending Japan’s use of comfort women during World War II, and Abe’s appearance in a jet fighter with the notorious number 731 put even greater pressure on the bilateral relationship.

South Korean media outlets responded with aggressive anti-Japanese rhetoric, grieving the missed opportunity to prosecute Emperor Hirohito (Emperor Showa) for crimes against humanity, ridiculing Abe’s drive to abolish the Peace Constitution, and arguing that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were divine punishment. Meanwhile, Park’s remark in Washington that Japan needs to have a correct perception on history fundamentally failed to understand the deep rift.

For many South Koreans, the re-election of Shinzo Abe as prime minister of Japan signaled a move to the political right and carried with it the implicit notion of re-militarization and the rise of Japanese nationalism. Yet Abe worked to strengthen ties during his first term in office, despite his stance on the Yasukuni shrine, the comfort women issue, and the sovereignty of Dokdo/Takeshima (Present day: Dokdo-ri, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung County, Northern Gyeongsang Province, Republic of Korea).

The election of Park Geun-hye has meanwhile caused mixed feelings abroad and at home. While praised as the first female president, with the potential to bring change to South Korea’s male dominated society, the memory of her father General Park Chung-hee persists in raising doubts about her interpretation of democracy and ability to lead the country.

It is indeed ironic that history is as much at odds with Park as it is with Abe. A Q&A in Washington on February 22 brought this overlap into sharp relief, when Abe mentioned that Park Chung-hee had been a close friend of Abe’s grandfather, former Japanese Prime Minister Kishi Nobosuke. Instead of seeing this reference as a friendly gesture to his South Korean counterpart, Abe’s comment revived painful memories in Korea of Park Chung-hee serving in the Japanese Imperial Army. It also underscored the notion that Abe was the grandson of a convicted war criminal.

In light of these antagonizing events it is difficult to recall that Abe and Park campaigned primarily on economic issues. Park called for “economic democratization” in South Korea, while Abe laid out his plan to revive the struggling Japanese economy. Yet time and again, nationalistic sentiment in both countries has undermined progress on the economy and instead sparked yet another debate on history.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Ssangam Park, Gwangju Gwangsan-gu: A Park that located in Hi-Tech District of Cheomdan

Gwangju Metropole is a sister city to Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture since 2002.
No wonder that One-eyed Dragon Warrior moved this metropole to seek asylum after 2011 Tohoku Earthquake.  
Ssangam Park (Hanja: 雙岩公園) is located in front of the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST/광주과학기술원) within Cheomdan High Technology District in Gwangju Gwangsan-gu (Specific Location: 39 Cheomdan Central Avenue 182nd Street/Cheomdan-Jungangno 182beon-gil, Ssangam-dong 653-1 beonji). Thanks to the beautiful lake at its center, the park is also known as “Lake Park.” The lake is surrounded with landscaped azaleas and pine trees and is home to several fountains. At least once a month, a cultural festival takes place at the park. 

At the center of the lake, Ssangam Park called the first lake park in Honam-Jeolla Region has an island with the forest of pine trees and royal azalea blossom. Buyupokgi (부유폭기) which spouts out to the sky adds exhilaration. 

Convenience facilities include 146 benches, 3 restrooms, and 3 playgrounds. The park is especially popular among students since it has a gym and a wide grassy field perfect for playing sports.

Jeungdo Island, Sinan, Southern Jeolla: Get Salty in this Slow City.

Jeungdo Island (Hanja: 曾島), a renowned ecological tourism destination in the commune of Jeungdo-myeon, Sinan County, Southern Jeolla Province is the 7th largest of the 1,004 islands in the region. Designated in 2007 as a Slow City, it boasts totally unpolluted land and water and expansive mudflats. Its attractions include Taepyeong Salt Farm, Korea’s largest single salt farm, and the Salt Museum, located by the farm’s entrance, where visitors can learn in detail about the manufacturing process of salt. The observatory at the back of Taepyeong Salt Farm provides panoramic views of the vast seashore and a picturesque village. Around the salt farm stand around 60 weathered salt storage buildings, giving an atmospheric feel. 

Jeungdo was designated as a Slow City (first in Asia) thanks to this time-honored salt farm with its rich history. Sinan is also famous for its treasure. A fleet of ships carrying treasure is known to have sunk in the past. They were uncovered from the seas near Jeungdo in the 1970s.

Jeungdo began to produce salt around 1950. Jeungdo's sea salt has a high mineral content and exceptional taste. It is harvested by hand in the traditional way, which is the same method used by the upscale French sea salt brand, Guerande. Seawater is dried in shallow pools using only the sun and the wind. Jeungdo’s Sea salt can be purchased both in bulk and in small individual packages. Unlike processed table salt, it is rich in minerals and beneficial for your health. Recently, a new product has been released; sea salt flavored with dried seaweed. 

