Explore the mountain village of Jeongseon
Jeongseon-gun (Jeongseon County) in central Gangwon-do (Gangwon Province) is an ever more popular travel destination these days. The town is characterized by high mountains that surround the village's valley floor: many of the area's mountains are as high as 1,000 meters.
The region provides unpolluted mountain air and has weaving streams and twisty roads alongside scattered throughout the province, creating a picturesque and romantic landscape. The people you meet in the region show their smiles and generosity.
With the recent launch of Korail's new Jeongseon Arirang A-Train on January 22, running from Seoul to Jeongseon, the county is now much more accessible, allowing day-trippers to come up from the capital.
Korea.net visited Jeongseon-gun ahead of Korail's A-Train launch. One of the most impressive features of the region is that local people seem to have deep affection and pride for their hometown. The song "Arirang" was reverberating everywhere, at every step we took, including at the Jeongseon Five-day Market and at the folk villages built for city tourists. Not only at tourist locations, the song was even played by people we met during the trip. The travel guide and the owner of the accommodation had an open-minded attitude, picking up a microphone to sing for the newcomers.
Let me cross over the Arirang pass
In 1392 when the kingdom of Joseon was founded, a group of scholars from the prior Goryeo Dynasty left Songdo, what is now is Gaeseong, and came to Jeongseon-gun to hide. In the newly settled region and to relieve their emotional pain, they created poem-based songs, thinking about bygone times and missing their families and hometown. One of these became the "Jeongseon Arirang" song that is sung today. Handed down mouth-to-mouth and from generation to generation, the lyrics are very honest and frank. The number of verses in the lyrics is presumed to be around seven to eight thousand.
Korea.net explored Jeongseon-gun, the birthplace of "Arirang," trying to figure out what attracts visitors to the town.
Try a collection of local specialties at the Jeongseon Five-day Market
A traditional outdoor market is one of the best places to get a taste of the region.
One of the most recognized merits of the Jeongseon Five-day Market is that tourists can purchase a variety of wild greens grown in the adjacent highlands. Many street vendors lined the market, offering generous amounts of local food, cooked with Jeongseon-native ingredients.
Tourists can purchase local wild greens, including seasoned aster (chwinamul), ferns or bracken (gosari) and Cirsium setidens(gondeure), and taste the local cuisine cooked before their eyes.
It's called a five-day market because the market is open every five days, on days of the month that end in 2 or 7: the second, seventh, 12th, 17th, 22nd and 27th of each month. The market stretches across some 800 meters and is crowded with more than 300 stores and street vendors.
Established in 1966, the same year that both the railway was completed and ferry service began along the river, the market has built on almost five decades of history. It's equipped with local items from wild edible greens and medicinal herbs through to hand-made straw shoes and agricultural machines. There are also many street vendors that have local culinary items on sale, such as potato rice cakes and fried pancakes made with potatoes and buckwheat. As it's sometimes hard to get wild greens and vegetables during the winter, visitors are recommended to visit the market in warmer seasons.
Standing in the Arii Hills, at the top of Byeongbangsan Mountain, tourists can get a panoramic view of Bamseom, a jut of land said to resemble the Korean Peninsula, and the U-shaped curves of the Sahaengcheon Stream, a tributary to the Donggang River. Extreme sports-lovers can enjoy a zip wire here.
Flying in the skies of Jeongseon: the Sky Walk
For those who want a special experience, or want to test themselves with a terrifying task, it is highly recommended they visit the Arii Hills. Located near Byeongbangsan Mountain in Jeongseon County, the Arii Hills offer two of the most popular leisure activities. The Sky Walk is a U-shaped observation platform with a see-through floor that's built off the side of a cliff. Then there's a zip wire that offers the breathtaking experience of flying through the sky at speeds of up to 70 to 100 kilometers per hour. Dropping off the cliff at a height of 600 meters, participants can certainly enjoy a sense of freedom as they race downward.
The price is KRW 40,000.
It's recommended to make reservations (033-563-4100).
*Official website of the Arii Hills: www. ariihills.co.kr
Tourists wait to ride a pedal bike handcar, one of the highlights of Jeongseon.
Discover the hidden scenery of Jeongseon: Rail Bikes
Back in the 1950s, the Jeongseon railway line was constructed to connect Mindungsan Station and Gujeolli Station for both coal mining and for transportation around the Taebaek mountain range in Gangwon-do. However, due to low demand for coal and stagnation in the industry, the train was used by fewer and fewer people.
In 2004, the train route between Auraji and Gujeolli stations finally stopped operating. The next year, it was transformed into an attractive leisure activity, the Rail Bike. It's a pedal-powered handcar, like a four-person, four-wheeled bicycle, run on the old train tracks, currently not used by any trains. There are two options for travelers to choose from: rail bikes for two or rail bikes for four, great to enjoy with friends, loved ones and family members. The rail bikes offer a chance for people to enjoy the hidden landscape of the mountains and forests, and take advantage of the region's unpolluted fresh air.
Mystery of nature: the Hwaam Cave
The Hwaam Cave, formerly of Cheonpo Mining, stretches across 1.8 kilometers. Some 20,000 grams of gold per year were mined here between 1922 and 1945. The cave has now been transformed into a popular travel destination, bringing tourists to see the stalactites hanging from the ceiling and to learn about the gold mining process.
Visitors walk down to the cave floor through an almost vertical shaft.
Mascots of the Hwaam Cave, the Gold Sprite and the Silver Sprite, explain each step of the gold mining process, from the early stages of collection through to the production of commercial products.
Located in Hwaam-myeon, Jeongseon County, the Hwaam Cave is a limestone cave that was formed by rainwater and underground water leaking and flowing underground. Large stalagmites, rock formations appearing on the ground caused by drippings from the ceiling, stalactites, formations that hang from the ceiling, and the combination of stalagmites and stalactites all create a mysterious scene in the underground cave. The whole cave is open to the public, to be enjoyed and loved by adults and kids alike.
Admission is KRW 5,000 for adults.
It takes about an hour and a half.
If you choose to ride the monorail car, it costs KRW 3,000. Riding the monorail is much easier to access the entrance of the cave. You can also enjoy beautiful scenery looking out the windows.
Call 033-562-7062 for more information.
Local cuisine of Jeongseon
One of the most popular and iconic dishes of Jeongseon County is Cirsium setidens, or gondeure. It's a wild edible green, normally served on top of steamed rice. It's grown in the highlands, normally at about 700 meters. It is rich in nutrients, delicious and soft. It's loved for its unique smell and flavor. It's commonly seasoned with sesame oil and salt. It's well known for its health-enhancing properties, its effectiveness against neuralgia and its benefits for women. The plant can also be used as a medicinal herb.