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Michelin Green Guide South Korea

By: Michelin
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This first edition eBook of the Green Guide South Korea by Michelin delivers a country bristling with UNESCO World Heritage sites and its own National Treasures. Enjoy Seoul, an energetic modern city with ancient palaces, shopping malls and food stalls. Explore Buddhist temples, shamanist shrines and fascinating folk villages. Discover Korea's cultural heritage through its art, crafts, cuisine and markets. Visit its diverse landscapes from Seoraksan national park to the beautiful island Jeju-do and Suncheon’s wetlands. Whatever you choose, Michelin's celebrated star-rating system makes sure you see the best of South Korea.

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WHAT TO SEE AND DO

ePub

PLANNING YOUR TRIP

What to See and Do

TRADITIONAL DANCE AND OPERA

DANCE

Samulnori

Meaning “four instruments,” samulnori is played by a group of four musicians. Each plays a different percussion instrument and dances while the long white ribbons on their hats swirl around them.

Salpuri

Originally, salpuri was a shamanist dance for chasing away evil spirits. The solo dancer improvises, and the rhythm gets gradually faster until a trance-like state is reached, the climax of the performance.

Talchum

This masked dance began as a show performed by groups of traveling dancers. Talchum combines comedy, song and recitation in a satirical show, often targeting the nobility.

The masks represent traditional stock characters: the aristocrat, the grandmother, the monk, the monkey, the concubine, the servant and

the shaman.

Buchaechum

This traditional ceremonial dance usually features a group of female dancers dressed in hanbok, a colorful traditional Korean costume. Dancers perform complex steps and manipulate fans to represent flowers, waves and butterflies.

 

BASIC INFORMATION

ePub

Where to Stay and Eat

WHERE TO STAY

A selection of accommodations is described in the Address Book of each chapter in the Discovering section. To make it easy to find these addresses on the town and district maps, each hotel and guesthouse is marked with a number. Accommodations are classified in four price categories to meet different requirements.

The categories are based on the average price for a standard double room in high season.

ACCOMMODATION TYPES

At establishments that don’t take credit cards, you may have to pay on arrival. In such cases, you may ask to see the room before paying.

Hotels

Hotels are divided into five categories (using the mugunghwa or “rose of Sharon”—Korea’s national flower—as a symbol of quality; 5 flowers is the top rating) based on quality, size, service and facilities: super deluxe and deluxe (5 star), first class (4 star), second class (3 star) and third class (2 star). Rooms are either Western-style or traditional, that is, with underfloor heating (ondol).

 

THE COUNTRY TODAY

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INTRODUCTION TO SOUTH KOREA

Foreword

What springs to mind when you think of Korea? For a small peninsula which has punched well above its weight for over 2,000 years, it’s remarkable how little the wider world knows about “The Land of the Morning Calm,” an enchanting destination which marries the infectious energy of modern-day Asia with Buddhist temples, dynastic palaces, gentle mountains of pine, and a deliciously complex cuisine. Much of the blame can be apportioned to the noisy neighbor to the north, which tends to dominate global headlines—many visitors to South Korea are pleasantly surprised to find themselves in such a safe, friendly, prosperous and fascinating land.

Things haven’t always been this way—while Korea has been friendly and fascinating since time immemorial, safety and prosperity arrived rather more recently. Its two-millennium-long line of kings and queens were choked off by 35 years of Japanese occupation, which only ended with World War II. Instead of being given the chance to recover from what amounted to a full-scale assault on its national identity, tremendous shifts in global politics saw Korea plunged headfirst into a catastrophic civil war, one that ripped the peninsula in half and left it among the world’s most impoverished corners.

 

HISTORY

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History

As a result of its geographical location, the Korean Peninsula has been at the mercy of political upheavals throughout its entire history, and has often been the subject of rivalries between neighboring powers. It has suffered frequent invasions, not least at the hands of Japan, who annexed the entire peninsula in 1910, closing the door on almost two thousand years of uninterrupted regal rule, spread over several dynasties—each with its own fascinating tale to tell. The events of the 1950s were even more horrific than the occupation, with North and South Korea ripped apart by civil war; the two countries remain in a technical state of war to this day.