Jeungdo is acclaimed for its wide selection of fresh gourmet seafood, which includes sea bass and gamseongdom (or black porgy). Many restaurants serve hoe (sliced raw fish or sashimi, as it’s more generally known) and maeuntang (spicy stew made with fish, vegetables and ground red chili), which are the two seafood dishes most enjoyed by Koreans. Some also offer namdo jeongsik (a full course meal accompanied by steamed rice, kimchi and a variety of side dishes), as well as dishes made with nakji (a type of octopus with slim tentacles) that are caught from the Jeungdo mudflats. 

Keep in mind that most Jeungdo residents are Christians (Catholics, maybe?), and thus many restaurants and shops are closed on Sundays. Prepare your own meals or search in advance for restaurants that will be open if you plan to visit Jeungdo on Sunday. In addition, Jeungdo is non-smoking island. No wonder that those groceries around the island do not sell cigarettes. However, there are handful of Jeungdo people who smoke even though 80% of the residents are non-smokers.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Gadeok Island, Busan Gangseo-gu: The Biggest Island in Busan Metropole

Gadeok Island (Hanja: 加德島) is Busan’s biggest island with a legend of Bogae Mountains that is said to have sunken in the ocean and risen up again. Located at the west of Nakdong/Rakdong River estuary, Gadeok Island's size is 1.5 times bigger than Yeongdo Island which is administered by Busan Yeongdo-gu Office.

The Principal Administrative Precinct for Gadeok Island is CheonGa-dong which contains five Legal Precincts in it: Nulcha-dong (Nulcha island), Dongseon-dong, Seongbuk-dong, Cheongseon-dong and Daehang-dong. Thus, there are four legal precincts in this island which are Seongbuk-dong at Gadeok North, Cheongseon-dong at Gadeok Central, Dongseon-dong at Gadeok East and Daehang-dong at Gadeok South.

Gadeok Island serves as the home for the Second Busan Port a.k.a Busan New Port (부산신항), in order to ease naval logistic difficulties in the main port, located at Jungang-dong 4-ga, Busan Jung-gu. The GeoGa Great Bridge and Gadeok-Nulcha Great Bridge connects this island to Geoje Island (Geoje City), Southern Gyeongsang Province and Mainland Busan Metropole (Sinho-dong, Busan Gangseo-gu) respectively.

Centered by the highest peak of Yeondae Peak (459.4m), countless mountains are spread. Gadeok Island’s sceneries, from the white-sand beaches connecting Nulcha-dong and Dongseon-dong to the northeast along the coastline, the open sea by the Prayer's House, to the broad pebble field of Daehang Saebaji to the southeast and Yongdu Rock that lead to the camellia forest, Oedong Islands, Dongdumal, rare-looking rocks on the cliffs by Gadeok Island’s lighthouse, Oeyangpo Beaches to the southwest, long-stretched Solseom Island of Dumun and Cheonsumal Ko Rock, are as beautiful as those of Haegeumgang in Geoje City, Southern Gyeongsang Province.  

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Inside Deoksugung, Part II: Podeongmun Gate and Seokjojeon Hall (Deoksugung Museum of Contemporary Art)

Deoksugung Museum of Contemporary Art (Hanja: 德壽宮美術館) is a branch of the National Museum of Contemporary Art which is headquartered at Makgye-dong, Gwacheon City, Gyeonggi Province. It was used to be the Contemporary Arts Museum after relocation from Gyeongbokgung in 1973. In 1986, this museum was moved to the present location at Gwacheon City and the old site at Deoksugung reopened as the National Museum of Contemporary Art Deoksugung Annex in 1998. Most of this museum complex is located at Seokjojeon Hall

Before we enter the Deoksugung Museum of Contemporary Art, you must reach to Podeongmun Gate (Hanja: 布德門). It is also known as Pyeongseongmun Gate (평성문/平成門). This gate is located at the west of Deoksugung, opposite to the old American Embassy in Jeongdong, Seoul Jung-gu. Err... are we using Deoksugung's back door just now? The answer is YES. This is because the gate is located near to the Museum (Seokjojeon).

This edifice showing the influence of the Colonial style of the early 19th century America is three storied and has a floor space op 4,045 square meters. The building work was supervised at its early stage by Shim Ui-seok, a Korean, Afanasy Ivanovich Seredin-Sabatin, a Russian, and Ogawa, a Japanese, and later by M. H. Davidson, an Englishman. The first floor was for the attendants and valets, the second floor consisted of audience rooms and halls, and on the third floor were the bed rooms, living rooms and drawing rooms for the use of king and queen-consort.

At one time, the Seokjojeon Hall (Hanja: 石造殿) housed the National Museum of Korea. At present it is used as a part of the Royal Museum. The Royal Museum with 11 exhibition halls show artefacts of the royal Yi household including the clothes and personal ornaments of Crown Prince Uimin and his consort, Princess Bangja a.k.a Masako Nashimoto, and relics related to Princess Yuhwa. The Construction of the West Wing was begun in 1936 and was completed in 1938. It is now used as a part of the Royal Museum.

