Category Archives: Things to Do

A walk far from home, a Norwegian on the Baekdudaegan

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A walk far from home, a Norwegian on the Baekdudaegan

I am a long way from home, standing at the summit of Cheonwangbong (1915m), the highest mountain on the mainland of South Korea. Home is Oslo, the capital of Norway, and I have travelled far to get to the starting point of the Baekdudaegan. The mythical ridge that forms the watershed and the spiritual backbone of Korea and home to the long-distance trail of the same name. With no skills in the Korean language, I have a daunting task ahead of me.

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For the next seven weeks, I will walk about 735 kilometres across South Korea to the pass of Jinburyeong. From there I can go no further, but the mountain ridge however, does not care for human borders. The White Head Great Ridge runs unbroken through the Korean Peninsula, all the way up to the sacred mountain of Baekdusan (2744m), situated at the border between North Korea and China. The Baekdudaegan is a spiritual heritage for the Koreans; so spiritual that according to legend, the Japanese drove spikes into the ridge to destroy its spirit under their invasions of Korea.

tarjei-photo-10Clouds surrounds the Heavenly King Peak. Guided by the ropes and fences of Jirisan National Park, I take the first steps on a journey that will lead me to the heart of the Korean people. I spend the first night on the trail at the Seseok shelter. I pay 8.000 won and in return, I receive a small space on a hard wooden platform. The night is hot and the dormitory is vibrant with snoring, sleepless in Jirisan. The clouds however, does not sleep through the night, they move on, leaving behind a ridge of emerald beauty the morning after. My adventure is off to a beautiful start.

The first days on the trail, is a hard lesson in Korean topography. The mountains here are not extremely high, but they are always undulating and are at times exceedingly steep. It is as the lifeforce, called gi, from Baekdusan flows like waves through Korea, and the trail negotiates them head on. One week of walking and I am already wondering if I am going to make it to the finish line, stumbling tired up to the summit of Baegunsan. The morning after, I crawl out of my tent to a beautiful sunrise. With thin layer of clouds floating like ethereal rivers through the valleys below, and in the horizon the mighty peak of Cheonwangbong. That is the spirit of Baekdudaegan and the price of beauty, for the Baekdudaegan will reward you for your hardship.

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Nights on the trail is mostly spent in my tent or at what the Koreans call minbak, which most closely translates as homestay, but my most haunting nights are spent in a jeongja. These are pavilions, often very ornamented, which you are allowed to sleep in once other visitors has left. After walking for two days through the beauty of Deogyusan National Park, I arrive at Bbaejae, where I sleep in the breath of clean air under the protective roof of the jeongja there. Only to be awakened up at two o’clock in the middle of the night by a bus loading off a huge group of hikers, the Bone Pass is soon teeming with headlights and voices in the dark.

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Such is often the way Koreans hike in the mountains, I meet them in both small and large groups, hiking or sitting down eating large quantities of food. Each time trying to get the formal greeting of ‘annyŏng haseyo’ pronounced correct. The meeting with the Koreans on the trail also gives me huge reasons to practice saying thanks correctly, ‘kamsahamnida’. For the hospitability I meet on the trail is a source of constant wonder. Often I am invited to sit down with them, where they eagerly share their food and drink with me, even though we do not speak each other’s languages. Other times I receive small gifts like apples and grapes, to the occasional chocolate bar pushed shyly into my hand.

At Keunjae, I arrive to the sound of children laughing; there is a kindergarden from Gimcheon there visiting the educational centre about nature and Korean culture for children at the pass. I meet Mr. Cho Byeongsam, one of the teachers at the kindergarden. We talk about me doing the Baekdudaegan and the temple of Jikjisa. Just two days earlier, I stood atop Mt. Hwangaksan looking down upon the temple grounds, with an urge to climb down to it. Then the amazing thing happens, Mr. Cho is inviting me to Gimcheon with the kindergarden, from where he and his wife, Baek Seung Hee, are driving me to the beautiful temple. What a fantastic twist of fate. Afterwards we eat dinner at a local restaurant nearby the temple, before they drive me back to a motel near Keunjae. Such a tale brought me joy on the walk, and it did not take long before I was looking forward to the next encounter with the Korean people. Just as much as I was looking forward to the next magic moment on the Baekdudaegan.

