Photo: Statue of Admiral Yi Sun-shin on Yudalsan Mountain
Jeollanam-do, Korea’s southwestern region, is well-known for having an abundant number of foods to eat. Not only is the land extremely fertile with nutrient-rich soil, the ocean also provides seafood for a full diet. This plethora of food options makes the Jeollanam-do region perfect for a food tour, but even more than that, the area is home to countless relics and artifacts of Korea’s culture.
Famous cities in the Jeollanam-do region include the city of art culture, Gwangju; ecological city Suncheon; and Yeosu, a beautiful coastal city with an amazing nightscape. Outside of these popular cities, the region has a lot more to offer. We highly recommend Mokpo and Yeongam to tourists for a historical trip that is full of cultural treasures.
Photo: Interior view of Mokpo Specialty Seafood Market
Mokpo Specialty Seafood Market is conveniently located near Mokpo Port and experiences its busiest moments at sunrise and sunset, when the fishing boats return to bring in the catch of the day. The day for the merchants begins with the placing of the seafood on the tables of the stalls. As soon as the shops open for business, a flurry of activity begins as the citizens try to get the freshest fish at amazingly discounted prices.
The market is built in an arcade style with long covered lanes, and has a history of over 100 years. The shops here sell everything related to seafood, from live fish to dried fish, fermented fish and more, providing an active environment fun to explore.
TIP) We recommend visiting Mokpo Specialty Seafood Market at dawn or early morning. In addition, most stalls close their doors at 6 PM. Visiting in the evening will be a waste so be sure to visit as early as possible to enjoy the market atmosphere!
Photo: Red brick exterior of Mokpo Modern History Museum (No. 1)
The red bricks of Mokpo Modern History Museum (No. 1) jump out to catch the eye. A two-story building designed in the Renaissance style, it is the oldest building in the city of Mokpo. It is currently a museum displaying the modern history of Mokpo, but holds a place in Korea’s sad past; during the Japanese Occupation, the building was a Japanese consulate.
Photo: Photo zone inside the museum (left) / Exterior of Mokpo Modern History Museum (No. 2) (right)
Mokpo Modern History Museum (No. 1) shows the history of Mokpo by decade. The photographs and materials on display make it easy to understand and follow the changes over time. The first floor also features a photo zone with a vast wall mural of the April 8 Independence Movement of Mokpo. Visitors can put on school uniforms of that time and take souvenir photos with the mural. After visiting the first hall, walk to the nearby Mokpo Modern History Museum (No. 2). Similar to the first hall, this building also had a sad history, having been built during the Japanese Occupation. The building was designated as a cultural heritage in 1999 thanks to the efforts of the citizens after liberation, and now exhibits photographs from the opening of Mokpohang Port in 1897 onwards through the years of occupation.
Photo: View of Mokpo from Ildeungbong Peak on Yudalsan Mountain
Mokpo has one mountain more similar to a large hill than a real mountain. Yudalsan Mountain only reaches a height of 228 meters, but rivals larger mountains by the amount of things to see. It features beautiful scenery of cliffs and rocks of strange and unusual shapes.
Of Yudalsan Mountain’s many attractions, Nojeokbong Peak is a must-visit spot. This peak has a strong connection with the wisdom of Admiral Yi Sun-shin, as well as his victory without fighting. During the Imjin War (1592-1598), Admiral Yi had to find a way to defeat the incoming Japanese with his own small troop. He created an amazing plan using Nojeokbong Peak and thatch. He has his men create straw men and then propped them up all along the mountain. When seen from far away, the Japanese mistakenly believed the mountain was heavily armed. They were full of fear and decided to run rather than fight, leading to Yi Sun-shin’s accomplishment of “victory without fighting.”
Photo: Nojeokbong Peak (left) / One of many rest areas on Yudalsan Mountain (right)
After visiting Nojeokbong Peak, head to the rest of Yudalsan Mountain. The trail up to Ildeungbong Peak, the highest point of the mountain, is steeper and rougher than one might think, but keep going! After just 30 minutes of hiking, you will reach a point offering an outstanding vista of downtown Mokpo. The view of the rocks rising up like a folding screen decorated with trees is also a spectacular sight.
TIP) If simply descending after reaching the peak is regrettable, head to the sculpture park located just below Ideungbawi Rock. Korea’s first outdoor sculpture park, it now features 46 works of art. Enjoy a nice walk through the park, taking pictures with the natural scenery and scuptures.