Deoksugung Museum of Contemporary Art specializes in modern art and is engaged in various activities: academic studies, collection and preservation of works of art, the staging of temporary and permanent exhibitions, the development and execution of educational programs, the publication and international dissemination of information and finally, the international exchange of modern works of art. Because many citizens find it difficult to get to Gwacheon from Seoul, one of the Museums chief goals is to serve as a cultural center for the residents of northern Seoul.

Deoksugung Museum of Contemporary Art was originally built as an annex to the National Museum of Contemporary Art. It specializes in seeking out and researching modern art, and also in exhibiting and preserving it. You can see classical works of modern art when you visit this museum.

Because it uses the Seokjojeon annex inside the Deoksugung Palace as its exhibition space, the center maintains a unique traditional atmosphere. On the first floor are the administrative office and the audiovisual room, and the second floor has planned exhibitions of modern art in exhibition rooms one and two. The third floor has exhibitions three and four, where works selected as best modern art by the National Museum of Contemporary Art are displayed all year around. You can see modern works such as paintings in Indian ink, colorings, oil paintings, and sculptures.

Deoksugung Museum of Contemporary Art has "Art Center With the Citizens" as its motto. Besides the exhibitions, the center has various performances such as music and mime. Lectures or seminars on artists' works are also held often and are popular with tourists. The "Citizen's Park" outside the museum is frequented by many people who go there to relax. Tourists can take a breather here as well, so be sure to make use of it.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Bucheon Bow Museum, Bucheon Wonmi-gu, Gyeonggi Province: Korean Archery, Redefined.

Reflected by the outstanding performance of Korean archers at recent 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, Koreans have an esteemed reputation for their skills in archery and craftsmanship. But this undoubted skill has historical precedent, as bows were an important weapon of war throughout Korean history. 

Oh Jin-hyek, Im Dong-hyun, Kim Bub-min, Ki Bo-bae, Choi Hyun-joo and Lee Sung-jin are the famous archers in the recent Olympics. The Korean Republic Archery Team bagged 3 golds and a bronze to conquer the archery at the 30th Olympiad. Korean firms such as YoungKwang, Win&Win and Cartel Doosung have made the archery equipment and they are popular throughout the world.

The Bucheon Bow Museum (부천활박물관) was established in 482 Sosa Avenue/Sosa-ro, Chunui-dong 8-beonji, Bucheon Wonmi-gu, Gyeonggi Province to show visitors the spirit of the Korean archery, and demonstrate its ancestral traditions of bower craftsmanship. Located beside Bucheon Stadium which serves as the home for K-League Challenge football team, Bucheon FC 1995 - this museum houses traditional bows (gukgung, 국궁), which are considered, prized cultural pieces, and have been made by a Bucheon family, which has fostered a lineage of bowyers across five generations for over than 160 years.

The Bow Museum showcases Gakgung (traditional bows) that have been succeeded as Korean tradition during its long history. This museum displays the making of Gakgung, bowmanship, spirit of bowmanship, relevant data, materials, and artifacts related to Gakgung. The museum also offers exhibits of various bows and arrows, Shingijeongi (train), tools and artifacts that have been used to protect the nation and to cultivate mind and body. Young students can also experience archery during their school vacations.

Chilbaek Uichong, Geumsan, Southern Chungcheong: Tales of 700 Martyrs during Imjin Invasion

Chilbaek Uichong or also known as the Tomb of 700 Martyrs (Hanja: 七百義塚) is a graveyard for 700 Righteous Soldiers of General Jungbong Jo Heon of Joseon Dynasty who died during The Second Battle of Geumsan - a part of Japanese Imjin Invasion which occurred on August 18th 1592, according to Lunar Calendar. It is located at Uichong-ri san 52-1 beonji, Geumseong-myeon, Geumsan County, Southern Chungcheong Province.

Chilbaek Uichong is tomb for seven hundreds of martyrs headed by Jungbong Jo Heon and Venerable Monk Yeonggyu who gloriously died for his chastity at the Second Geumsan Battle against Japanese invasion forces. Since the end of June in 1592, there are about 15,000 soldiers of Japanese forces stationed in Geumsan, including Kobayakawa Takakage (小早川隆景) and Ankokuji Ekei (安國寺惠瓊) to watch for a chance of invasion to Jeolla Province. 

At this moment, Jo Heon, the chief of royal troops swore to fight with Japanese forces for death while joining the monk troops of Venerable Monk Yeonggyu and commenced hostilities in Yeongonpyeon, Geumsan on August 18 in the morning. Meanwhile, the seven hundreds of martyrs, including Jo Heon and Monk Yeonggyu - did all died for their chastity and the Japanese forces suffering from great damage gave up the invasion to Jeolla Province and withdrew from Geumsan. 

On Aug. 22 of the year, Park Jeong-ryang and Jeon-Seung-eop, the disciples of Jo Heon, gathered corpses, made a tomb and referred it as ‘Chilbaek Uichong’. Later in 1603, they erected 「Jungbongjoseonsaengilgun Sunuibi (重峰趙先生一軍殉義碑)」and then built shrine and memorial tablet in 1647, and granted land for Jongyongsa shrine (從容祠) in 1663. In Jongyongsa, the memorial tablets for the privates of Jebong Go Gyeong-myeong who died at Nunbeol Battle and Byeon Eung-jeong at Hwengdangchong Battle are placed besides the seven hundreds of martyrs.

