Gongju is a smaller city in the Chungnam Province of South Korea. It is located in the most rural area of South Korea, so it is not an area that most foreigners would think to visit when traveling. However, living in this city has given me the opportunity to really experience the surprising history and culture this area has to offer. Here are five reasons you should venture out of the big cities to visit Gongju.
Gonju was once the capital city of the Baekje Dynasty from 475 to 538 A.D. – while the city was formerly known as Ungjin. There were many kings during this small time, and much history was made. The best place to find all the information you can about this city’s history is at the Gongju National Museum. There are two floors: the first is about King Muryeong and his reign, while the second floor is about the history of the Baekje Dynasty. Both floors include great artifacts, as well as great amount of information – in both Korean and English. Next to the Museum is the site of 6 tombs, one of which is King Muryeong and his Queen’s. It is worth a visit to discover that amount of wonderful history and information.
Traditional Korean houses are called Hanok. There are many Hanok villages around Korea. Some of them show the weather and hardships they’ve had to endure throughout time. However, there are those who seem to be unaffected by the grueling history. While the tiled streets may need some work, the Hanok village in Gongju is one of the latter. Since the United States is less than 300 years old, it is impossible to find buildings as old as these in my country. Even though they are so old, they are still beautiful. I spent hours just walking around this village, taking in all the beauty while capturing many pictures. Every foreigner should take a stroll through this beautiful piece of history.
During the aforementioned Dynasty, Gongsanseong fortress was the royal palace while Ungjin (Gongju) was the capital city. This fortress is on Gongsan Mountain and overlooks the Geumgang river. There are a few temples still standing, but there are also a few sites where significant buildings used to stand. At this fortress, you get history, culture, nature, beauty, and even wonderful views of the city and surrounding areas. It is important to note that there are quite a few stairs here, so this may not be a place for those who find it difficult to walk. But if you can spend a couple hours going up and down staircases, then this needs to be near the top of your list of things to see in Korea.
Because Chungnam is the most rural province in South Korea, it is not hard to imagine how beautiful the surrounding natural areas must be. Gongju is no exception. My favorite part about Gongju is that no matter where you are, you can always see the mountains – and these mountains are wonderful and amazing. If you like hiking, they are even better up close. My favorite is Magoksa, where there is also a temple. There is even a templestay program here, if that’s something you might be interested in. If nature and the outdoors call your name, then there’s no better place than Gongju.
As I have already mentioned, this city had many mountains and many places of wonder to see. Because of this, the views around the city are exquisite. Obviously, you get the best views of the city from atop the mountains (if you like hiking), but you also get great views of the mountains from anywhere in the city. Just take a stroll around town, and you’ll notice some of the most beautiful views you’ve ever seen.
The rural areas of Korea usually contain the nicest people. Whether they’re natives or foreigners, nearly everyone I’ve met here have been kind and welcoming – even if we don’t speak the same language. You won’t find this amount of kindness in Seoul or Busan. I like to think the further you get from the city, the nicer the people are.
Okay, so that was actually six reasons – but I found more to love about this city, and I just have to share it with you. Hopefully, this has given you enough information to persuade you to come visit this beautiful city. Hey, maybe I’ll see you here!