South Korea has one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Its industry is highly developed with factories producing computers, electrical goods, optical equipment, mobile technology and heavy machinery. The country’s rapid industrial growth has taken place since the 1950’s. Before this, its economy was largely based on agriculture. Unlike North Korea, South Korea is not a communist country and most of its industry and business establishments are privately owned. In the south and west of South Korea, cool and forested mountains descend to a fertile plain. Farmers grow rice in these humid coastal regions and fish are caught in the Yellow Sea.
Be sure not to miss seeing these top ten places when in South Korea.
The War Memorial of Korea
The memorial tells the whole story of the war that occurred in the Korean peninsula that resulted in the division between South Korea and North Korea. On the right side, there is a large collection of tanks, planes, rocket launchers, helicopters, war ships, and all kinds of old military vehicles, firearms and equipments (made in South Korea, United States and North Korea). It offers pictures of the horrible war from the feudal and medieval age up to the present plus audio and video guided presentations complete with model war implements and scenarios. The
War Memorial of Korea
tells the belligerent Korean history that is steeped in wars since the beginning of their civilization. It is a large museum complex with lots of interactive facilities presented with the use of modern technology.
Every year on the 15th of August, the Liberation Day is celebrated where a particularly large festival is held at the War Memorial in Seoul. Throughout the day, there are programs that show entertaining performances from Korean artists and popular celebrities, famous international singers, and traditional drummers representing each city along with their colorful cultural dance performances, and the obligatory political speeches from the heads of state of the South Korean government. Before the show ends at night there is an impressive laser show and fireworks to delight the audience.
Myeongdong – Hyper Shopping
If you like shopping you have to go to
and find a huge concentration of Korean shops. On this busy street you can also find shopping malls that promote the K-pop culture (music, fashion, accessories, etc.). It is always teeming with people and the shops are always compressed with curious shoppers and tourists.
It’s a neighborhood full of life where everything can be found. It is easy to reach either on foot or by subway and serves as a good access point to the main city attractions. In the evening, it is full of young people, there is music in the streets, there are typical restaurants, fast food joints, bars, nightclubs, massage centers, and you can enjoy a food trip adventure of the famous street food stalls (potato fries, lemonade, caramel cakes, Korean ice cream delights, etc.) in Seoul. At night it gets livelier and brightly illuminated by the electronic billboards and colorful lamp posts.
You will see lots of people but they are not rushing and some simply absorb the vibrant atmosphere of the place and meeting the smiling and friendly Koreans. Sometimes they will even lure you to their shop and offer you small giveaways or samples of their product. Branded clothes, shoes, cosmetics, electronic gadgets, office and school supplies in the cold weather (-15 degrees Fahrenheit) makes shopping here a fun and worthwhile activity.
The visit to the famous
is reminiscent of a visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing. The concept is the same. You can see all the palaces of the court that were used for many different functions. The style of the building is typical Korean where green is the dominant color. It is a set of buildings (largely reconstructed) and narrow streets that identify the old Imperial Era and offers an insight of how the Koreans lived during that time. It is one of the five palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, the largest and most important.
Inside you will find the
National Palace Museum
National Folk Museum
. The palace is beautifully restored and the surrounding gardens are perfectly designed and well maintained. It gives a very good impression of Korean culture. Another highlight of the palace is the ceremony of the changing of the guard at noon with musicians and warriors in their traditional costumes. The huge complex has landscaped walking paths beside ponds that are ideal for taking pictures.
Halla Mountain and National Park
With lovely views of the Jeju Island in the center of this attraction,
(Halla San in Korean) is a great place for hiking and for people who long for a peaceful encounter with nature. With a height of 1,950 meters above sea level, it is the highest mountain in S. Korea and is the second highest peak on the Korean peninsula. You can enjoy an uphill hike with groups who are familiar with the trail of the mountain.
There are several routes to get to the top, but if you go along with the designated route and stay close with fellow hikers it is impossible to get lost during the two and a half hour ascent. Every couple of meters there are benchmarks to signify the height level and the name of the trail that you have already accomplish. The path has wooden and stone walkways and provides a peek to the breathtaking craters of the mountain. At approximately two-thirds of the way you will reach the main level control where you can relax, have a snack, (there are small shops that sell water, doshirak, cookies, noodles, coffee, etc.) or feel the need to use the toilet.