Under the rule of Japanese imperialism (1910~1945), Japanese Government destroyed the Jongyongsa and blasted Sunuibi. The Jongyongsa and Uichong had been rebuilt with a donation of people in the County in 1952 and Jongyong as and Sunuibi were newly erected after its area was expanded in 1970. The memorial hall built in 1976 is stressing the spirit of national defense of the seven hundreds of martyrs.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Nakseongdae Park, Seoul Gwanak-gu: A tribute to the General of Goryeo Dynasty, Kang Gamchan

Nakseongdae Park (Hanja: 落星垈公園) in 77 Nakseongdae Avenue/Nakseongdae-ro, Nakseongdae-dong 228-beonji (Previous land lot: Bongcheon 7-dong 228-beonji), Seoul Gwanak-gu was founded to commemorate General Kang Gamchan (Born: December 22nd 984 - Died: September 9th 1031), a renowned commander of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) who accomplished a great deal against the Khitan, which was a foreign enemy. The name of the site, Nakseongdae, comes from a legend that a large star fell down at the moment the general was born. The park features a bronze statue of General Kang Gamchan on horseback, as well as the Anguksa shrine. A memorial ceremony called Nakseongdae Inheonje (Note: Inheon is Kang Gamchan's pen name), which commemorates the patriotic spirit of the general, is held here every October. The park also forms a dense forest with a variety of trees, such as birch, pine and oak, making it an ideal place to take a stroll. 

Nakseongdae Park is designated as Tangible Cultural Heritage of Seoul No. 4 (a title which refers to the legacy of physical artifacts that are of historic or artistic significance, and are considered worthy of preservation for the future) and was founded to preserve the historic significance of Nakseongdae and pay tribute to General Kang Gamchan.

On entering the park, eyes are immediately drawn towards a bronze statue of General Kang Gamchan on horseback. The image of the mounted general charging forward with an unsheathed sword in his hand conveys a sense of his dignity and grandeur. A shrine to the general, Anguksa, is located in the heart of the park. Anguksa was built in 1974 by former President Park Chung-hee (1917-1979, Korea’s 5th to 9th president) to pay tribute to the general’s wisdom and valor. It comprises Angukmun (Gate), a three-storied stone pagoda, Naesammun, a memorial stone to General Kang Gamchan, and a shrine as the main building.

Engraved with the letters of “Kang Gamchan Nakseongdae” in Korean, the three-storied stone pagoda has been relocated from the nearby birthplace of the general. The shrine is in the shape of a house with a hipped-and-gable roof (a type of roof structure in traditional Korean houses), and houses a portrait of the general inside.

Nakseongdae Park forms a dense forest with a wide range of trees, such as birch, pine, fir, oak and aspen trees. The total length of the walking trail in the park stretches to three kilometers, and it takes around two hours to look around the park.

Moreover, the park features a pond equipped with a fountain, as well as an outdoor performance venue and an open-air wedding venue where traditional wedding ceremonies are held.

On weekend mornings from April to November the “Nakseongdae Forest Tour” program is run, with detailed explanations from a specialist guide about the history and culture of Nakseongdae. Visitors should note that applications to take part must be made one week in advance via the website (parks.seoul.go.kr/program) or telephone (Parks & Landscape Division: +82-2 880-3683). Services are provided in Korean only at present.

Every October Nakseongdae Inheonje is held, which is a memorial ceremony to commemorate the patriotic spirit of General Kang Gamchan. Starting with a re-enactment of the general’s victory, the memorial event proceeds with all due ceremony, such as formal opening announcements followed by a presentation of the profile of the general and incense burning. The ceremony is also accompanied by a variety of experience programs for visitors to take part in themselves, which include traditional folk activities such as making a bow and practising archery.

Seodaemun Prison, Seoul Seodaemun-gu: The evidence of Japanese Imperialist Cruelty against Koreans (1910~1945)

Seodaemun Prison History Hall is a museum and former prison in 251 Unification Road/Tongillo, Hyeonjeo-dong 101-beonji, Seoul Seodaemun-gu, South Korea. It was constructed beginning in 1907, during the reign of Emperor Sunjong-Yunghui of Korean Empire. The prison was opened on October 21, 1908, under the name Gyeongseong Gamok/경성감옥/京城監獄. Its name was changed to Seodaemun Prison in 1923.

There are four names to indicate this place such as:
  • Seodaemun Hyeongmuso/서대문형무소/西大門刑務所
  • Seodaemun Gamok/서대문감옥/西大門監獄
  • Seodaemun Guchiso/서대문구치소/西大門拘置所
  • Gu-Seoul Guchiso/구서울구치소/舊서울拘置所 (Old Seoul Prison Complex)

The prison was used during the Colonial period to house anti-colonial activists, and could accommodate around 500 people. After the colonial era ended in 1945, the prison was used by the South Korean government until 1987, when it was replaced by a facility in Uiwang City, Gyeonggi Province. In 1992, the site was dedicated as the Seodaemun Prison History Hall, part of Independence Park of Seodaemun. Seven of the prison complex's original fifteen buildings are preserved as historical monuments.

