Korea Country Info

The Republic of Korea (South Korea) shares borders to the north with the demilitarised zone (separating it from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), to the east with the East Sea, to the south with the Korea Strait (separating it from Japan) and to the west with the Yellow Sea. There are many islands, bays and peninsulas in the Korea Strait. The volcanic island of Cheju do lies off the southwest coast. Most of the country consists of hills and mountains and the 30% of flat plain contains the majority of the population and cultivation. Most rivers rise in the mountains to the east, flowing west and south to the Yellow Sea. The Naktong River flows into the Korea Strait near the southern port of Pusan. The eastern coast is rocky and steep with mountains rising from the sea. 

 Quick Facts

AREA: 99,392 sq km (38,375 sq miles, excluding demilitarised zone).

POPULATION: 45,545,282 (official estimate 1996).

POPULATION DENSITY: 458.8 per sq km.

CAPITAL: Seoul. Population: 10,229,262 (1995).

LANGUAGE: Korean.

RELIGION: Mahayana Buddhism with a large Christian minority. Also Confucianism and Chundo Kyo.

TIME: GMT + 9.

ELECTRICITY: 110/220 volts AC, 60Hz. Policy is to phase out the 110-volt supply.

COMMUNICATIONS: Telephone: IDD is available to Seoul and other major cities. Country code: 82. Outgoing international code: 001. Fax: Available at major hotels and business centres. Telegram: There is a service at all main hotels. Korea International Telecommunications Services at 1, Choongmo-ro, Chung-ku, Seoul provide a 24-hour public service. Post: Airmail to Western Europe takes up to ten days. Post offices open 0900-1700 Monday to Friday; 0900-1300 Saturday. Press: English-language national dailies are The Korea Herald and The Korea Times.

BBC World Service and Voice of America frequencies: From time to time these change. See the section How to Use this Book for more information.

BBC:

MHz 17.83 15.28 11.96 9.740

Voice of America:

MHz 17.74 15.31 11.72 6.045

 Environment

The Korean Peninsula extends for about 1,000 kilometers southward from the northeast part of the Asian continent and consists of the Korean Peninsula and over 3,400 islands. The peninsula and all of its associated islands lie between 33 ?? and 43 ?? parallels and 124 ?& and 132 ?& meridians. The northernmost point is Yupojin in Onsong-gun, North Hamgyong Province, and the southernmost point is Marado Island, Cheju Province. The westernmost point is Maando Island in Yongchon-gun, North Pyongan Province, and the easternmost is Tokdo Islets in Ullunggun, North Kyongsang Province. The standard meridian of the peninsula is 135 ?& , so Seoul local time is nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

 The Amnok (Yalu) River and the Tuman (Tumen) River border both China and Russia to the north and Japan is just across the East Sea. Since 1945, as a byproduct of the Cold War, the peninsula has been divided at the 38th parallel into the Republic of Korea, or South Korea, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, more commonly known as North Korea.

 Lacking formidable land or sea barriers along its borders and occupying a central position among East Asian nations, the Korean Peninsula has served as a cultural bridge between the mainland and the Japanese archipelago. Korea contributed greatly to the development of Japan by transmitting both Indian Buddhist and Chinese Confucian culture, art, and religion.

 The total area of the peninsula is 221,607 square kilometers, similar in size to that of the U.K, New Zealand, or Romania. South Korea possesses 99,237 square kilometers or 45% of the total landmass, while North Korea 122,370 square kilometers, the remaining 55%. Korea has a varied terrain, though about 70 percent of the territory is mountainous. The spectacular Mountains Taebaek run the full length of the east coast, where the lashing tides of the East sea, have carved out sheer cliffs and rocky islets. The western and southern slopes are very gentle, forming plains and many offshore islands honeycombed with inlets.

The peninsula has many scenic mountains and rivers, so Koreans often call it the “land decorated with golden embroidery.” The highest peak is Mt. Paektusan, or the Ever White Mountain, which stands 2,744 meters high on the northern borderline facing Manchuria. South Korea’s highest peak is Mount Halla (1950 meters) in Cheju Province.