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I walk through the mesmerizing Songnisan National Park, going through fields of boulders where I have either to push or drag my backpack behind me. The descent from Daeyasan may be the most notorious single section of the Baekdudaegan, where you climb down from the summit on what is called the ‘100-meter rope’. It is a fun ride, but caution should be taken.

Outside the confines of the national parks, I follow the fluttering ribbons for guidance of where the trail goes. It is an interesting aspect of hiking here in Korea that it is the hikers themselves that are marking where the trail goes. Each ribbon carries a personal mark of the hiker, and you find them in almost all the colours of the rainbow. As I progress on the trail, I start to recognize the different ribbons, and wonders who the hiker beyond each ribbon is. Though I have to be careful following the correct ribbons, I look closely for the 백두대간 Hangeul characters denoting the Baekdudaegan. At some ancient fortress walls below Huiyangsan, I follow the wrong ribbons downwards for a long time before I become aware of my mistake, resulting in a strenuous return to the ridge.

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It takes three weeks before I get a taste of bad weather, but when it comes, it comes with a vengeance. I walk the exposed and funky ridge of Mungyeong Saejae between Ihwaryeong and Joryeong in a typhoon. Rain lashes down on me ceaselessly, as I negotiates the trail using ropes up and down huge boulders. I get soaking wet, including my boots, as the water runs down the ropes and onto my arms, and so forth made its way under my raingear. The day after was designated my first rest day.

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The Baekdudaegan is a hard walk and I feel constantly tired, but for all its tribulations, it is a rewarding rollercoaster ride. Walking through the azalea gardens of Sobaeksan National Park, which will bloom pink in the spring. Visiting the mighty temple of Buseoksa. Sitting on top of Seokbyeongsan, watching a verdant wonderland in the setting sun. Waking up early to catch the rise of the morning sun from the summit of Noinbong.

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A thunderclap salutes my entry into Seoraksan National Park with its jagged peaks and towering cliffs on the 43rd day of walking. It is raining and low clouds, with no visibility. It is a haunting walk of mysterious beauty in the beginning; through the clouds, I can see the torn landscape. Another hiker rescues the raincoat of my backpack and we keep company to the shelter of Jungcheong and the summit of Dacheonbong. Arriving at the peak, the weather has lifted and the immense beauty of Seoraksan is unveiled. I stand looking at the famous rock of Ulsanbawi, the dinosaur spine of Gongryong Neungseon, Sokcho and the East Sea. Magic. In the evening, I sit between the spines of the dinosaur and watch the lights from the squid boats out on the sea.

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Then I stumble tired down past the ghost resort below Masanbong. My sore and weary feet aches as the last few steps are taken; I can see the stele at Jinburyeong, the finishing line. I stumble out of the forest, past the last of the fluttering ribbons.

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Turning around, I can look back at 45 beautiful, but hard days on the Baekdudaegan in South Korea. Looking back at great moments in the mountains and nature, but most of all, looking back at the meeting with the Korean people. In the end, I feel that the spiritual backbone is not the ridge itself, but the people that inhabits the land on and around it.

You can read the whole story at:  http://tarjeinskrede.blogspot.no/p/baekdudaegan.html.

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Tarjei Næss Skrede, born in 1976, works as an IT Consultant at Bouvet in Oslo, Norway. He has for a long time been interested in outdoors activities and in recent years, he has grown a big interest in long distance trails. In 2013, he crossed the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean on the GR10, after which he set sight on a far more exotic trail, the Baekdudaegan of South Korea.

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Seonunsa – A Beautiful Asiatic Temple

by

EVP & Partner, Stanton Chase Korea

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Seonunsa – A Beautiful Asiatic Temple

The beauty of East Asia comes alive when visiting Seonunsa — a Buddhist temple located in the Jeollabuk (North Jeolla) Province of South Korea. This temple – its name is Seonunsa – was first built during the Baekje (also spelt Paekche) dynasty, more than 1,400 years ago – circa 577 A.D. – at its present location.