The main hall has three floors of exhibitions, including lifelike re-creations of torture scenes in the nightmarish interrogation cells in the basement. Photographs of the prison and prison conditions are on view along with video footage. Not everything is translated into English.

Visitors can look around and go inside the original prison cell blocks where the independence fighters were held. Built to house 500 prisoners, up to 3500 were packed inside during the height of the anti-Japanese protests in 1919. There was no heating and the food was just rice, barley and beans.

The factories where prisoners were forced to make bricks and military uniforms have gone, but some of the red prison-made bricks with Chinese characters stamped on them have been used to make the pavements.

In another building you can experience what the prisoners suffered. Firstly the torture scenes – look at the spikes in the box which prisoners were put inside; next the court finds you guilty, and you sit down on the execution chair to be hanged – be warned: the chair drops down!

An outdoor memorial lists the names of 90 Koreans known to have died in the prison, but around 300 to 600 nameless others died here from torture, execution, malnutrition and disease.

The most famous victim was Yu Gwan-sun, an 18-year-old Ewha high school student (nowadays Ewha Womans University), who was tortured to death in 1920. The female prisoners were kept in underground cells.

The execution building (1923) is chilling. Behind it is a 200m tunnel to a hillside ­cemetery where the bodies were buried.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

National Parks in Korea, Part II: Mount Chiak, Wonju, Gangwon Province

Mount Chiak National Park (Hangul/Hanja: 치악산국립공원, 雉岳山國立公園) is located in the province of Gangwon, South Korea. It was designated as the 16th national park in 1984. The park is named after the 1,288-metre (4,226 ft) mountain Mount Chiak, which in turn had its name changed from Mount Jeogak to Chiaksan, meaning "Pheasant Peak Mountain", based on a myth about a man who saved a pheasant from being eaten by a snake. 

It’s total area is about 181.6 sq km, and east of its highest peak, Biro Peak (1,288m), lies Hoengseong County and to the west is Wonju City, Mount Chiak has many steep valleys among its high peaks ranging above 1,000m such as Namdae Peak in the south and Mount Maehwa in the north, and it is know for having a beautiful scenic figure with steep slopes.

The geological foundation of Chiaksan is a metamorphic rock based on unknown sedimentary rocks. Biotite gneiss and Geumdae-ri schist are widely distributed throughout the range. 

The area is easily accessible through expressways such as Interstate 55: Jungang Expressway and Interstate 50: Yeongdong Expressway and railroads. Lots of people visit Mount Chiak National Park because of its proximity with the capital region.

The temple connected to that story is Sangwonsa Temple. South of Sangwonsa in Sangwon-gol is the Natural Monument Seonghwang Forest. To the west are Sejongdae, Mangyeongdae and Mun Stone and Adeul (Son) stone. You can also see fortress walls from the myth of Jeonransa Temple/전란사 such as Yeongwon Fortress, Haemi Fortress and Geumdu Fortress. Near the main peak Birobong is Seokgyeongsa Temple, where the soul of Ungok Won Cheon-Seok is said to be resting, and Ipseokdae, Sinseondae, Taejongdae and Nogoso. Behind them you can enjoy the magnificent landscape of Seryeom Falls, Sadari Byeongchang, Changdae Rock and Tugu Peak. 

Also on the top of Birobong are the famous three stone pagodas (10m high). Guryongsa Temple was established by Monk Uisang (625~702) of the Silla Dynasty (57BCE ∼ 935CE), during the reign of King Munmu the Great. Other attractions include Daeungjeon (Local Tangible Cultural Property No.24), Guryong Waterfall, the Turtle Stone, Tiger Stone and Dragon stone nearby. 

For many years, Mount Chiak was dotted with numerous temples. However, as time wore on, only Guryongsa Temple along with seven others remain today. At Guryong Valley there is a forest of pine trees that are hundreds of years old. The main ridges of Mount Chiak are steep to the west but slope gently in the east. The park is home to a total of 821 plant species and 2,364 animal species. Among the animals 34 are endangered, including the Flying squirrel and Hodgson's Bat.

National Parks in Korea, Part I: Mount Naejang, Jeongeup, Northern Jeolla

I like Nadeko when she wears Hanbok. Sweet.
Mount Naejang (Hanja: 內藏山) is a mountain located on the border of Northern and Southern Jeolla Provinces (Jeongeup, Sunchang and Jangseong) in southwestern South Korea, approximately three hours drive south of National Capital of Korean Republic, Seoul. It has an elevation of 763 m above sea level (2,503 ft).

Located at the Noryeong Range (노령산맥/盧嶺山脈), Mount Naejang forms the core of Mount Naejang National Park (내장산국립공원/內藏山國立公園). It is located nearby the city of Jeongeup (the precinct of Naejang-dong) and is a very popular tourist destination, particularly in autumn due to its spectacular autumn foliage.