The further you climb the steeper and complex the way to the top gets. At the top observation deck, there are plank floors where you can admire the views, take pictures, and eat tangerines (this island is rich with tangerine trees). The descent will take about three hours to achieve and you get a certificate (in Korean language) for reaching the top.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
The peculiarity of the
Haedon Yonggungsa Temple
is the location. It is perched on a cliff in Busan overlooking the sea with several level, bridges, and sculptures. The resort is very unusual for a Korean Buddhist temple (usually they are all located in the mountains and forest). The temple is frequented by tourists because of its mystical charm and the rough seaside atmosphere. The temple is beautiful but it’s a bit far from downtown. It is much easier to get there by public transport by taking the subway to Haeundae Station (Line 2). On exit number 7, take the bus 181 and this bus will take you directly to the entrance point of the temple.
Silence must be observed once the Buddhist monks begin their chants and time for prayer. At the entrance to the complex there are numerous souvenir shops and food. Buddha statues in all forms and sizes can be found in and around the temple’s huge complex and promenade area with great views of the sea. The 12 animal sculptures dedicated to the Chinese calendar are also properly represented on its sacred rounds. Taking pictures with the displayed statues and stone markers within the temple’s proximity is allowed.
UN Memorial Cemetery
UN Memorial Cemetery
is a must see attraction in Busan especially if your country participated as one of the foreign allies in the Korean War. The entire cemetery is dedicated and where the 50 graves of the Quebec and Canadian soldiers who fought during the 1953 war were laid to rest. The whole place and the garden are well maintained and the cemetery does not look like those in the USA or France that bear small white crosses, instead each tombstone is decorated with beautiful roses.
There is also a square that is dedicated to the fallen French soldiers. It is an impressive place in the aspect of memory – to the extent of the war and its devastating effects for the victim of people from around the world to understand. At the same time, it really is a beautiful park where people can enjoy a quiet time and just come for a walk and offer prayers or flowers to the fallen heroes. The system is designed impressively and consists of a large burial ground, a monument, a small chapel (where a short documentary is shown about the Korean War) and a small museum with photo exhibit.
China Town (Incheon)
China Town Incheon
is reachable by car in about 40 minutes from Seoul or in about half an hour by train. As soon as you exit the metro station of Incheon city, you will find China Town right in front of you. It is a nice neighborhood that is built on a hill and full of small shops and Chinese restaurants. The attractions in this area are; Samgukji Mural street, a long wall which depicts 77 scenes concerning the period of the Three Kingdoms, the Statue of Confucius, Japan Town or the Japan Concession, the
where there is a monument representing the 100th anniversary of friendship between Korea and America.
The attraction is highly recommended for eating out and buying Chinese herbs, snacks, health supplements, lucky charms and trinkets that are common with the Chinese culture. Some small shops are located on a plateau from which one has a great view of the city and the nearby harbor. In the street of murals, there are tile art murals that depicts the Korean history. Further up the hill there is a monument and memorial hall of General Mc Arthur’s historical landing in Incheon during the Korean War.
To see everything, visitors can take the stairs that will ultimately lead to the crater of this extinct geologic attraction. The
(Sunrise Peak) consists of rises in an interval of 20-30 minutes with breaks for rest. There are shops that sell water and snacks along the trail. With an infinite number of steps it goes up towards the crater that looked impressive and bright green in pictures.
From the top you will also have a spectacular view of the city. The trail is not suitable for the elderly and young kids due to its dangerous and steep walking paths and numerous stairs. At the beach area, every day there are diving lessons conducted by the Haenyo-divers who also run a small restaurant that sell freshly caught seafood from the rich waters of the Seogwipo region. A visit here is best combined with a trip to the island of Udo.
is a 70-minute drive from
up to the
(towards the direction of the Ilchubong Sunrise Peak). By ferry coming from the Seongsan Harbour, this island can be reached in 15 minutes. You must rent an ATV and drive around the island to see all of it in a convenient way. The distance of 16.1 kilometers and two hour adventure allows some stops for picture taking or a short jump into the sea. You can have a taste of the local cuisine in the restaurants near the shores. Do not miss a visit to the rustic caves, the Udo cliffs, the fine white sand beach mixed with the coral black sand of the lava formations, and a chance to dine near the
. The soft ice cream with peanuts (a specialty of Udo) is particularly tasty.
Jeonju Hanok Village
The Jenjou Hanok Village is a pleasant and typically Korean neighborhood. You will find traditional houses, lots of restaurants and shops, Zen inspired flower gardens with waterfalls that invite you to meditate and take life with so much philosophy. In this village, time seems to pass by slowly, cars are not allowed on its main roads, and shops close early.
The whole community reflects a collection of rustic and countryside Korean culture. The famous and delicious Jenjou Bibimbap dish is also one of the reasons why tourists visit this simple village.