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Friday, 13 September 2013

Nami Island - A Tragic Place transformed into Famous Hallyu Venue

Thanks to Namiseom, Chuncheon always highlighted as the talk of town, either in K-Dramas or K-Movies.
Namiseom a.k.a Nami Island (Hanja: 南怡섬) is a tiny half-moon shaped island located in Bangha-ri, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon City, Gangwon ProvinceSouth Korea, formed as it was inundated by the rising water of the North Han River (Bukhangang) as the result of the construction of Cheongpyeong Dam (청평댐) in 1944. It is located 3.8km (2.36 miles) from Gapyeong County, Gyeonggi Province but located at Gangwon Province (near to Gangwon-Gyeonggi Provincial Border).

Its name originated from General Nami (남이장군), who died at the age of 28 after being falsely accused of treason during the reign of King Sejo a.k.a Grand Prince Suyang, the seventh king of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. Although his grave wasn't discovered, there were a pile of stones where his body was supposed to be buried. It was believed that if someone took even one stone from there, it would bring misfortune to their house. A tour company arranged the grave with soil and then developed Namiseom into an amusement park.

Nami Island is an oasis for culture and leisure in peaceful harmony with humanity and nature. After a five-minute ferry ride, guests meet a forest of verdant trees holding up the sky and open grassy areas where ostriches, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, ducks and peacocks warmly welcome visitors in the midst of wild flowers. On Nami Island, artists from all over the world show-off their talents and share the sense of peace of mind the island creates. The island is the site of Nami Island International Children's Book Festival (NAMBOOK) and other cultural events that take place every weekend, making Nami one of the main cultural and artistic tourist attractions in Korea. In 2006, the island declared its cultural and artistic tourist attractions in Korea, and declared its cultural independence and was reborn as Naminara Republic. It has its own national flag, anthem, currency, passport and phone cards, stamps, orthography and even a certification of citizenship.

Nami is home to several galleries and is the site of the Song Museum, which also houses a collection of international ethnic musical instruments. There are indoor and outdoor stages, facilities for seminars and workshops in addition to a 46-room modern hotel and 10 cottages. Nami Island is dedicated to improving the mental and physical well being of children throughout the world. As such, it serves as the main sponsor of the Hans Christian Andersen Award and contributes regularly to UNICEF. Naminara is unique in other ways, also. At night, all the lights are turned off on the island so that visitors can harmonize with nature under the light of the moon and stars. Most of wood and bottles generated by visitors to the island are recycled and re-used. Nami has a very open hiring and retirement policy so people can work until they are 80 years old if they wish.

The island, especially the Metasequoia path, was one of the main filming locations of Korean Broadcasting System 2002 television drama series Winter Sonata, starring Bae Yong-joon (His Role: Kang Joon-sang/Lee Min-hyung) and Choi Ji-woo (Her Role: Chung Yoo-jin). It attracted 270,000 Korean and foreign visitors in 2001. After it was featured in the drama, it attracted 650,000 visitors in 2002. Since then the number of visitors has continued to grow, reaching 2.3 million in 2012.


Formation of the Naminara Republic
In 1965, Nami Island was purchased by Mr. Min Byeong-do/민병도 (Born: 1916 - Died: 2006), who had recently resigned from the post of governor of the Bank of Korea and desired to spend the rest of his life in nature. His love and dedication turned a desolate piece of land with only few scattered chestnut trees, popular trees, and mulberry trees on the fringes of a small peanut farm into the beautifully cultivated Nami Island we see today. In 1966, he founded Gyeongchun Tourism Development Inc. and developed it into a resort town. He changed the firm name to Namiseom Inc. in 2000.

Mr. Min had also served as the governor of Cheil Bank, chairman of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, chief director of the educational foundation Huimun euisuk. In the late 1960s, he became the very close friend of the owner of Chollipo Arboretum Carl Ferris Miller (Korean Name: Min Byeong-gal/민병갈). The two "Minns" almost had what amounted to a competition to see who could plant the most trees. Mr. Min founded Gyeongchun Tourism Development, Inc. in 1966 and worked on his master plan the "Overall Development of the Leisure and Tourism Industry" by cultivating plants and building a golf course. He never forgot his motto which was "green trees and clean rivers are what we own and need to take good care for future generations."

He also ran the Hangyerong Rest Area in Mt. Seorak, Sokcho and Nammun Duty Free in Namdaemun in Seoul. Mr. Min was born in Gyongun-dong, Seoul Jongno-gu  in 1916 and graduated from Gyodong Elementary School and Gyeonggi Middle and High School in Seoul and the law school of Keio University in Japan.

Along with Jung Jin-Suk, Yun Suk-jung, and Jo Pung-Youn he founded Eulyu Munhwasa which was the very first publishing house in Korea. Mr. Min, who was also fascinated by music, founded the first symphony orchestra in Korea - Goryo Symphony Orchestra - together with Hyon Je-myong and Gye Jung-sick. He published the literary magazin Sessak with Yun Suk-jung and supported various cultural activities in the fields of music, children's songs and literature. "Create new things and share them with world." By playing host to a variety of cultural events, today's Nami Island has succeeded in carrying out Mr. Minn's desire to "purify the human mind through the unification of nature and culture."

In 2001, Namiseom Inc. started to invest heavily in environment and art and culture-related events. Non-profit organizations such as YMCA and YWCA have participated in environment campaigns for recycling, environment monitoring and eco-friendly development. Furthermore, Namiseom Inc. has been supporting various events ranging from paintings to applied art in cooperation with writers and international organizations such as UNICEF and UNESCO.

From 1960 to 1990, it was known as a location for a film "Winterreise (겨울나그네)" and "Riverside Song Festival (강변가요제)". Since 2001, it has become one of culture tourist attractions as the number of Asian tourists increases due to the success of Korean dramas. Also it has been in the spotlight of the international resort town with natural environment many foreigners living in Korea desire to visit.

Namiseom declared independence as the Naminara Republic on 1 March 2006. It has drawn 1.5 million visitors a year on average.