 Most of the larger rivers are located in the west and have their tributaries on the north and east sides, and flow into the Yellow Sea and the South Sea. In South Korea, the Naktong River and the Han River are the two major rivers responsible for irrigation and industrial water supply. The Han River flows through Seoul, the capital of the Republic and serves as a lifeline for the large population in the central region, including Seoul’s 11 million residents. The river also played a significant part in the development of Korea’s ancient civilization.

 Surrounding the peninsula on three sides, the sea has played a remarkable role in Korean life since ancient times, contributing to the early development of shipbuilding and navigation skills. The coastline is dotted with bays and it has some of the highest tides in the world. The eastern coastline has many sandy beaches, while the western side consists mainly of mud flats and rocky shores. Off the southern coast, more than 3,000 islands of various sizes are scattered and provide beautiful scenery unparalleled in the world.
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 History

Archeologists believe that people have been living on the Korean peninsula for about half a million years. Stone chopping tools and hand axes have been found in archeological digs in central Korea. Pieces of old pottery decorated with a comb pattern have been found at riverside and coastal sites around the country. Farming, including the planting of rice in the warmer southern regions, started in the Bronze Age, around 3,500 years ago. Archeologists have found carbonized rice grains and farming tools at many archaeological digs from this time.

 Korea’s geography was a major factor in shaping its history; geography also influenced the manner in which the inhabitants of the peninsula emerged as a people sharing the common feeling of being Koreans.

 The Korean Peninsula protrudes southward from the northeastern corner of the Asian continent and is surrounded on three sides by large expanses of water. Although Japan is not far from Korea, in ancient times the peninsula was affected far more by the civilizations on the Asian continent than by those in Japan. The Korean people trace their origins to the founding of the state of Choson, literally meaning the “Land of the Morning Calm.” It dated to 2333 B.C. when Tan-gun, a legendary figure born of the son of Heaven and a woman from a bear-totem tribe, established Choson.

 Ancient Korea was characterized by clan communities which combined to form small town-states. They rose and fell so that by the first century B.C. three kingdoms, Koguryo (37 B.C.-A.D. 668), Paekche (18 B.C.-A.D. 660) and Shilla (57 B.C.-A.D. 935), had emerged on the Korean Peninsula and part of what is now known as Manchuria.

 Ever since Shilla unified the peninsula in 676, Korea has been ruled by a single government and has maintained its political independence and cultural and ethnic identity in spite of frequent foreign invasions. Both the Koryo (918-1392) and the Choson (1392-1910) Dynasties consolidated their dynastic power and flourished culturally, while repelling intruders like the Khitans, Mongols, Manchus and Japanese. In the late 19th century, Korea became the focus of intense competition among imperialist nations, China, Russia and Japan. In 1910, Japan annexed Korea and instituted colonial rule. National liberation occurred in 1945 but was soon followed by territorial division. The Republic of Korea in the south has a democratic government, while the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north is ruled by a Communist regime.

 

 Economic Profile

GDP: US$338 billion
GDP per head: US$7,673
Annual growth: -2%
Inflation: 4.5%
Major industries: Machinery, transport, agriculture, textiles
Major trading partners: USA, Japan, Germany

 Culture

Korean culture has blossomed during her long history. Though affected by other Asian cultures, its roots lie deep within the creative Korean psyche, and it has tended to spread rather than be encroached upon. Japan especially has adopted many Korean ideas and customs. The delicate styling and fine craftsmanship of celadon pottery illustrates the refinement of the culture well, even from as far back as the Three Kingdoms period. Korea has also spawned some great inventions: its first printing systems predate Gutenberg’s, the famous ‘Turtle Ship’ was the first ever iron-clad battleship, and the Korean alphabet, devised by a group of scholars in the 15 century, was so effective that it remains largely unchanged today. The reasons behind Korea’s rapid economic development can be found in this innate creativity.

Cultural Attractions

Buddhism has played a powerful role in Korean art. A large number of excellent examples of Korean artwork and architecture can be found in Buddhist temples and paintings. During the Choson Dynasty, Confucianism became a leading inspiration for the noblemen to whom the arts of calligraphy and painting were essential. They have left a legacy of fine brushwork from which contemporary artists have benefited from.