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Today, hundreds of people register and visit this temple each year by experiencing the “Temple Stay” program. You too can take home, and keep with you, this uniquely Asian experience by clicking HERE.

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Run 10k (21k) – We Run Seoul

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Run 10k (21k) – We Run Seoul

Runners, young and old, ran to finish the “Nike We Run Seoul” event on the streets of Seoul yesterday (Sunday, October 26, 2014) with an estimated 30,000 participants. The Nike “Global We Run Series” will be held in 18 cities this year worldwide – an event which has inspired athletes to shoot for, and achieve, their personal best.

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In Seoul, the 21k (black jersey) run was added to the already popular 10k (yellow jersey) run beginning this year. If you’re a runner, or someone who’s trying to get back into shape, this could be the event that you’ve been waiting for. Below is a list of the 18 cities and dates for this year.

Seoul’s first Nike “We Run” race was held in 2010. In other words, this year (2014) was the fifth straight year for Seoul to be apart of this international race event. Can’t wait until next year’s event comes around again.

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♦ Nike Global We Run Series (2014) – 18 cities and date schedule ♦

  • Aug 30: We Run Prague
  • Sept 14: We Run Moscow
  • Sept 28: We Run Istanbul
  • Oct 5: We Run Paris
  • Oct 12: We Run Milan
  • October 26: “We Run Seoul”
  • Nov 2: Soweto Marathon
  • Nov 15: We Run Monterrey
  • Nov 16: We Run Guadalajara
  • Nov 16: We Run Guatemala
  • Nov 22: We Run Montevideo
  • Nov 29: We Run Bangkok
  • Nov 30: We Run Mexico City
  • Dec 6: We Run Santiago
  • Dec 13: We Run Jakarta
  • Dec 31: We Run Rome
  • Dec 31: We Run Madrid
  • Feb 1 (2015): We Run Kuala Lumpur

♦ Related Outside Stories and External Links via the World Wide Web (Click) ♦

♦ More information on YouTube (Courtesy of GoGarr) ♦

 

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The best of “Korean Cuisines and Cooking” with Maangchi

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The best of “Korean Cuisines and Cooking” with Maangchi

One of the absolutely best and most comprehensive YouTube channels out there – dealing with home-made Korean food, eating and cooking today – is from a person who goes by the nickname of “Maangchi”. Who is Maangchi (you ask)? Well, if you haven’t heard of “Maangchi” (and/or her YouTube channel) yet – now you have.

Maangchi (meaning “hammer” in Korean) had first posted a short clip of herself cooking Korean food on YouTube on April 9, 2007 – just for fun. Now a few years later, voila, she’s racked up over 421,000 subscribers; and a total of slightly under 47 million hits (views) and 218 uploaded videos so far – impressive numbers.

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The best part, about her videos, is that they’re all produced in English – so you can understand and catch her recipes. Her channel is all about cooking, eating, and enjoying Korean cuisine with family and friends.

If you’re someone who had once lived in South Korea and now have returned back to your home country — or if you’re a Korean person, for example, studying or living abroad without somebody to help you cook — Maangchi, and her cooking videos, could be of value to you and your tummy.

As you listen to (and watch some of) her videos, you’ll feel a level of excitement and Maangchi’s enthusiasm peppered with a special passion for further flavor. Her love for sharing and cooking Korean food is so far unparalleled on YouTube.

♦ Sampler: How to Make Bibimbap (on YouTube by Maangchi) ♦

Here’s a sample of one of many Maangchi’s online cooking lessons. This particular video deals with making “Bibimbap” or better yet “Bi-Bim-Bap”.

