In search of democracy – or – Destination: 5.18 Memorial Cemetary (Gwangju)

The 5.18 Memorial Cemetary (국립 5.18 민주묘지, guk-rib min-ju-myo-ji) is a reminder of how much a city – and a country – can change in a short period of time. It’s also a reminder of how new Korea’s democracy is. Lest anyone think Korea hasn’t learned from their history, let this be a place to remind them of.

Since literally hundreds of books – and an excellent Wikipedia article – have been written on the Gwangju democracy movement, let’s keep this a short and simple summary of the events at hand.

Destination: Taereung and the Royal Tomb Museum (Seoul)

In my continuing quest to see every Joseon Dynasty tomb in Korea, I found my way up to Taereung - one of the few within Seoul city proper, and the place where a shiny Royal Tomb Museum can be toured as well.

Opened on December 24, 2009, the Royal Tomb Museum details the procedures of a State Funeral, a large amount of information about how the tombs were constructed, and how they were cared for after construction.

Destination: Gwangneung (Namyangju, Gyeonggi-do)

The first thing to know about Gwangneung is that it holds King Sejo on the left and Queen Jeonghui on the right. The second thing to know is that the tombs are part of the Korea National Arboretum, and feature some old trees that have managed to stay vertical through all of Korea's turmoil. The third thing to know is that it's far enough out of Seoul to make it a good day trip. One of Korea's Historic Sites (#197), this 'Royal Tomb of Brilliance' is my latest addition to my Joseon-Dynasty quest.

Destination: Central Park (Dongtan, Hwaseong city, Gyeonggi-do)

Somewhat like the better-known Central Park in New York, the Central Park in Dongtan features a wonderful variety of accouterments. Being in the middle of high-rise apartment buildings shouldn't look too surprising, of course.

Destination: Dongtan (Hwaseong city, southern Gyeonggi-do)

Who would've thought a staircase could look so fancy?

Take the subway well south of Seoul. When you're not quite sure where you are relative to the capital city, get off. Once you've arrived, go past the huge bus stop where precisely two small buses always seem to be parked. Walk about a block to the main road, and turn right. While a number of buses continue into this relatively rural area south of Seoul, a couple buses make a U-turn to whisk you to another world.

Destination: Yongmunsa (Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi-do)

Not to be confused with the surrounding Yongmunsan Resort (용문산관광지), Yongmunsa offers a thousand-year-old tree just outside of a temple founded as the Silla dynasty was ending. It seems a bit disingenuous to put an amusement park right next to a Buddhist temple, but there it is.

Destination: Yungneung and Geolleung (Suwon area, Gyeonggi-do)

He spent several days forcibly locked in a rice box before finally dying. Born Crown Prince Jangheon, his father allowed him to manage the affairs of the state because of his smarts. Although he was never actually king, he was the victim of a political conspiracy from the rival Old Doctrine faction. It wasn't until after his death that he was named Crown Prince Sado by King Yeongjo (his father), and later named Emperor Jangjo by then-Emperor Gojong in 1899.

Destination: Yongjusa (Hwaseong city, Gyeonggi-do)

This deva carries the pagoda in one hand and a deadly weapon in the other - bow to all four, including 다문천왕 (deo-mun-cheon-wang) before passing through.

Yongjusa (용주사, 龍珠寺) is unique among Korean temples for having a 홍살문 (hong-sal-mun), or a gate typically found at the entrance of a royal tomb:

Destination: Korea Food Expo (2010)

Finding your way wasn't as difficult as the signs made it look. While the Korea Food Expo intended to show off Korea's food to the world, that world didn't seem to notice. A shoutout goes to Matt from On My Way to Korea - who showed up early to try out all the makgeolli samples :)

Destination: Siloam sauna (Seoul)

After a recent post about jimjilbang, I was informed of another excellent place worth checking out. Two trips later, I'm happy to say this is a place I'll be headed back to a third time. Located within walking distance of Seoul Station, it's a great place to crash if you're on a budget. Above is a 산소방 (san-so-bang), or oxygen room - a room-temperature relax-on-the-floor place.

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