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The Historical Cultural And Culinary Delights Of South Korea
Nestled between the nations of China and Japan is the lesser-known country of South Korea. Although sometimes overlooked as a destination country in the region, this area of Southeast Asia is a great place to visit.
Founded in 1948 when it split from its sister nation, North Korea, the Republic of Korea became a democratic state at the end of World War II. In 1950, the North invaded the South, triggering the Korean War until both sides signed an armistice in 1953. Both North and South have similar, old traditions, but South Korea has become a modern and global economic leader since the West culture has greatly influenced the past half century.
South Korea is home to approximately 48 million people, of whom approximately 12 million live in and around the capital and largest city of Seoul. The land area is 38,463 square miles, slightly larger than the state of Indiana. The climate of the region is very mild throughout the year and residents enjoy all four seasons. Korea’s landscape is mostly mountainous and covered with lush forests in rural areas, but you can also find rice fields, the country’s main crop, in many of the valleys.
The many attractions in the country are sure to entice a variety of travelers. One of the most famous is Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. While the palace site is over 600 years old, the current buildings had been rebuilt several times due to enemy invasions and occupations. The current buildings house both the National Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum. Once home to kings and rulers, the palace is rich in history, cultural artifacts and architecture, and enjoys a large number of visitors every year.
Those fascinated by the country’s history and culture should also check out the Korean Folk Village located near Seoul. See what life was like for Koreans during the Chosun period (1700s to 1910s) at this 243-hectare village. Observe and interact with the residents as you meet them in traditional Korean clothing, but don’t be fooled. These people are not hired actors. Many of the villagers actually live there! Enjoy authentic music, performances and food from a long lost but not forgotten chapter in Korean history.
The most popular attraction in South Korea is the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, at Panmunjom. Located on the 38th parallel, this area is where the democratic south borders the communist north. Here you will witness propaganda from both sides of the border. See what the North wants visitors to see as a stable, booming economy, complete with elaborate buildings and highways, but is actually a sluggish, downtrodden society, as shown by the South. Many South Koreans have family and friends still living in the North, with whom they have had no contact for more than fifty years. Travel and communication between the two sides is banned and the hope is that one day the dictatorial rule will end and the border will reopen.
On the west coast of South Korea, in the city of Incheon, you can visit the Incheon Landing Operation Memorial Hall. This site is a memorial to General Douglas MacArthurs combat operation that led to the liberation of Seoul during the Korean War. There is also a variety of entertainment and marine attractions nearby for visitors to enjoy.
Some festivals that visitors should consider on their itinerary include the Chunhyang Festival, the Nankye Traditional Music Festival, and the Buddha’s birthday celebration. The Chunhyang Festival takes place every year in Namwon. Chunyang is the Korean equivalent of the Romeo and Juliet story. Many visitors come to this festival in early May to experience Korean dance, music and parades. The Miss Chunyang pageant is held on the last day of the festival. The Nankye Traditional Music Festival is a celebration of Nankye, a Korean composer who is said to have created the Korean music of the Chosun Dynasty. This type of music is a beautiful ensemble of strings, winds and percussion that produce a sound unique to Korean culture. This event is held every year in Yongdong in September. Buddha’s birthday celebration is held in May all over the country. Many Buddhist temples hold festivals and parades on this holiday that is celebrated by many Koreans regardless of faith.
While traveling in South Korea, visitors can enjoy a variety of culinary delights. However, most dishes are spicier than most Western tastes are used to. The favorite of most travelers is the pulgogi. This is a traditional Korean dish consisting of marinated slices of beef with rice and vegetables, which are then wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Along with rice, another staple of Korean culture is kimchi. This side dish is usually served with every meal. Kimchi is a mixture of fermented vegetables, usually cabbage, and is particularly hot and spicy. Since it is eaten regularly, there are many variations of kimchi to choose from. For the less adventurous, many Western restaurants have made their way to Seoul and surrounding cities, so those who want to experience the culture but can’t handle the spicy food, there’s usually a McDonalds or a KFC around the corner.
Please visit http://www.south-korean-culture.com to discover Korean culture.
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