Korean Demilitarized Zone
The cessation of the Korean War in 1953, following the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, led to the creation of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which is 250km long and approximately 4km wide, i.e., 2km on the South’s side and another 2km on the North’s. On the western part of the DMZ, there is a farming village called Daeseongdong, better known as “Freedom Village” among South Koreans.
Civilian access to the DMZ is normally restricted but allowed for those who receive a permit issued by the military. The same applies to foreign tourists. The prohibition of public access to the DMZ for the last 60 years has helped maintain the environment in pristine condition, a quality for which in recent times it has attracted the interest of scientists and conservationists the world over.
Bukchon Hanok Village, Jeonju Hanok Village
The recent revival of interest in modernized traditional Korean houses (called hanok) among architectural designers and house buyers from across Korea has also helped attract numerous tourists to Korea’s old villages and districts where they can experience the traditional Korean lifestyle in an authentic environment. Two of the most popular destinations for enthusiasts are Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul and Jeonju Hanok Village in Jeonju.
Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul refers to a residential area located north of the Jongno and Cheonggyecheon Stream area in downtown Seoul—hence the name—once occupied by wealthy aristocratic families during the Joseon Period. The area has become one of Seoul’s main tourist attractions, largely because of the old-world atmosphere and the well-preserved traditional houses and the narrow winding alleys linking them. Flanked by the two main Royal Palaces of Joseon, Gyeongbokgung, and Changdeokgung, with Inwangsan and Bukhansan Mountains rising directly behind them, and modern skyscrapers in the south, the district exhibits a unique harmony between Seoul’s present and past.
The largest Hanok district in Korea and one of the most popular tourist destinations among visitors is that in Jeonju. The Jeonju Hanok Village consists of about 700 traditional tile-roofed houses, some of which have been turned into guesthouses, restaurants, teahouses, and workshops, providing visitors with opportunities to experience the local cultural heritage. The district also contains some of the city’s most important heritage sites, such as Gyeonggijeon Shrine, which houses the official portrait of King Taejo, founder of the Joseon Dynasty, a local Confucian school (hyanggyo), and Omokdae Terrace, which commands a great view of the entire district.
There are but a few mansion houses dating from the Joseon Period across Korea, of which Seongyojang in Gangneung is particularly famous for its exquisite, fully preserved 300-year-old buildings and well-tended traditional garden. Built by a minor member of Joseon royalty and still used as a dwelling house by one of his descendants, Seongyojang is regarded as a fine example of a dwelling of the wealthy ruling class of Joseon. It also consists of rooms such as an inner quarter (anchae) for women, detached outer quarter (sarangchae) for guest receptions, servants’ quarter (haengnangchae) for servants, and separate rooms (byeoldang), as well as an artificial pond at the entrance and a pavilion called Hwallaejeong.
As in many other parts of the world, local communities in Korea have developed a variety of cultural programs and events to mark their achievements or to celebrate the cultural and natural heritage bequeathed to them. In Boryeong in Chungcheongnam-do Province, for instance, the local mud festival attracts summer holidaymakers from all over Korea and from overseas, while in Andong of Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, the annual international mask dance festival entertains tourists visiting the city. The Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival held annually in January is one of the biggest winter festivals.
Other popular festivals include the Gimje Horizon Festival, which is focused on the local agricultural heritage preserved in Gimje, Jeollabuk-do Province, the Jeonju Hanji Culture Festival, and the Jeonju Bibimbap Festival, which is held to celebrate the heritage that has helped the city of Jeonju gain an international reputation. In Jinju of Gyeongsangnam-do Province, the Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival has begun to serve a similar function. Held to commemorate the ordinary people of Jinju, who fought heroically to protect their hometown against invading Japanese forces during the Imjin Waeran (Japanese Invasion of 1592) at the turn of the 16th century, the festival provides tourists with fantastic nighttime views of lanterns floating along the Namgang River. In Chuncheon, Gangwon-do Province, the Chuncheon International Mime Festival (CIMF) offers an exciting range of performances presented by ‘mime theater’ companies gathered for the event from across the world.
Source: Korean Culture and Information Service 'Facts about Korea'