THE PRINCIPAL STAGES

THE PREHISTORIC PERIOD

According to legend, Dangun, a mythical ancestor born from the union of the son of the Lord of Heaven and a bear-woman, founded the first Korean state in 2333 BC. North Korea claims to have found his remains, but to date has been unwilling to share evidence with the rest of the world. More prosaically, the first traces of Homo sapiens on the Korean peninsula date back to the Lower Paleolithic: two-sided tools, stone axes, picks and hatchets have been discovered in rock strata, and may date back to before 700,000 BC. Archaeological evidence suggests that they continued to be produced until 100,000 BC, at which point smaller artifacts begin to appear. The use of knapped tools such as flint was common during the Middle Paleolithic. The Upper Paleolithic and later, after 30,000 BC, was characterized by the use of slender flake tools (such as scrapers and lithic flakes for carving), the use of raw materials and the appearance of bone implements. It was probably during the Neolithic, about 3000 BC, that groups of Evenks migrating from Manchuria and Siberia more or less supplanted the paleo-Asiatic population of the Korean Peninsula. During the Neolithic, communities making pottery (first of a primitive kind, then featuring comb-tooth patterns after 4000 BC) lived in clans as hunter-gatherers or fisher people.

 

ART AND CULTURE

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Art and Culture

Many elements of Korean culture have their roots in China, and this is particularly true of the peninsula’s traditional art and architecture. Local variations to the latter were largely incremental as far as temples, palaces and other large structures were concerned, though the wooden, mud-walled abodes of the common man became highly distinctive over the centuries—although declining in number with each passing year, pockets still survive around the land, even in central Seoul. The local take on traditional art was, perhaps, more subtle, though defined by its vitality and spontaneity; renowned historian Ko Yu-seop (1905–1944) summed up Korean painting as “technique without technique,” “sketching without sketching,” “asymmetry” and “lack of pretension.” During the Three Kingdoms period, Korea developed its own techniques in the fields of pottery, jewellery and furniture design, and exported artisans to Japan, a country now far more famous in said fields. Indeed, contemporary Korean fare remains hugely underrated outside East Asia—for visitors from farther afield, this is likely to add a touch of mystery to the country’s many superb galleries.

 

LITERATURE, CINEMA AND TELEVISION

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Literature, Cinema and Television

Literature and cinema are among the most important keys to understanding Korea today. Korean cinema has become particularly popular, winning a number of major awards overseas. Original and profound, yet sometimes wacky or disconcerting, many films draw a great deal of inspiration from the literature that questions the war between North and South, the years spent under dictatorship and the country’s rapid economic growth. Korean television series are less concerned with this critical dimension, but they have attracted record audiences in Asia since the early 2000s.

Mokpo Museum of Literature, Jeolla-do

©KTO

LITERATURE

For centuries Korean literature lacked its own alphabet and borrowed Chinese characters for its different writing systems—a classical system used by literary scholars for official documents, and a popular system for the vernacular. Only fragments of these texts remain, most having been lost as a result of censorship, rewriting and the ravages of war.

 

MUSIC AND DANCE

ePub

Music and Dance

The many traditional performing arts all share the common base of shamanism, which, over time, has absorbed numerous influences. Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have also shaped the arts in various ways, depending on where and for whom they were performed: in a slow, stately, precise manner in front of the court, or more freely and evoking the magical in front of ordinary people. Now, of course, these traditional forms have been pushed out of the mainstream by western styles of dance and music, as well as by K-pop, Korea’s own take on popular music.

COMMON GROUND

Dance, theater, music, song: all of these traditional arts have their origins in shamanism, the Asian religion in which the shaman or mudang—a mixture of priest, sorcerer, magician and seer—serves as an intermediary between humans and spirits. So it is not surprising that the roots of these traditional performing arts lie in the kut (or gut) rituals that allow the shaman to enter the spirit world and intercede on the behalf of mortals.

 

RELIGIONS AND SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT

ePub

Music and Dance

The many traditional performing arts all share the common base of shamanism, which, over time, has absorbed numerous influences. Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have also shaped the arts in various ways, depending on where and for whom they were performed: in a slow, stately, precise manner in front of the court, or more freely and evoking the magical in front of ordinary people. Now, of course, these traditional forms have been pushed out of the mainstream by western styles of dance and music, as well as by K-pop, Korea’s own take on popular music.

COMMON GROUND

Dance, theater, music, song: all of these traditional arts have their origins in shamanism, the Asian religion in which the shaman or mudang—a mixture of priest, sorcerer, magician and seer—serves as an intermediary between humans and spirits. So it is not surprising that the roots of these traditional performing arts lie in the kut (or gut) rituals that allow the shaman to enter the spirit world and intercede on the behalf of mortals.

 

LIFESTYLE

ePub

Music and Dance

The many traditional performing arts all share the common base of shamanism, which, over time, has absorbed numerous influences. Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have also shaped the arts in various ways, depending on where and for whom they were performed: in a slow, stately, precise manner in front of the court, or more freely and evoking the magical in front of ordinary people. Now, of course, these traditional forms have been pushed out of the mainstream by western styles of dance and music, as well as by K-pop, Korea’s own take on popular music.