Traditional Art
Korea has a long and distinguished cultural history. The current trend in Korean art is the harmonious combination of traditional and modern styles, revealing the historical roots and influences of Korean art.

Painting
Tomb murals from the Three Kingdoms Period are the earliest examples of Korean painting. Mythological beasts such as dragons and flying horses show an imaginative and creative spirit. Throughout the Unified Shilla and Koryo Periods, Buddhism prevailed in every field of life, thus leaving a rich collection of icon paintings. In the late Koryo Dynasty, ink and brush paintings of the four “noble plants”, (cherry blossom, orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo), which symbolized traditional virtues, became popular. Artists of the Choson Dynasty produced innovative masterpieces embodying the Korean spirits and perspectives. There are humorous animal pictures, scroll paintings of dreamlike, mist-clad mountains, and insightful sketches of everyday life done in brush and ink. Paintings with folk custom and nature themes flourished in the latter half of the 18th century. Shin Yun-bok was a celebrated master of this genre.

Calligraphy
Calligraphy, the art of brush writing, is a traditional art form in Korea, which has exerted a strong influence on social and cultural life and is still highly respected today.

Architecture
Four factors have shaped traditional Korean architecture: religions, the availability of materials, the natural landscape, and an aesthetic preference for simplicity. Gently sloping rooflines and sturdy, undecorated pillars characterize its simplicity, harmony, and practical utility. Korea has many original wooden and stone structures, some dating back over a thousand years. There are also many skillful reproductions. Traditional architectural designs are also incorporated in many modern buildings throughout the country.

Pottery
One of the most significant achievements in Korean art, the perfection of celadon, was accomplished during the Koryo Dynasty. Korean artisans developed a superbly controlled glaze that was both beautiful and unique because it fully utilized the properties of Korea’s rich clay. The highest praise is given to the color of the glaze – a delicate kingfisher green celadon inlaid with a pictorial underglaze which is called sanggamch’ongja and occupies a central position among Koryo celadons. The motifs and decorations found on the celadon are additional reasons for its great popularity among art lovers.

Modern Art
With its characteristic blend of the traditional and modern arts and the balance of influences from the east and the west, Korean contemporary art has surged in popularity. Most artists try to be accessible to their audience, and there are many exhibitions and galleries in any major city, the largest collections of which are in Anguk-dong and Taehangno areas in Seoul.

Museums

Visiting the museums of a country is a valuable opportunity to see its historic treasures and cultural legacies. As in other countries with long histories, many national, municipal and university museums, as well as a number of private institutions, preserve Korea’s colorful past.

3. Traditional Performance

Koreans have always had a deep love for music and dance. Traditional Korean dance and musical performances can be a memorable part of visiting Korea. These performances can be seen regularly each Saturday at the Korean Traditional Performing Arts. Some examples of things you might see are:
Court music : Traditional Korean music can be classified as court or folk music. Court music is slow, solemn and complex. It is performed regularly at the National Theater.
P’ansori: This narrative folk song tells a long, dramatic story.
Folk songs: Folk songs express the emotions of the working class people.
Samulnori (farmers’ dance): Four music instruments are used in Samulnori: Buk (drum), Ching (gong), Chang-gu (hourglass drum) and Kkoenggwari (a type of a gong).
Sandaenori (mask dance): Korean mask dances are silent folk dramas that satirized the high society prevalent when they were developed, over 200 years ago. They contain many Buddhist and Shamanism elements.
Madangnori: These performances are similar to the Western-style musical.
Traditional dance: Traditional Korean dance is divided into three main types: court, folk and religious. Among all Korean dances, the best known are the fan dance and the drum dance.
*[Sujech’on,] the most famous composition of court music, performed on wind instruments Sujech’on is a type of chong’ak, literally “proper or correct music”, which is comprised of both instrumental and vocal pieces which were generally cultivated by the upper class literati of the Choson society.
* [T’aep’yongmu,] The Court Dance. One of the many court dances, Taep’yongmu originates with Han Son-jun (1874-1941), who founded the Choson Dance Institute in 1933. The lone female dancer is dressed in the rhythms of Shamanistic music. T’aep’yongmu has been designated an Intangible Cultural Asset in order to assure its preservation.
* [Kayagum,] a twelve-stringed zither.The Kayagum is similar to the Chinese cheng and the Japanese koto in structure but is played differently and has a different timber. The Kayagum dates back to the sixth century during the rule of King Kasil of the Kaya Kingdom. The thumb, index finger and middle finger of the right hand pluck the strings, while the index and middle fingers of the left hand press on the strings of the left side of the movable bridges.
* [Geomungo]It has 6 lines and 16 flats called ‘Goae’. In view of the mechanism that allows it to produce sound, it is similar to guitar, in that the pitch is decided by the flat location of a finger. The left fingers are placed on the Goae to control pitch and the right hand grasps a stick called ‘Sul-Dae’ and plucks the strings. The sound of the Geo-Mun-Go is less clear and sharp than most string instruments, but nevertheless it can fully convey the feeling of people.

