Fragrance of Late Spring in Jeonbuk
Kwon Jong-hwan, Reporter
Since I did not spend my childhood in Jeollabuk-do, when I think of Jeollabuk-do, I canthink of anything other than agriculture. So during my freshman year, I didn’t even plan to travel Jeonbuk because I’ was not really interested in agriculture. However, through my trip to Namwon, the bottom right edge of Jeonbuk, I could see another aspect of Jeonbuk. If you visit Namwon in May, you can feel more than what I had felt.
Famous for both Chunhyangjeon (the story of Chunhyang) and Cheuo-tang (or loach soup), Namwon is a place where you can feel the charming late spring atmosphere. And besides, the main character of Chunhyangjeon, Korea’s most famous romance folk tale, ‘Chunhyang’ itself means ‘fragrance of spring’ in Korean.
Location: Yongsan-ri, Unbong-eup, Namwon-si, Jeollabuk-do
Admission Fee: Free
My first destination was Baraebong. ‘Bong’ means peak in Korean and Baraebong was one of the peaks in Jirisan, the second highest mountain in South Korea. It is famous for its’ royal azalea fields which flowers bloom for a whole month. Unfortunately, when I visited Baraebong, not a single flower was blooming because of the cold weather during recently. However, I could see flower buds on every branch and was surprised by the hills which were filled with royal azalea colonies. The reason why flowers bloom throughout the whole month in these hills lies in the mountain itself. Flowers start to bloom from the bottom of the peak and spread to a higher region. Therefore, if flowers at the lower region fall off, flowers in the top region will be in full bloom.
Although these flowers are beautiful to see, this large royal azalea field also has an interesting story. If you look down from the top of the peak, you can see large fields with clear borders unlike other parts of the land. Local residents say there was a sheep pasture many years ago. In the 1970s, sheep from these pastures ate all the plants except the royal azalea because royal azalea possesses a weak poison. Therefore, sheep are vast colony of royal azalea. Baraebong Royal Azalea Festival will be held from April 24th to May 19th. I hope everyone who reads this article will get the chance to see this festival of pink flowers like I did.
Location: 9, Cheongeo-gil, Namwon-si, Jeollabuk-do, Republic of Korea
Price: Chueo-tang: 9,000₩
Opening Hours: 9AM-9PM
Contact address: 063-625-2443
Many Chueo-tang restaurants, including ones I have seen in my hometown, often have ‘Namwon’ in the name. So I was curious why Chueo-tang of Namwon is so popular. After a short hike to Baraebong, I visited Chueo-tang Street in the downtown area where Chueo-tang restaurants are grouped on one street. If you walk a little further down the road, you can see SAEJIP Chueo-tang. The restaurant is so packed with people that you almost feel sorry to sit alone at a table for four. It was nearly lunch time when I visited the restaurant and it was very busy. Side dishes are prepared per person and you can take out the food. Layers of plastic table cloths on the table make it easy to clean quickly.
When I tasted Chueo-tang, I was a little confused. It tasted slightly different compared to Chueo-tang I had tasted in other restaurants before. Its’ fishy flavor is slightly heavier and thicker and I could see dried radish greens in the soup. I thought this Chueo-tang has a deeper and stronger taste due to the radish greens and the soup itself. I understood why the restaurant informs customers not to add too many spices to the soup.
Gwanghallu-Won (Gwanghallu Garden) & Chunhyang Theme Park
Location: 1447, Yocheon-ro, Namwon-si, Jeollabuk-do, Republic of Korea
Admission Fee: 3,000₩ (Free admission from 7PM to 8PM in summer, and 6PM to 8PM in winter time.)
Opening Hours: 8AM-8PM
Chunhyang Theme Park
Location: 1447, 12, Yangnim-gil, Namwon-si, Jeollabuk-do, Republic of Korea
Admission Fee: 3,000₩ (If you have a ticket for Gwanghallu-Won, you’ll get 1,200₩ discount!)
Opening Hours: 9AM-8PM (9AM to 7PM in winter time)
Contact address: 063-620-6836
Not far from SAEJIB, you can see a traditional Korean style gate right by the road. A few tour buses were stopped at the front of the gate when I visited and I could see people of different ages entering the park.
‘Won’ means garden in Korean so the meaning of Gwanghallu-Won is Gwanghallu Garden. I was surprised to know that this garden is 600 years old this year! Gwanghallu was built in 1419, and it was called ‘Gwangtongnu’ when built by Hwang Hui, during his banishment from participating in the politics of the country. It is a typical government garden from Joseon dynasty (1392~1910), however its’ true value shined when the story called Chunhyangjeon, the Romeo and Juliet of Korea; hit Korea in the late Joseon period. Chunhyang and Yi Mong-ryong, the two main characters in the story, first meet in Gwanghallu and begin their love affair. This is the reason why Namwon is called the ‘City of Love’.
I saw many lovers and tourists of all ages having a good time walking around the garden and taking pictures in front of Gwanghallu. I could see some children feeding carps and senior couples sitting on a bench to rest. It was very peaceful and comfortable. It was a shame because I can’t see Chunhyang festival will hold from May 8th to May 12th in Gwanghallu-Won.
There are few bridges that connect Gwanghallu-Won and Chunhyang Theme Park. If you walk approximately five to ten minutes after crossing the bridge, you can arrive at Chunhyang Theme Park.
It was made up with five parts, following the main stream of Chunhyangjeon. Encounter with each other, Pledge, Parting, Trial, and a happy ending with festival. Through the road leading up the hills, each parts has lots of other entertainments like swings, rabbit farms, torture experience, and even locks of love like Seine River.
At the top of the theme park, there is a summerhouse named ‘summerhouse of single-heartedness’. In there, you can see whole theme park at one sight.
When I first planed this trip, I was half in doubt. I was worried and nervous because it was my first trip to visit Namwon. Despite I heard some information from my dormitory roommate, I felt uncomfortable from the fact that I have nobody to inform me about my trip except my cell phone. Most of my information was from internet and I knew information from online was sometimes, inaccurate. However, I met a taxi driver kind enough to explain locations and features of each sight. I learned many important data like past location of sheep pastures, how tourist can see royal azalea throughout whole month, the most famous Chueo-tang restaurant in Chueo-tang street, and bridges which connect Gwanghalluwon and Chunhyang Theme Park of. Thanks to his kindness, my fear about this trip disappeared and I safely finish my trip to Namwon. Therefore, if you are worried because you doesn’t know much about the Jeonbuk region, how about visiting Namwon and feel the city of love’s late spring.