Naejang means that something hidden in the mountain is infinite. Because of the bright crimson leaves that blanket Naejangsan Mountain’s fall scenery, the mountain is also referred to as "Mount Kumgang of Honam Region." The mountain is located in the boundary between Jeongeup and Sunchang. It is one of the best mountains in Korea. And it has been famous for fall foliage more than 500 years. 

On 17 November 1971, the mountain became a national park. During the peak season, there are about 100,000 tourists per day visiting to see fall foliage, and there are a million tourists in per year. In the spring, there is cherry blossoms on the green mountain. In the summer, there is well-shade of tree. In the autumn, there is a blazing fall foliage. In the winter, there is snowy landscape. The mountain is very attractive in all four seasons. The park is home to a total of 919 plant species and 1,880 animal species. 12 of the animals are endangered.

The Park is beautiful not only in the fall, but also in the spring when the azaleas and cherry blossoms bloom, in the summer when the green mountain turns greener, and the winter when the rock cliffs cover themselves with snow. All throughout the year, different kinds of wild flowers bloom here.

There is bus station and train station in Jeongeup. Both station are less than 20 km from the mountain. The train station is on Honam Line. So you can depart from Seoul (Yongsan Station) or Gwangju. Also KTX (Korea Train Xpress) is available. From Yongsan to Jeongeup is about 2 1/4 hours. If you take a bus from Seoul, it will take about 3 hours. From the stations, take bus No.171 (from 0625–2100 hours) and you can reach the Naejang bus station. It is next to the mountain.

Goryeo Royal Palace Site, Ganghwa County, Incheon Metropole: Turbulent Years of Mongolian Invasion of Goryeo (1231-1259)

Goryeo Royal Palace Site (Hanja: 江華高麗宮址) in 42 Bungmun Drive/Bungmun-gil/북문길, Gwancheong-ri 743-1 beonji, Ganghwa-eup, Ganghwa County, Incheon Metropole is the site of the royal palace where the Goryeo people had resisted vigorously against Mongolian invasion for 39 years.

On account of strong recommendation of generals, King Gojong Wang Cheol moved his capital to Ganghwa Island with the advantage of natural and strategical point of view. Ganghwa Island holds historical significance as the place where metal type was developed and where the Palman Daejanggyeong (the Tripitaka Koreana printing woodblocks) were made during the Goryeo dynasty. Upon withdrawal of Mongolian forces, the capital was moved back to Kaesong (present-day DPRK) after the peace treaty with the Mongol concluded in 1270. Ganghwado castle was once conquered by the force of Qing dynasty of China during Byeongja Chinese-Qing Invasion in 1637, during the reign of King Injo of Joseon Dynasty.

In Joseon dynasty, king's court constructed the consolidated palace including many subsidiaries such as Oegyujanggak national library, Haenggung king's family's residence etc. on the very site of previously existed Goryeo palace. These buildings were burnt down by the French navy during Byeongin French Invasion in 1866. Nowadays, there remains only Dongheon Main office and Ibangcheong Administration office. This place and building were restored to its origin and became Korean people's historical remembrance where people are reminded of the historical lessons in terms of resistance and patriotism against foreign aggression.

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Abraham Park-Kenneth Vine Collection, Seoul Guro-gu: Relic Collections of the Pastor and Archaeologist

The Abraham Park-Kenneth Vine Collection, also known as the Pyeonggang Biblical Archaeology Museum (Hanja: 平康聖書遺物博物館) is a privately owned museum established by Rev. Abraham Park Yoon-sik/박윤식, the Senior Pastor of Pyeonggang-Jeil Presbyterian Church and the author of the History of Redemption Series and Dr Kenneth Vine, an American Biblical archaeologist and former president of Loma Linda University, California, USA. It is currently situated in 44 Oryu-ro 8ra-gil/오류로8라길, Oryu 2-dong 150-15 beonji, Seoul Guro-gu, South Korea, adjacent to Pyeonggang-Jeil Presbyterian Church, one of the largest Presbyterian churches in South Korea.

The museum first opened its doors to the public in November 1998. Dr Kenneth Vine initially planned on giving his collection to his only son however, when his son died in a car accident he donated his collection of artefacts to the founder of Pyeonggang-Jeil Presbyterian Church, Rev. Abraham Park and together they established The Abraham Park-Kenneth Vine Collection next to Pyeonggang-Jeil Presbyterian Church.

Exhibiting thousands of years of history, The Abraham Park-Kenneth Vine Collection merges the world of archaeology and religion together in a collection of Egyptian and Middle Eastern artefacts. With objects dating back to 6,000 years, it is one of the few places in Korea where such artefacts are on display as part of a permanent collection.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Golfing with Pangya Girls, Part I: Taereung Country Club, Seoul Nowon-gu - Imagine if Queen Munjeong plays golf...