 

Food and Drink

Korea has its own cuisine, quite different from Chinese or Japanese. Rice is the staple food and a typical Korean meal consists of rice, soup, rice water and 8-20 side dishes of vegetables, fish, poultry, eggs, bean-curd and sea plants. Most Korean soups and side dishes are heavily laced with red pepper. Dishes include kimchi (highly spiced pickle of Chinese cabbage or white radish with turnips, onions, salt, fish, chestnuts and red pepper), soups (based on beef, pork, oxtail, other meat, fish, chicken and cabbage, almost all spiced), pulgogi (marinated, charcoal-broiled beef barbecue), Genghis Khan (thin slices of beef and vegetables boiled at the table) or sinsollo (meat, fish, eggs and vegetables such as chestnuts and pinenuts cooked in a brazier chafing dish at the table). Other examples of local cuisine are sanjok (strips of steak with onions and mushrooms), kalbichim (steamed beef ribs), fresh abalone and shrimps (from Cheju do Island, served with mustard, soy or chilli sauces) and Korean seaweed (prized throughout the Far East). There is waiter as well as counter service. Most major hotels will offer a selection of restaurants, serving Korean, Japanese and Chinese cuisine or more Western-style food.

Drink: Local drinks are mostly made from fermented rice or wheat and include jungjong (expensive variant of rice wine), soju (like vodka and made from potatoes or grain) or yakju/takju (cloudy and light tan-coloured) known together as makkoli. Korean beers are Crown and OB. Ginseng wine is strong and sweet, similar to brandy, but varies in taste according to the basic ingredient used. The most common type of drinking establishment is the Suljip (wine bar), but there are also beer houses serving well-known European brands.

 Events

 

Jan 1-2 ’01 New Year. Feb 15-17 Lunar New Year. Mar 1 Independence Day. Apr 5 Arbor Day. May 5 Children’s Day. May 22 Birth of Buddha. Jun 6 Memorial Day. Jul 17 Constitution Day. Aug 15 Liberation Day. Sep 23-25 Thanksgiving. Oct 3 National Foundation Day. Dec 25 Christmas Day. Jan 1 2001 New Year. Feb 3-5 Lunar New Year. Mar 1 Independence Day. Apr 5 Arbor Day. May 5 Children’s Day. May 18 Birth of Buddha. Jun 6 Memorial Day. Jul 17 Constitution Day. Aug 15 Liberation Day. Sep 23-25 Thanksgiving. Oct 3 National Foundation Day. Dec 25 Christmas Day.

SPECIAL EVENTS: Korea celebrates many annual festivals throughout the year. The most significant festival is Buddha’s Birthday in which the ‘Feast of Lanterns’ is performed in Korea’s streets. Of great importance are the annual village rituals which are nationally recognised. At these festivals, mountain spirits, great generals and royalty of the past are remembered and celebrated; there are festivals that mark the changing seasons and festivals of prayer for a good harvest. All festivals are characterised by processions, by masked and costumed local people, music, dancing, battles and sports, to recreate the original historic event or to conjure up good spirits. Some of the major festivals and events for 1999 are listed below. Contact the Korea National Tourism Organization for more details and exact dates.

