What else is worthwhile to do when you visit countries you are not from? Visiting historical sites. Not only can you learn a little bit about the history and culture if you are visiting for recreation, but you will also be able to have activities to do that may fill your entire day. Because the history of each region, country, province, neighborhood, etc. is very unique, I find myself wanting to learn on each level. I want to know as much as I can, so I will know how to serve a diverse array of people in the future as a healthcare advocate. But first, I start the history, particularly in Korea!
Most people know of this first location if you google “Things to do in Korea”. This place is Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁) in Seoul. Widely known as the Northern-most main palace of the Joseon Dynasty, there is a lot history here. Preserved from its original state, this large compound has many different scenes that essentially transport you back in time to when the Kings reigned. There are guided tours, or you can walk around freely for a small entrance fee—but if you wear traditional Korean clothing entrance is free.
Another spot I found just on a random walk (I got lost on my way to Insadong) around Jongno was Tapgol Park (탑골공원). Protected by a gate, the park stands near Jongno 3-ga. I was initially going to skip entering the park because I thought you had to pay to enter, but then I saw people freely entering and exiting so I thought, why not? Within the enclosed space was quite a few statues/monuments relating to the Korean Independence movement at the beginning of the century. Most notable was the statue of Son Byong-hi. He was a leader during the March 1st Movement and set out to the park to declare independence of the Korean people from Japanese colonial rule. This place is not the most popular for younger crowds—many elderly people were here to relax as I walked through to explore park—but I think if you’re interested in any form of history, this is a great place to get a snippet of information.
The next couple of places were actually in Busan. We were able to go on an excursion there for a weekend and of course were able to see some meaningful monuments there. The first was within the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (해동 용궁사). As a renowned temple, there were many visitors in all areas of the temple grounds. It was my first time visiting a temple and I felt very welcomed by the open the space and aura surrounding the site. The next best thing was its layout and the beauty of the architecture against the backdrop of the sea. The next locale was near Busan tower. Titled the “Busan Citizens’ Bell” (부산시만의종), it had a strong presence while on the hike towards the tower.
Residing within the structure is the solidarity and pride of the people of Busan which made me want to understand more for the next time that I visit.
As the last monument on this tour around Korea, I happened to spot a Statue of Peace in Gwangmyeong (광명평화의 소녀강). This brought many feelings to my forefront, because while I was studying here, the topic of Comfort Women came up in my Korean Literature and Culture course. As an issue of human (women’s) rights, I decided to capture this monument to spread awareness of the subject matter. It is a part of Korean history with an international issue at its core. Many of these statues, the most notable one being in front of the Japanese Embassy, are spread around Korea as a reminder of the events that took place during the years of the Second World War.
For the most part, monuments have great meaning in history. Some sad, some to honor, but I think the learning behind each is the most important. To understand a part of history is to understand the culture and where the modern-day influences came from.
What’s even better is that most places I visited have translations of the Korean text to English, Mandarin, and Japanese, so you can truly appreciate the thoughtful words.
This was a long blog, but I hope you all enjoyed the blurbs I had for each place I visited. If you’d like to know more, I encourage you all to research some more on your own! Have any questions? comments? Leave something below and I’ll be sure to reply!
Until Next time!
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.