Taereung Country Club which is located at Gongneung-dong 230-30 beonji, Seoul Nowon-gu is a part of Joseonese Royal Tomb of Taegangneung which contains the bodies of Queen Munjeong of Papyeong Yoon Clan (Taereung) and King Myeongjong with his consort, Queen In-soon of Cheongsong Shim Clan (Gangneung) respectively. 

This golf course is opened in 1966 with 9 holes. Later in 1970, it is upgraded into full pledged 18-hole golf course. Korea Military Academy a.k.a Hwarangdae, Seoul Women's University, Sahmyook University and Taereung National Village are located near to the country club. Taereung National Village is a famous place for Korean people because almost all Korean sports players exercise and practice for sport events such as the Olympics here in 1988.

Taereung CC is accessible by using SMRT Line 6 to Station 646: Hwarangdae, Entrance to Seoul Women's University/화랑대역 (서울여대입구)/花郞臺驛 (서울女大入口).

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Dark Memoirs of Gwangju Massacre, Part III: Former Southern Jeolla Provincial Office, Gwangju Dong-gu

The Former Southern Jeolla Provincial Office in 38 Culture Complex Avenue/MunhwaJeondang-ro, Gwangsan-dong 13-beonji, Gwangju Dong-gu has the significant meaning that the Korean architect Kim Soon-ha (Born: 1901 - Died: 1966) participated in the design and construction procedure when it was the time when the Japanese hogged all the procedure of building the public office.

This office is completely built in December 5th 1930 and had been the administration center of Southern Jeolla Province 75 years since it was built. This office served as the Provincial Office of Southern Jeolla until November 11th 2005, when the provincial capital was moved to Namak-ri, Samhyang-eup, Muan County. 

It was the live site of 5.18 democratic movement in 1980 and is a historical place of modern history of Southern Jeolla Province. The three windows are equipped vertically in the front and in between windows, a stigma which is a simplified version of Korint pattern is decorated. It is a unique design which couldn’t be seen in those constructions.

The timeline of 1980.5.18 Gwangju Massacre - inside the Former Southern Jeolla Provincial Office
(May 18th ~ May 21st)
On the morning of May 18, students gathered at the gate of Chonnam National University, in defiance of its closing. By 9:30 am, around 200 students had arrived; they were opposed by 30 paratroopers. At around 10 am, soldiers and students clashed: soldiers charged the students; students threw stones. The protest moved then to the downtown, Geumnamno (the street leading to the Southern Jeolla Provincial Office), area. 

There the conflict broadened, to around 2000 participants by afternoon. Initially, police handled the Geumnamno protests; at 4 pm, though, paratroopers took over. The arrival of these 686 soldiers, of the 33rd and 35th squadrons of the 7th Brigade, marked a new, violent, and now infamous phase of suppression.

Witnesses say soldiers clubbed both demonstrators and onlookers. Testimonies, photographs, and internal records attest the use of bayonets. The first known fatality was a 29-year-old deaf man named Kim Gyeong-cheol, who was clubbed to death on May 18 while passing by the scene. As citizens were infuriated by the violence, the number of protesters rapidly increased and exceeded 10,000 by May 20.

As the conflict escalated, the army began to fire on citizens, killing an unknown number near Gwangju Station on May 20. That same day, angered protesters burned down the local MBC station, which had misreported the situation then unfolding in Gwangju (acknowledging only 1 civilian casualty, for example). Four policemen were killed at a police barricade near the Provincial Government Building after a car rammed into them.

On the night of May 20, hundreds of taxis led a large parade of buses, large trucks and cars toward the Provincial Office to meet the protest. As the drivers drove in the demonstration, the troops used tear gas, pulled them out of the cars and beat them. These “drivers of democracy” showed up to support the citizens and the demonstration because of troop brutality witnessed earlier in the day, as well as out of anger after many taxi drivers were assaulted when trying to assist the injured and while taking people to the hospital. Some were even shot after the drivers attempted to use the vehicles to block soldiers or as weapons.

The violence climaxed on May 21. At about 1 pm, the army fired at a protesting crowd gathered in front of the Southern Jeolla Provincial Office, causing casualties. In response, some protesters raided armories and police stations in nearby towns and armed themselves with M1 rifles and carbines. Later that afternoon, bloody gunfights between civilian militias and the army broke out in the Provincial Office Square. By 5:30 pm, militias had acquired two light machine guns and used them against the army, which began to retreat from the downtown area.

(May 26th ~ May 27th)
By May 26, the army was ready to reenter the city. Members of the Citizens' Settlement Committee unsuccessfully tried to block the army's advance by lying down on the street. As the news of the imminent attack spread, civil militias gathered in the Provincial Office, preparing for the last stand. May 27th 1980 - 0400 KST (+9), troops from five divisions moved into the downtown area and defeated the civil militias within 90 minutes.