COMMON GROUND

Dance, theater, music, song: all of these traditional arts have their origins in shamanism, the Asian religion in which the shaman or mudang—a mixture of priest, sorcerer, magician and seer—serves as an intermediary between humans and spirits. So it is not surprising that the roots of these traditional performing arts lie in the kut (or gut) rituals that allow the shaman to enter the spirit world and intercede on the behalf of mortals.

 

NATURE

ePub

Nature

For a relatively small and densely populated country, South Korea has a surprisingly high level of natural beauty. Part of this is due to the fact that over two-thirds of the peninsula is mountainous, while the dramatic seasonal changes also help—spring sees flowers popping up all over the place; summer is great for hiking or relaxing on beaches of white sand; and fall offers hillside foliage raging with reds, oranges and yellows. In fact, it could be said that you can return to the same place each season and have the impression that you are seeing it for the first time. And there are a lot of places to return to, including craggy mountain ranges, shimmering paddy fields, pristine beaches and contorted coastlines.

THE CHANGING SEASONS

SPRING – POM

Spring arrives at different times depending on the region: in early March in the south but not before mid-April in the northeast. One great place to head is Boseong, at the southern tip of the peninsula—although poorly suited to the farming of cereal crops, its green tea plantations receive nearly three million visitors every year. The hills are covered with tea flower blossoms, while cedar trees border the plantations, helping to break up the monotony of the long lines of tea bushes. As soon as the first leaves appear, so do clusters of women wearing white cloths on their heads, here to begin picking the leaves with which they hope to fill their wicker baskets.

 

SEOUL

ePub

DISCOVERING SOUTH KOREA

Seoul

Seoul means “capital” in Korean, but this ancient city has had many other names: Wiryeseong, Hanseong, Hanyang, Gyeongseong.… Much more than just the capital, Seoul is also Korea in microcosm. While we should not be quick to dismiss the provinces, which are rich in sights and regional cultural traditions that are less “globalized” than Seoul, this this intriguing and energetic city can easily gobble up your time, and will undoubtedly be a highlight of any trip to the country.

Highlights

1 Take a presidential tour of the Blue House

2 Participate in a Temple Life Program

3 Browse Korean and foreign contemporary art at Seoul Museum of Art

4 Shop, shop and shop some more

5 Go for a mountain hike in Bukhansan National Park

= Population: 11 million

T Michelin Map

i Info: See Useful Information

Ñ Location: South Korea’s capital city is in the northwest corner of the country.

 

GYEONGGI-DO

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Gyeonggi-do

Forming a ring about the glittery metropolis of Seoul, Gyeonggi-do offers fantastic day-trips for anyone based in the city as well as plenty of reasons for an extended visit in this northwestern province. Gourmands will delight in the wealth of culinary treats, ranging from seafood caught in the West Islands to the famed Icheon rice to the east. Hikers can disappear for hours or days in the mountains exploring winding trails and verdant forest so thick that, at times, it’s hard to imagine the city just hours away. You can travel back in time by visiting the Korean Folk Village or the many fortresses and ruins that Gyeonggi-do holds.

Highlights

1 Take in the sights, smells and tastes of local produce

2 Go back in time at Korean Folk Village

3 Spend a day soaring to great heights at Everland

4 Watch North Korea watch you on a DMZ tour

5 Spot a Red-crownded crane or other rare wildlife

Seat of Power

Gyeonggi-do’s central location to the Korean Peninsula, which includes both North and South Korea, has always been a place of historical significance. Yet it was not until power shifted from the southern provinces of North and South Gyeongsang that Gyeonggi-do assumed its current place of authority.

 

GANGWON-DO

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Gangwon-do

Visit Gangwon-do for a host of amazing things to see and do along the northeastern side of South Korea. While the province doesn’t have any big cities that compare to Seoul or Incheon, it does boast some spectacular coastline, and in the summer, these beaches can be packed with bright umbrellas. The more adventurous explorers will seek out the river rafting or parachuting or delve underground into giant limestone grottoes. Less adventurous travelers may opt for a quiet meander in the town where Winter Sonata was filmed. The lucky wanderer will visit at a time when relations between the two Koreas are strong, making it possible to visit the Geumgang Mountain range in North Korea on a guided sightseeing tour, although these visits do require advance notice and navigating lots and lots of red tape. Known as the prettiest range in the whole peninsula, the Geumgang can be seen without setting foot in North Korea either by boat or by a visit to the northern border near Hwajinpo.

 

GYEONGSANG-DO

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Gyeongsang-do

Gyeongsang-do was once the seat of Korean royal power. Everything in the mountainous peninsula happened here, and thus, Gyeongsang, which is now split into north, Gyeongsangbuk, and south, Gyeongsannam, offers some of the country’s most rewarding historical finds. Proud Koreans will say that these lands have been invaded over 1,000 times—probably more—so history buffs will have interesting stops in almost every town.