Jan 24-29 ’01 Taekwalryong Snow Festival, Yongpyong ski resort, Kangwon-do province. Feb Samil Independence Festival, Yongsan. Mar Myong-dong Festival, Seoul. Mar 5-8 Chongdo Bull Fighting, Kyongsanbuk-do province. Mar 17-21 Traditional Korean Liquors and Rice Cake Festival, Kyongju, Kyongsangbuk-do province. Apr King Tanjong Festival, Yongwol; Cherry Blossom Festival, Chinae; Chindo Yongdung Festival (Korea’s Moses Miracle), Chindo Island. Apr 9-12 Yongam Dr Wang-in Festival, Chollanam-do province. Apr 16-18 Chindo Yongdung Festival, Chollanam-do province. Apr 27-May 5 Soochon Moshi Ramie Cloth Festival, Chungchongnam-do province. Apr 30-May 19 Yoju Ceramic Festival, Kyonggi-do province. May Royal Shrine Rites, Seoul. May 21-26 Namwon Chunhyang Festival, Namwon, Chollabuk-do Province. Jun (4 days) Muju Firefly Festival, Chollabuk-do province; Andong Folk Festival, Andong. Jul Cheju International Triathlon, Cheju. Aug Korea International Food Festival, Seoul. Aug 29-Sep 2 The 8th Asian Congress of Nutrition. Sep Myong-dong Festival, Seoul; Ginseng Festival, Kumsan. Sep 11-Oct 30 International Travel EXPO ’99, Kongwon-do province. Oct Ceramics Festival, Ich’on; Shilla Cultural Festival, Kyongju; Halla Cultural Festival, Cheju. Nov Kaech’on Art Festival, Chinju.

 Info For Travelers

PASSPORTS: Passport valid for a minimum of 6 months required by all.

VISAS: Required by all except:

(a) 1. nationals of countries mentioned in the chart above for stays of up to 90 days (except nationals of Canada for stays of up to 6 months and nationals of Italy and Portugal for a stay of up to 60 days);

(b) nationals of Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Romania, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Surinam, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago and Turkey for stays of up to 90 days;

(c) nationals of Lesotho for stays of up to 60 days;

(d) nationals of Tunisia for stays of up to 30 days;

(e) 2. nationals of most other countries are allowed to stay for a maximum of 15 days without a visa for touristic purposes provided holding a confirmed return ticket. There are however some exceptions. For details, contact the Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy).

Note: There are additional visa exemptions for the following categories: business, touristic visits, meetings, medical treatment, lectures, games and contests, performances, location shots and cultural exchange. For full details, contact the Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy).

Types of visa: Tourist/Visit, Transit and Business. For short-term employment visas and visas for teaching foreign languages in the Republic of Korea, enquire at the Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy). Validity: Up to 3 months from date of issue.

Cost: ??19.40 (for single-entry Tourist, Business or Transit visa). Some nationals are issued visas free of charge. Check with the Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy) for details.

 

Application to: Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy). See address section for details.

Application requirements: (a) Passport with at least 6 months remaining validity. (b) Completed application form. (c) 1-2 passport-size photos (depending on nationality of applicant and purpose of visit). (d) ??19.40 fee, payable by cheque, postal order or cash. (e) Business visas require a letter of invitation from the host company in the Republic of Korea and a letter on headed notepaper from the sponsoring company clearly indicating the nature of business in the Republic of Korea, the intended period of stay and a contact address and phone number in the Republic of Korea. (f) Stamped, self-addressed envelope if applying by post. Allow a further week for return of documents.

Working days required: 3 (short stay); 4-8 weeks (work and residence).

Temporary residence: Applications for a residence certificate or for a stay of more than 90 days should be made to the Immigration Office in Seoul. For details contact the Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy). See address section.