Photo: Gatbawi Rock and pedestrian bridge
The uniqueness of Gatbawi Rock begins with its name. The rock earned its name from its appearance being similar to that of a person wearing a traditional cylindrical Korean hat, called gat. This natural sculpture was formed over a long period of time, as the waves and ocean current eroded the lower sections of rock. When people look at the rock, they see the image of a man and his son.
A long time ago, a filial son was carrying the coffin of his father who had passed away. While walking along the ocean, he stumbled and the coffin fell into the waters below. Having so much filial piety, the son was devastated by his mistake. He refused to move from the spot, putting on his gat and staying there to watch over where his father now lay until his own eventual death. A few days later, two rocks rose out of the ocean floor. The people believed the big rock was the father, and the smaller rock was the son. Originally, visitors had to board a boat if they wanted to see the two rocks that make up Gatbawi Rock, but in 2008, a pedestrian bridge was built over the ocean allowing people to enjoy the rocks while standing above the ocean.
Photo: Dancing Sea Fountain
At night, the city’s seaside park, Peace Park is majestic with an exciting performance. Grand jets of water shoot out over the calm ocean to dance to music with colorful lights showing their amazing moves. The lights, water and music all come together to create a romantic night scene.
The dancing sea fountain is definitely an interesting attraction, but there is an even bigger reason for many people to visit this park. Before the performance starts, the story of the people is told through a water screen. Couples use it for proposals and friends use it to congratulate the good fortune of other friends. This special way of passing along messages along with the dancing sea fountain make the park an excellent place to create precious memories.
Photo: Shrine of Dr. Wangin’s spirit and mortuary tablet
Yeongam is home to the Historical Site of Dr. Wangin, a great scholar of old who carried Cheondamun, the Thousand Character Classic, and Noneo, the Analects of Confucius, to Japan. Dr. Wangin was a scholar from the Baekje Kingdom, and his arrival in Japan had great impact on the culture of the Asuka period, where Buddhism flourished.
Photo: Site of birth home of Dr. Wangin (left) / Interior of Yeongweolgwan Hall (right)
The Historical Site of Dr. Wangin was constructed as a space that would provide a new light on the vestiges of Dr. Wangin’s legacy. The site includes a monument at the location of his birth home, Yeongwolgwan Hall, displaying the great scholar’s full history, and a shrine to Dr. Wangin, including his mortuary tablet. People wishing to enjoy a more full experience of the scholar’s work can attend the Yeongam Wangin Culture Festival, which is held every year in April.
Photo: Hanok Experience Center
Gurim Hanok Village in Yeongam has a history of over 2,200 years. An interesting story goes along with the village of Gurim. Story tells that a woman of the village became pregnant after eating Korean melons washed in the stream. Her family was embarrassed by the event so they hid her away until the child was born, and then left him in the forest. However, rather than die, the baby was cared for by pigeons. He lived and went on to be called Doseon Guksa, a great monk who laid the foundation for pungsu, a method of harmony with nature, throughout the Korean peninsula.
There are as many things to see in Gurim Hanok Village as history is long. Walking through the village, you can see 12 pavilions, traditional houses, stone walls lining the paths and more structures left as they were in the past. Near the village is a Hanok Experience Center, perfect for getting a glimpse into the lifestyle and culture of Koreans in the past.
Photo: Permanent exhibition hall on 1F featuring clay coffins
Yeongam Pottery Museum is one of the few museums dedicated to pottery in Korea. The building was originally a school, but has been remodeled into a modern museum. The museum has three floors, with each floor designed with a different theme. The permanent exhibition on the first floor displays clay coffins, called onggwan, excavated from the region, and other pottery artifacts found at the kiln site of Yeongam, organized by the time periods in which they are estimated to have been produced. The second floor displays modern pottery, while the third floor is dedicated to the works of Ha Jeong-ung, Yeongam’s honorary representative of pottery.
Photo: Wolchulsan Gichang Land’s outdoor swimming pool
During the summer, the most popular place to visit in Yeongam is Gichan Land on Wolchulsan Mountain. Gichan Land fully makes use of the pure environment of Wolchulsan Mountain’s valleys and the waters that flow through them, as well as the natural energy of the mountain for a location that is not only relaxing but also abounding in things to see and do. Of the many attractions, the most popular is the outdoor swimming pool, which is filled with clean water gathered straight from the stream. Families enjoy splashing about in the waters, surrounding by the cool shade of the forest.
Photo: Snapshots along Gichan Moet-gil Trail
Swim in the pool to your heart’s content, and then head for a walk along the Gichan Moet-gil Trail. This path takes one through the heart of the forest, bursting with energy; every walk along the trail is a brand new experience. By turns a dirt trail and a boardwalk, the path provides one with the chance to listen to the symphony of nature, something not easily heard in the city.