South Korea Travel Guide

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Inscription on a temple in Jeollanamdo, Korea

Inscription on a temple in Jeollanamdo, Korea

Ryan Brainard

South Korea is located in Northeast Asia. Its only border is with North Korea . After the dramatic split-up in the fifties(The Korean War was 1950-1953), the South has fared very well. It has become one of the richest countries in Asia and even in the world. And it has managed to keep up a rather frenetic pace of economic development. It is currently ranked 10th in the world in terms of GDP.

This certainly does not mean Korea has lost touch with its roots. Like Japan, it manages to combine the ultra modern with the very traditional.

The first Korean ancient dynasty was 'Gojosun(Old Chosun)' which was built in northern part of Han-bando(Korean Peninsular) and eastern Manchuria 10 century B.C.. Following that ancient kingdom, Goguryo-Baikje-Shinra(Shilla) 3 kindoms existed(the Three Nations Era) in 4-6 centuries. After that era, Korean Peninsular was unified and 'Unified Shinra'(AD 668-936), Koryo(918-1392 the root of present name 'Korea'), Chosun(1392-1910) followed.
From 1910 to 1945, Korea was under Japanese rule and got independence in 1945. Three years later, the cruel war began and this old country but newborn state had to struggle to reconstruct everything from the ruins of the war.

It is called a 'miracle of Han River'-- Korean dominant dictator Park Junghee(assassinated by his close aide in 1979) was a strong and decisive person. He was undoubtedly a notorious dictator, but he made the base of reconstruction and development. He left a rapid developed country to his people.

The capital city of Seoul is a good example of his success. It is a big, dynamic city, but sometimes makes tourists confused. Seoul keeps the traditions of the ancestors alive. Old temples are still well visited, and the many palaces of former rulers remind the visitor of the past. But the general impression of this city is a big, complex, busy megalopolis with heavy traffic and air polution.

There are some good points for tourists in Seoul(all the cities in Korea are similar). First, Seoul is very safe. Even though sometimes there are drastic demonstrations, Seoul is one of the safest city in the world. Korean government prohibits people own guns(even policemen seldom shoot guns).

South Korea is full of life even after the working hours with many restaurants and bars full of people. Seoul is basically split in two - Kang Buk (North of the Han River) and Kang Nam (South of Han River). Kang Buk has many traditional landmarks and shopping districts and Kang Nam offers the upmost cosmopolitan life Seoul has to offer with world class shopping districts, and pricey restaurants. You can experience the young and trendy life at Apgujoung-dong.
If you want to go shopping, you should not miss Dongdaemun(East Gate) Market. There are several big shopping centers such as Doota, Pyunghwa Sijang etc. They sell so many good and trendy clothes at good prices all night. If you'd like to buy korean traditional goods for souvenirs, visit Insadong. It's famous for narrow streets full of small beatiful shops.

Gyunbok-gung(gung means palace) is the most popular place for foreigners. It was the main palace of Chosun dynasty. It has many beautiful building with traditional small gardens. They show performances of Changing Guards of Chosun everyday at 12, 2, 4 o'clock.
Another famous places are Duksu-goong, Biwon(Secret Garden), Jongmyo, Changduk-gung. They are located in the center of Kang Buk old downtown.

As in many countries there is a great range of cultures, history and sites outside the capital city. Pusan and Gyeongju are two cities that are a must for any tourist. Dedicate at least 3-4 days for each. Other towns worth a visit, if time permits, includes Daegue, Gwangu and Mokpo.

Public transport is excellent, both around towns and across the country. High speed trains and an extensive bus network assist any traveller to see the sights quickly and affordably.

Pusan, in the south, is a large harbor city. It is a nice city and offers good possibilities for excursions. It also offers some of the freshest seafood in the world. Manono Island and Apolima Island are very popular places to visit on a short trip.

Ulsan, an hour north-east of Busan, is considered the industrial capital of the country and another city of note.

Daegue is half way between Seoul and Pusan. The educational centre of South Korea there is a large population of english speaking citizens. An hour to the east is Gyeongju, the heart of historical Korea. Temples, graves, carvings and even an amusement park on the the beautiful Bomun Lake are part of the attractions and require 3-4 days to encompass.


March 23, 2006 change by steve-0 (2 points)

November 24, 2006 change by ttalgi21 (2 points)

August 19, 2006 change by jimshady (1 point)

March 12, 2008 change by lyle lives

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