♦ Say it: How to say “Bibimbap” in Korean (on YouTube by Maangchi) ♦

Not only does Maangchi share with you her recipes, she also helps us pronounce Korean food names properly so that you’ll be able to “order” the food at a Korean restaurant without getting the orders mixed-up. Here’s her lesson on how to say (and write) Bibimbap in Korean:

♦ Learn more about “Maangchi” ♦

You can learn more about Maangchi, and cooking Korean food, by visiting her website  –  click HERE.

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Take a ride in a “Best Driver” Taxi

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Take a ride in a “Best Driver” Taxi

Taking a cab in country where you don’t speak the local language can be, at first, both a frightening and frustrating experience. This is usually because of a combination of factors such as (a) difficult communication, (b) different type of taxis, and (c) not familiar streets.

Here’s an overview — the ins and outs, if you will — of the taxi system in Seoul, South Korea to help you move around town when you visit dynamic Seoul.

First before we get started, let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario where you’re trying to catch a cab in Seoul, and you (just about now) want to ask someone how to grab a “taxi.”

This sounds quite simple and straight forward, but the way people (Koreans) pronounced taxi is not “Tax+E” (as in Taxation +Easy), so people may not understand your pronunciation of taxi at first.

If this is the case, the reason is because “Taxi” in Korean is pronounced as “Tech+She” or better yet “Teck+She” (as in “heck” – but with a “T” rather than “H”; and then “She”). Thus, try saying “Teck-She” and people will understand you better. To explain a bit further, and in Korean, “Taxi” is translated into, spelt and read as, “택시” which is “Teck-She” – so, more people are familiar with the tone (sounds) of Teck-She as opposed to Tax-E.

♦ Value-Added Insight ♦

From a fare perspective, Seoul has mainly 2 different types of cabs (taxis). One is the “Deluxe Taxi” and the other is a non-Deluxe (or “Regular”) Taxi.

The fare of a “Deluxe Taxi” is much more expensive than a “Regular” Taxi. For instance, and currently during July 2014, the beginning fare for a “Deluxe” taxi is 5,000 KRW (about $5.00 USD) for the first 3 km (kilometer) where as for a “Regular” taxi the beginning fare is 3,000 KRW (about $3.00 USD) for the first 2 km (kilometers).

The meter on the cab, thereafter, runs (goes up) on a combination of distance and time. The meter for the “Deluxe Taxi” goes up by an increment of 200 KRW (20 cents) whereas the “Regular Taxi” meter will go up by 100 KRW (10 cents).

A Late night surcharge (20%) is automatically added, if you ride between midnight and 4:00 am. If you ride outside of Seoul (out-of-town) during late-night hours, another 20% is added. Thus, there is a 40% surcharge.

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As seen above, and because all Deluxe Taxis are of color “black” – these cabs are sometimes referred to as “black cabs” if you begin to use street talk.

The “non-Black” cabs — either silver or orange — in Seoul are the “Regular” cabs; and there a two fundamentally different types of “Regular” cabs, which is important to remember because of same-price, but quality differences.

Specifically, (1) one-type is privately owned and operated by an “Individual Owner” and these cabs are called “Individually Owned” Taxis; and (2) second-type of a “Regular” class cab is the “Company Operated” Taxis.

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The “Company Operated” cabs in Seoul take on the color “orange” but there are still a good number of old “silver” and/or “white” cabs on the road which are also “Company Operated” which are planned to be phased out – these cabs have a “Blue” crown (night-light-box) on top of the roof of the car.

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Although the fare is exactly the same, the level of service your get from an “Individually Owned” cab is at least 2-3 times better than if you would ride a “Company Operated” taxi because of the following reasons.

Ownership: The driver for an “Individually Owned” taxi is actually driving his own vehicle, whereas behind the handle of a “Company Operated” taxi is an employee who is driving a car provided to him (her) by the cab company. Ownership of the cab makes a big difference in the “service” mind-set of the driver. If we look at the “Individually (or Driver) owned” taxi, the driver has already invested in purchasing the cab, and typically considers driving his (her) life-time vocation. Thus, these people are more professional. On the other hand, and if we look at the drivers who are working for a “Company Operated” taxi company; their primary interest is to get a paycheck at the end of the day. In other words, they are not so much concerned about the provision of good quality service.