Bold and Beautiful Baekje, Part V: Garim-Seongheung Sanseong, Buyeo, Southern Chungcheong

Seongheung Sanseong (Hanja: 聖興山城) or also known as Garimseong (加林城) in Gunsa-ri, Imcheon-myeon, Buyeo County, Southern Chungcheong Province, was built 37 years earlier to 538 when the Baekje Kingdom moved its capital from Ungjin (current Gongju) to Sabi (current Buyeo). This means the fortress was constructed to function as a background defense line to fight against the enemies attacking toward Ungjin. Since the fortress was completed, Seongheung Sanseong functioned as a central fortress to defend and restore the territory of the Baekje Kingdom. Because the fortress was so strongly and desperately protected by the brave Baekje soldiers, General Yu In-goe of Chinese Tang Dynasty confessed that the fortress was very difficult to attack as it was built on a rough mountain with solid and impenetrable walls. 

Overlooking the lower stretch of the Geum River, this stone fortress measures 800m in circumference and the height of the wall ranges from three to four meters. Also known as Garimseong in historical records, the mountain fortress was built in 501 CE by a great Baekje (18 BCE - 660 CE) nobleman, Baek Ga, to protect the Baekje capital of Ungjin which is now Gongju. Upon its completion, Baek Ga became the fortress commander, rebelled against the Baekje king, Dongseong (Reigned: 479-501), and slew him. 

The rebellion did not last long, however, for as soon as he succeeded to the throne, King Muryeong (Reigned: 501-523) promptly quelled the rebellion and revenged his father by killing the rebel leader Baek Ga. Story has it that when Silla invaded Baekje to unify the Korean peninsula in 660 CE, Seongheung Sanseong was not attacked because of its rugged topography. The fort's garrison, however, on hearing of the fall of the Baekje capital, took their own lives.

Presently, remains of three well sites and army warehouses can be found in the Seongheung Sanseong. The scale of the fortress is not so grand. The length of the fortress has been confirmed so far to be 1,500 meters around its circumference with its height of three to four meters and it takes about half an hour to walk around the fortress. The major reason to visit Seongheung Sanseong to enjoy the grand view from the fortress. Mount Seongheung on which Seongheung Sanseong is placed is no more than 268 meters high above sea level. But as there are no higher mountains or hills around Mount Seongheung, visitors can observe the wide open landscape from the fortress and even the fields of Ganggyeong can be seen far off in the distance. 

The entrance to the fortress on the mountain is Nammunji (South gate site). Though there are no walls or gate, the foundation stones are left at the width of four meters. Near Nammunji stands a special saw-leaf zelkova tree that presents a meaningful scene. This tree is assumed to be 400 years old and has a nickname of “Sarang-namu” (love tree). Since TV drama “Seodongyo” was broadcast, this tree has become a symbol of the love between Jang-i and Prince Seon-hwa of the ancient Silla Kingdom. In addition to this drama, “Daewang Sejong” (The Great King Sejong), “Baramui-hwawon” (Garden of Wind) and “Cheonchu-taehu” (The Iron Empress) were filmed here. 

If you cross the wide green field from Nammunji and hike along the trail on your left you will find General Yu Geum-pil Shrine, Seongheungnu Pavilion and a signal fire place. General Yu Geum-pil contributed greatly to the foundation of the Goryeo Kingdom by achieving outstanding victories to unify the Late Three Kingdoms and as he helped poor people in this area, the local villagers have built a shrine to him and have performed annual rituals ever since. Seongheungnu Pavilion is located above General Yu Geum-pil Shrine. It is an octagonal two storied pavilion but as it is surrounded by tall trees and forest views from the pavilion are not so wonderful.

Below Sengheung Sanseong is an ancient historic temple, Daejosa, that was founded in 527 (the fifth year of King Seong of the Baekje Kingdom). It is said that this temple was built to know that King Seong will move the capital from Ungjin (Gongju) to Sabi (Buyeo). Legend says that an old monk was praying under a rock and fell asleep after seeing a large mysterious bird on the rock. When he awoke from this sleep he found the rock changed to a great Buddha statue. So, the temple built there was called “Daejosa” (great bird temple). 

The master of Daejosa Temple is the giant standing stone Buddha statue that was nominated as Treasure No. 217. It is a 10 meter-high standing stone Buddha statue looking toward the east behind Wontongbojeon Hall. This stone Buddha statue has a square hat on its head with unique features of a broad square face and relatively small ears, eyes and nose. This giant standing stone Buddha statue has similar features to the huge stone Buddha statues of Yongmiriseokbul at Paju and Gwanchoksaseokbul at Nonsan and all these giant standing stone Buddha statues were built during the early years of the Goryeo Kingdom to reinforce the Buddhist spirit and the national power of the newly founded kingdom. 

In addition, Daejosa Temple has a three storied stone pagoda that is assumed to have been built in the early days of the Goryeo Kingdom. This stone pagoda was nominated as Provincial Cultural Material No. 90 of Southern Chungcheong. In the old days, the stone pagoda used to have only the cover stones but as the pagoda body stones were found, the pagoda structure was restored in 1975. One interesting subject at Daejosa Temple is a deer named “Haetal” that the master monk of the temple brings up at the temple. This cute deer does not fear at the visitors but approaches them like a pet, which is quite different from ordinary wild deer.