Time: GMT/UTC plus nine hours
Electricity: 110/220V, 60 Hz
Weights & measures: Metric

Money & Costs

Currency: Korean won (KRW)
Relative costs:

  • Budget meal: US$3-5
  • Mid-range restaurant meal: US$12-20
  • Top-end restaurant meal: $20 and up
  • Budget room: US$7-15
  • Mid-range hotel: US$60-80
  • Top-end hotel: US$80 plus

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 Attractions

 Most visitors to Korea start their tours in Seoul, the capital, which has recovered from the devastation of the Korean War to become a bustling and sophisticated commercial centre. There are, however, still many glimpses of its past, including royal palaces, markets, museums and traces of the ancient walls. Seoul has been the nation’s capital since 1394 and is still laid out in the traditional square pattern adopted by many Chinese cities. The city was encircled by 16km (10 miles) of high walls, and when it was threatened all nine gates were closed. Four of the gates still remain.

A whole-day tour of ancient and modern Seoul includes a visit to Changdokkung Palace, which has been used for royal functions since the 17th century. The main gate to the palace is believed to be the oldest in Seoul. Adjoining the palace are the Secret Gardens, a picturesque area of lakes and woodland which was once a retreat for members of the royal family.

 

Toksukung Palace was once a royal villa, but is now a Museum of Modern Arts, while Kyongbokkung Palace, which dates back to 1394, was burned during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and was left in ruins until 1868, when it was rebuilt. The grounds house many of Korea’s most historic stone pagodas and monuments. The Great South Gate of Seoul, called Namdaemun, is regarded as Korea’s foremost national treasure. It was built in 1448, but had to be repaired after the Korean War.

 

Seoul’s Pagoda Park commemorates the spot where the Korean Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in 1919; the park was designed as a setting for the huge Wongak-sa Pagoda, built of marble and granite. A good viewpoint is Namsan Mountain in the middle of the city. On the top is the Seoul Tower, a new TV transmitter with an observation deck which has spectacular views extending west to Inchon. Other spots for city sightseeing include the Octagonal Pagoda, built in 1348, and the East Gate Market Place.

 

On the border with North Korea, about an hour from Seoul, is Panmunjom. It was here that the armistice negotiations took place. A truce village is situated here and peace negotiations are still held here sometimes.

 

50km (30 miles) south of Seoul is the Korean Folk Village of Suwon. The village is a real, live and functioning rural community out of a past era where artefacts and dress are authentic, where craftsmen can be observed at their trades and where folk dances and other traditional Korean entertainments and customs are performed daily.

 

Another popular touring area is centred on Kyongju on the southeast coast about 320km (200 miles) from Seoul. It is an area rich with the relics of Korea’s history and culture and was named by UNESCO as one of the world’s ten most important historic city sites. It was the capital of the Shilla Dynasty from 57BC to AD935 and at that time was one of the six largest cities in the world. Kyongju is Korea’s best-known centre of ancient history and crafts and the city has many temples, royal tombs and monuments and what is regarded as the finest pre-modern astronomic observatory in Asia, probably one of the oldest structures of its kind in the world. The local branch of the National Museum has thousands of relics of the Shilla era, including gold crowns and girdles, jewellery, ceramics and weapons. Just outside the town is the Pulguksa Temple, one of Korea’s most important Buddhist sites. Many of the structures here date back to AD751, but some of the wooden buildings have been rebuilt many times over the centuries. Nearby is the Sokkuram Grotto, with its huge granite Buddha. The Onung or Five Tombs complex is believed to be the burial place of the first Shilla king, his queen and three later monarchs. Within easy reach of Kyongju is the Pomun Lake Resort, a complex of hotels, a convention centre, golf course, marina and shopping centre.

 

Also in this area is the Kayasan National Park. It is known as the home of Korea’s best-known temple, the Haeinsa Temple. Built in 802AD, it houses a number of historic and artistic treasures. It is famous for the Tripitaka Koreana, a set of over 80,000 wooden printing blocks. These blocks are engraved with one of the most extensive collection of Buddhist scriptures found throughout Asia. They can still be used today although they were completed in 1252 after 16 years of work.

 

In the south of Korea is Pusan, the country’s largest seaport. The area has two important beach resorts, Haeundae and Songjong. Haeundae is probably the most popular resort in the area and has a long, sandy beach with a good range of hotels and restaurants. There are also medicinal hot springs. Another hot-spring resort is Tongnae; nearby is Kumgang Park which boasts some unusual rock formations and historic relics, including a pagoda and several temples.