Experience & Safety:  In order qualify to become an “Individually Owned” taxi driver; one must have a driving record of having “no accidents” for at least 3 years. In the past, the requirements to become an “Individually Owned” cab driver were much higher. The “Company Operated” cab company will basically hire anyone who has a driver’s license. Thus, statistically, the “Individually Owned” taxis are less likely to get involved in an auto-accident.

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Best Driver: Another sub-class of the regular fare “Individually Owned” taxi is the “Best Driver” class. This is, by far, the best “bang-for-the-buck” cab in Seoul. The drivers behind the handle of these cabs are the same, if not better, than the “Deluxe Taxi” class. In order to quality to have this “crown” on top of your cab, the driver must have had no accident for at least 15 years. Thus, if and when you choose to ride in this type of cab, you could be easily surprised with good service and peace-of-mind.

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In addition to its distinctive crown on the roof of the car, the “Best Driver” Individually Owned Regular Taxi also has 90% percent of the time an emblem on its front door.

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If we go back to talking about the “Deluxe Taxi” class, it is worth noting that any black color cab (“Deluxe Taxi’) — whether it’s a sedan, limo, foreign SUV and/or large vans (called “Jumbo Taxi”) — will charge at the same (equal) premium rate. Thus, if you are able to spot a stretched limo, and you’ve decided to go premium (deluxe), then the meter for the limo will also start at 5,000 KRW. In other words, “black cabs” all go by the same fare-rate basis.

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♦ Food for Thought ♦

If there are many cabs waiting in line, the best way to distinguish taxis in Seoul are by looking at the “crown” that’s located on top of the roof of the vehicle. Here’s a quick guide and summary:

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Should you prefer luxury and/or are a business class traveler, then the “Deluxe Taxi” (black cab) with “Yellow” crown is recommended. You will, however, pay a higher price. These cabs are typically parked in front of 5 start hotels or near bars, restaurants and/or nightclubs in the upscale Gangnam district, for example.

If you wish best value, then choose the Regular Fare “Individually Owned (Best Driver) Taxi” for transportation. If you don’t see one of them (none available) in line, then the “Individually Owned (silver cab)” with either a “yellow” or “white” crown is good.

The Regular Fare “Company Operated” taxis are either color Orange, or have a “Blue” color crown. Avoid taking these cabs, if you don’t like to speed. These cabs will typically weave in-and-out of traffic, and try to get you to your designation at the fastest (shortest) time possible.

Among the Orange cabs, a few will have the sign “International Taxi” on the crown. These cabs were intended to provide a free-of-charge phone service for interpretation, but their effectiveness for reducing frustration caused by language barriers haven’t been yet 100% percent measured. Services are provided in Korean, English, Chinese (Mandarin) and Japanese.

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♦ Language Footnote 

  • Deluxe Taxi // 모범택시 // 模範 Taxi
  • Individually Owned Taxi // 개인택시 // 個人 Taxi
  • Company Operated Taxi // 법인택시 // 法人 Taxi
  • Taxi // 택시 (pronounced = Teck-She)

♦ Related Outside Stories and External Links via the World Wide Web ♦

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Korean Movies: 83 of them with English Subtitles

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Korean Movies: 83 of them with English Subtitles

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The fascinating world of cinema can provide insight into the thoughts, feelings, imagination and values of those who have made and consumed them at theaters nationwide. For foreign made movies, an argument over the ability to indirectly obtain insight into another culture can be made as viewers watch such movies from home (online) and set first experiences (initial encounters) as a beginning point for learning and understanding a completely different culture.

A major problem with watching foreign movies, though, is language. Well, and remarkably, the Korean Film Archive has translated 83 movies for you — all with English sub-titles — and has provided them for public viewing on YouTube. If you have the interest and/or curiosity, you’ll be able to spend days, if not weeks, watching all of these movies which were first release from a period in between the 1950s to 1990s.