Highlights

1 See the UNESCO World Heritage site Haeinsa, the Tripitaka Koreana Buddhist scripture library

2 Deight your tasetebuds in Andong

3 Enjoy a place of calm and serenity

4 See the relics in the Gyeongju National Museum

5 Visit the uçnderwater tomb of King Munmu

Ancient Kings and Capitals

The largest cities in this region, Busan, Daegu and Ilsan are actually separate non-provincial governments, but Gyeongju is not to be missed. Travelers often compare Seoul to Tokyo and Gyeongju to Kyoto. Indeed, like Kyoto, Gyeongju was once the Korean capital, and as well, many of the temples, shrines, pagodas and other historic structures were spared aerial bombing. Even visitors who aren’t history buffs will enjoy meandering past the lotus ponds, museums, galleries, and stores. Of particular interest are the curious funeral mounds, known as tumuli—large earthen tombs containing the body of a Korean king, queen, or other royalty, who were often buried with scepters, crowns, and other priceless items of gold or jewels. Many have been excavated and their contents put on display in the Gyeongju National Museum. Likewise, visitors will encounter the Silla, Korea’s first unifying power. Silla artifacts fill Korean museums, and Gyeongsang provinces have preserved or restored many of the Silla palaces and ruins.

 

JEOLLA-DO

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Jeolla-do

Head to South Korea’s southernmost region for scenic wonders, landscapes so picturesque they seem cut from a silk scroll and rural life that hasn’t changed in centuries. Gourmands will want to visit the birthplace of bibimbap—one of the few Korean foods to gain fame outside the country.

South Sea

Until 1946, the island of Jeju was part of the Jeolla kingdom, but now these two are separated both geographically and politically. However, the southern coast of Jeolla, a province known as Jeollanam, holds one of the peninsula’s best-kept secrets: the 10,000 Isles, a vast area peppered with islands just offshore.

In Mokpo, a quiet city on the southwest coast, several hill hikes give glimpses of beautiful shoals if the weather isn’t foggy. Another option, especially for those planning to keep going to Jeju, is a ferry ride, which offers spectacular views of the many, often mist-shrouded islands. Some are tiny, mere pincushions sticking out of the sea. Others are large enough to support small fishing and industrial communities.

 

JEJU-DO

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Jeju-do

Jeju Island, off the peninsula’s southern tip, has long been the “Hawaii” of South Korea and, as such, was for decades the most popular Korean honeymoon spot. But as newlyweds these days often splurge for a trip to the real Hawaii, Jeju has lost a bit of popularity while remaining just as beautiful as ever. For the tourist, this means reasonable prices in even the higher-end hotels, plus smaller crowds than you might expect elsewhere.

Highlights

1 Spot pheasants or deer on a hike up Mt. Halla

2 Walkthe Manjanggul Lava Tube

3 Discover the mermaids of Jeju-do

4 Watch sunrise from the peak at Seongsan Ilchulbong

5 Golf at one of the many world-class courses

Natural Playground

More than anything else, people visit Jeju for its host of rare natural wonders, some found nowhere else in the world. Manjanggul, one of the numerous lava tube caves, is one of the longest in the world and is part of a larger system that has UNESCO World Heritage status. A popular hike is the sunrise visit to Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, a cinder cone that projects into the ocean and offers an unparalleled view.

 

CHUNGCHEONG-DO

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Chungcheong-do

While many visitors travel through this region heading specifically to Daejeon in Chungcheongnam-do (South Chungcheong province), this landlocked area is often overlooked by the Western traveler. However, there are many scenic, historical and religious treasures that are often just a weekend or even a day-trip from Seoul. This is a mountainous, heavily forested region with less farming per capita than neighboring provinces such as Jeolla. Those who take the time to explore Chungcheong-do will find a lot more than meets the eye.

Highlights

1 Enjoy hot springs in relaxed atmopshere

2 Glimpse the heavens at the country’s largest planetarium

3 Marvel at the serene face of the Maitreya Buddha

4 Get dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival

5 Gaze at 1,500-year-old earrings, diadems, silver bracelets and a bronze mirror

Down to Earth

Beopjusa is one of the area’s most visited historical and religious attractions. Although many of the buildings have burned down and been rebuilt, the area was founded about 1500 years ago. Some of the structures are unique and worth exploration. The five-story pagoda, for instance, is built of wood, not stone, as are most other pagodas throughout South Korea. A large (108.3ft/33m-high) golden statue of the Maitreya Buddha is another popular tourist draw.

 

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