 

An up-and-coming tourist area is Cheju do Island, a 1-hour flight from Seoul and only 40 minutes from Pusan. Different in many ways from the Korean mainland, its volcanic origin gives a distinct landscape dominated by Mount Halla, Korea’s highest mountain at 1950m (6400ft). Striking contrasts in scenery are part of any tour on Cheju do Island, which might include visits to Samsonghyol Caves, the Grotto of the Serpent and the Dragon Pool. A full-day tour of the island takes in visits to tangerine orchards, the Chongbang Waterfalls, a model farm village and Songsanilchulbong Park. The mountainous terrain of Korea’s East Coast provides breathtaking scenery, a blaze of colour in autumn and the setting for winter sports with a modern, fully-equipped ski centre. There are plenty of touring opportunities along this 390km (240-mile) stretch of coastline, from the popular beach of Hwajinpo down to Pusan in the south. The mountains run down to the sea, but are interspersed by a series of long, sandy beaches, harbours and small fishing villages. Three national parks ? . Mount Soraksan, Mount Odaesan and Mount Chuwangsan ? . have been designated and all are accessible from a new coastal highway opened in 1978. In the Soraksan National Park, Sorakdong Village has been developed as a tourist resort village and is the starting point for climbing trails; nearby is the Sinhung-sa Temple, first built in AD645, but reconstructed in the 17th century. A cable car runs between Sorakdong Village and the Kwongumsong Fortress, parts of which date back to 57BC. Mount Soraksan (1708m/5604ft) is regarded as the most beautiful mountain in Korea. In the same area is the city of Sokcho, a major fishing port, and nearby is the newly developed Choksan Hot Springs resort.

 

Another interesting national park is Mount Songnisan National Park. Situated in it is the famous Popchusa Temple which was built in 553AD. It houses several renowned works of art.

 

POPULAR ITINERARIES: 5-day: Seoul? . Pusan? . Kyongju? . Mount Songnisan National Park? . Korean Folk Village? . Panmunjom? . Seoul. 7-day: Seoul? . Mount Soraksan National Park? . Kyongju? . Haeinsa Temple? . Pusan? . Cheju do Island? . Seoul.

 

 

Where to Stay

HOTELS: There are many modern tourist hotels in the major cities and tourist areas. All of these are registered with the Government. Most rooms have private baths as well as heating and cooling systems. Facilities in most tourist hotels include dining rooms, convention halls, bars, souvenir shops, cocktail lounges, barber and beauty shops and recreation areas. Grading: All registered hotels are classified according to their standard and quality of service. The Rose of Sharon, the national flower of Korea, is used as a symbol of quality and hotels range from 5 Sharons (deluxe) to 2 Sharons (third class). For further information, contact the Korea Tourist Association. For addresses, see Useful Addresses.

 

YOGWANS: These are Korean inns, very reasonable and considered by many travellers as the ‘only place to stay’. Sleeping arrangements consist of a small mattress and a firm pillow on the ondol, the hot floor-heating system which is traditional in Korea. There are also Western-style rooms. The Korean National Tourism Organization can provide a list of yogwans through Korea (see Useful Addresses).

 

SELF-CATERING: Cottages are available for rent at seaside resorts, but fees are high and few services are provided.

 

CAMPING: Campsites are located throughout the country. Contact the Tourist Association for details.

 

YOUTH HOSTELS: At present there are 20 youth hostels in Korea, mainly located in Seoul, Kyongju, Pusan, Puyo, Sokcho and vicinities. For more information and reservations, contact the Korean Youth Hostel Association, Room 408, Chokson Hyundai Building, 80 Chokson-dong, Chongro-ku, Seoul. Tel: (2) 725 3031. Fax: (2) 725 3113. (E-mail: kyha6n@drollian.net) .

 Getting In & Out

AIR: The Republic of Korea’s national airline is Korean Air (KE).

 

Approximate flight times: From London to Seoul is 11 hours; add 1 hour if flying to any other main city.

 

From New York to Seoul is 17 hours 40 minutes (including stopover in Anchorage), from Los Angeles is 10 hours 30 minutes and from Sydney is 9 hours.