♦ Value-Added Insight ♦

[Review and Rating for this YouTube Site] In similar fashion to a restaurant rating, we rate this site (channel) — namely, “KoreanFilm” as being very useful and informative, and give it a two thumbs-up rating.

▶  Click Here to go directly to “Korean Film” videos (83 movies)

To start, a link to the movie called “Love Marriage” in English from 1958 (more than 55 years ago) is provided from YouTube as one “taste” example from the menu of 83. The background of this movie, clothes (a mixture of traditional Korean and western attire), the life-style of a medical doctor’s family from back in the day, and the scenery from the late 1950s of Korea is also quite interesting to see from a learning perspective.

During this period after the Korean War, many young couples were still obliged to wed under a “fixed-by-an-adult-family-members-type-of-arrangement” marriage system; and Korea was transitioning into a society where “dating” before getting married was slowly becoming more socially acceptable as a wedding custom. It is also worth mentioning and intriguing to see that many of the street signs in the capital city of Seoul, 55 years ago, and in the movie had used many more Chinese characters compared with today.

The rating for each one of the movies from this YouTube channel follows the below table.

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♦ Food for Thought 

With a sharp increase of cross-cultural and inter-racial marriages on the rise over the past few decades, a window into one aspect of Korean culture — in the form of these theater movies — may provide some help to non-Koreans who wish to further understand his/her spouse and/or their Korean family.

These movies may also indirectly provide assistance to Korean-Americans and/or Korean-Europeans and/or to those who have had at least one parent, or grandparent, that originally came from Korea by adding a rich flavor of both cultural context and content (i.e., frame of reference) toward better understanding them and where — with what type of a background — they’re coming from.

♦ Language Footnote 

  • Love Marriage // 자유결혼 // 自由結婚  (Note: Today the Korean term of “연애결혼” is primarily used. In other words, people no longer use the term 자유결혼)

♦ Related Outside Stories and External Links via the World Wide Web 

♦ More information from YouTube (viewable from desktop and/or notebook) 

Note: The Seoul Tribune takes "copyright and fair use" seriously. As the internet continues on with its evolution, there remain quite a few number of “grey” areas still left open to interpretation. If you have any comments for attention, please send us a message by using this “Contact Us (click here)” form with your opinion so that we may promptly address your concern(s).

 

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South Korea’s Astronomical Observatory – Cheomseongdae

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South Korea’s Astronomical Observatory – Cheomseongdae

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The Cheomsungdae – or Platform for Looking at the Stars – was built during the reign of Queen Seondeok (632 to 647 A.D.) of the Silla Dynasty in the ancient city of Gyeongju which is located approximately 329 km south-south-east from Seoul. According to the 1982 Guinness Book of World Records, it was the earliest astronomical observatory structure in the world. Today, it is recognized as the oldest observatory in East Asia.

This observatory still stands in the exact same location – without alteration and/or major damage – after a period of more than 1,300 years. The “then-and-now” photo shows students during a field trip to Cheomsungdae taken in 1935 – about 80 years ago. The now photo was taken 2 years ago in 2012.

♦ Value-Added Insight 

During the reign of Queen Seondeok, the city of Gyeongju was called Keum Sung which means the “Walled City of Gold” city. Silla – the Silla (also spelt as Shilla) Dynasty (57 B.C to 935 A.D.) was a very technologically advanced society in terms of its knowledge and skills of creating exquisite hand-made products, such as royal crowns, from gold.

If you’re visiting Korea and have a long 3-day weekend, it will be easy to find well organized and efficient group tours departing from any major hotel in Seoul that will take visitors down to Gyeongju where you may visit – and take your own photo of – this observatory and many other historic sites.

♦ Language Footnote 

  • Cheomsungdae = 첨성대 (瞻星臺)
  • Queen Seondeok = 선덕여왕 (善德女王)
  • Silla = Shilla = 신라 (新羅)
  • Gyeongju = Kyongju = 경주 (慶州)
  • Keumsung = Kumsung = 금성 (金城)

♦ Related Outside Stories and External Links via the World Wide Web 

Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy

♦ More information from YouTube 

 

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