 

International airports: Seoul (SEL) (Kimpo) is 17km (10 miles) from the city. Coaches depart to the city every 8 minutes from 0530-2140 (travel time ? . 50 minutes). Buses depart every 5 minutes. Subway line No. 5 runs to the city centre (travel time ? . 40 minutes). Taxis to the city are also available. Airport facilities include: currency exchange, pharmacy, children’s restroom, post office, gift shop, duty-free shop, car hire, local products shop and restaurant.

 

Pusan (PUS) (Kim Hae) is 27km (17 miles) from Pusan in the far south. The airport receives flights from Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka. There are bus, coach and taxi services to the town. Airport facilities include currency exchange, post office, duty-free shop, snack bar, gift shop, restaurant, travel information service and car hire.

 

Cheju (CJU) (Cheju). Buses and coaches are available to the town. Airport facilities include currency exchange, post office, duty-free shop, snack bar, gift shop and travel information service.

 

Departure tax: W9000.

 

SEA: International ports are Pusan (in the far south) and Inchon (due west of Seoul). Passenger lines are Pukwan Ferry and Orient Overseas Lines. Cargo/passenger lines include American Mail and American President. Crossings from Japan can be made via Pukwan ferry (Pusan? . Shimonoseki). Three weekly trips from the USA are offered by Lykes Lines and American President Lines. Knutsen Lines run services from Australia.

 

RAIL/ROAD: There are no rail or road links with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea across the Republic of Korea’s only land frontier. However, this may change in future as the border is to be opened gradually, starting with foreign visitors travelling in organised groups. .

 Getting Around

AIR: Korean Air (KE) and Asiana Air run frequent services between Seoul and Pusan, Taegu, Cheju, Ulsan and Kwangju.

 

Departure tax: W3000.

 

SEA: A steamer service runs along the scenic south coast between Mokpo and Pusan twice daily. A hydrofoil service links Pusan and Yosu via Ch’ungmu, five times a day (Angel Line). Ferries connect Pusan with Cheju do Island once a day. Car ferries run three times a week.

 

RAIL: Korean National Railroads connect major destinations. Super-express trains operate on Seoul? . Mokpo, Seoul? . Pusan, Seoul? . Chungju? . Yosu, Seoul? . Inchon (particularly scenic) and Seoul? . Onyang (second-class only) routes. Some have air-conditioning and restaurant cars. A supplement is payable for better-quality accommodation on some trains. Station signs in English are common and English translations of timetables are usually available. Children under six travel free and children 6-12 pay half fare.

 

ROAD: The network extends over more than 60,000km (37,300 miles) of roads; over half of it is paved. Excellent motorways link all major cities, but minor roads are often badly maintained. Traffic drives on the right. Bus: Local and express buses are inexpensive, though local buses within cities are often crowded and make no allowances for English-speakers. Air-conditioned super-express buses, operating in competition with trains, connect major cities and are to be recommended for their comfort, while towns and villages are linked by local bus services. Taxi: Cheap and a good way to travel. Car hire: Available from some hotels and travel agents. Hertz in Seoul operates 200 cars. Cheju Rent-a-Car operates 30 cars. Documentation: International Driving Permit required.

 

URBAN: Seoul has underground and suburban railways and well-developed bus services, all of which are very crowded. Taxis are widely available. Good bus services also operate in other cities.

 

JOURNEY TIMES: The following chart gives approximate journey times (in hours and minutes) from Seoul to other major cities/towns in the Republic of Korea.

 

Air Road Rail

 

Pusan 0.50 5.30 4.10

 

Taegu 0.40 3.50 4.10

 

Kwangju 0.50 3.55 4.20

 

Ulsan 0.50 4.40 4.00

 

Chonju 1.10 3.00 3.20

 

Cheju 0.55 – –

 

Kyongju – 4.40 3.30

 

Additional times: From Pusan to Cheju by sea is 11 hours. From Mokpo to Cheju by sea is 5 hours 30 minutes. From Pusan to Kyongju is 1 hour by road and 40 minutes by rail.

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