Explore a Korean museum this summer

by Naomi Blenkinsop
Groove Korea (groovekorea.com)

Planning outdoor summer activities usually leads us to predictable choices in Korea: festival, beach or hiking options are aplenty. But what about museum hopping? Museums typically focus on themes of history, culture and art, but in South Korea, the collections can take on a whole new meaning with almost any theme imaginable on offer. From kimchi to Pinocchio or even teddy bears, there is a museum for every taste, however niche it may be. There are over 500 museums around this small country, with a majority in Seoul or Jeju Island (which is renowned for its own strange and eccentric selection of museums).  However, about 300 museums are scattered throughout the peninsula and although not as unconventional as the capital’s offerings, they do offer visitors a unique taste of Korea’s regional history and culture, from coast to coast.  Learn from the historic and cultural collections and carefully designed exhibitions that make up some fascinating museum choices around the country. Get out this summer and enjoy an extremely educational and entertaining afternoon.

In the north, Gangwondo, is a Korean province boasting stunning landscapes and sights such as the renowned Seorak mountains and the famous fishing town of Sokcho.  The area is perfect to unravel any artistic roots, as presented at the Minhwa Chosun Museum in Yeongwol.  “Minhwa” means folk paintings and “Chosun” refers to the 500 year Joseon dynasty which lasted from 1392 to 1910.  This museum includes a permanent display of roughly 3000 paintings from the Joseon era, exhibiting contemporary folk paintings and furniture from the period.  Keeping up with modern times, the museum also recently added a 4D center where you can watch a reenactment of a Chinese literary classic “The Battle of Red Cliffs” or go virtual paragliding through the Wolchul Mountains.  For a taste of an erotic theme, an adult-only room houses several ‘chunhwa’ or more obscene paintings from the collection. For those creative enough to make their own artwork, a designated program hall instructs visitors on how to make their own folk paintings on wooden plates. These designs are highly encouraged, with even a folk painting competition held every September and many of the past submissions displayed in the special exhibition room as a prize.

Heading west, the Jeonju National Museum is located in Jeollabuk Province’s Jeonju city.  In contrast to the National Museum of Korea’s historical, cultural and artistic focus, the Jeonju National Museum presents the historical and cultural heritage of the local Jeollobuk Province.  On the first floor, the Ancient Culture rooms offer archaeological history of Jeollobuk displaying relics that date all the way back to the Bronze and Iron Age.  Up on the second floor, the Fine Arts room has Buddhist and ceramic art, and the History room displays furniture and daily objects made from wood and Korean paper to offer a glimpse into how these people lived long ago.  The Seokjeon Memorial room, dedicated to renowned calligrapher Seokjeon Hwang Uk, contains over 5000 works including example handwriting, his family relics, ancient books and letters.  A leisurely exit stroll through the Outdoor Exhibition Area provides a final tour of ancient tombs, Buddhist stone lanterns and a standing stone Buddha with stonework that will amaze.

Next, down South in Jeollanam Province is an area renowned for its untouched natural beauty and famous sites such as the Boseong Green Tea Fields. This region has a rich history dating back through the Shilla period to the early Koryo Period (between the 10th and 14th century). More notably the city of Gangjin, is also very well known for its production of celadon ceramics, attracting many tourists every year as the only place nationwide to find celadon kiln production sites. The Gangjin Celadon Ware Museum itself is built around an actual celadon kiln site and contains hundreds of celadon ceramic relics. The museum also gives visitors an interactive chance to produce their own celadon work of art, with choices from simply carving letters on a watercup to sculpting and shaping your own clay on a spinning wheel. Additionally, the Celadon Culture Festival takes place from August 1st to August 9th with over 80 programs for visitors to participate in, including an oxcart train trip and a Koryo celadon mystery sound tunnel for enthusiasts.

Finally, Gyeongbuk Province on Korea’s east coast is considered the home of Buddhist culture and contains many UNESCO culture heritage sites. The country’s east coast is also famous for seaports and seafood markets and the main city Pohang attracts many visitors as a popular weekend getaway. Learn all about the fascinating history of sea navigation and lighthouses at the Pohang Lighthouse Museum. Indoor exhibition zones include the Lighthouse Hall, providing a history of lighthouses through pictures and relics of lighthouse keepers, past and present. The Experience Hall has both an analog and digital space, offering visitors a hands-on opportunity to empathize what it would be like to be a lighthouse keeper or sea captain. Experience being a lighthouse keeper at night, steering your own ship or even control your own lighthouse.  Outdoors, the Exhibition on the Water area is a chance to marvel at miniature of South Korean ports and lighthouses. Yeongil Bay and Pohang Port can be found alongside miniature Dokdo and Mokpogu lighthouses. Outdoor Exhibition zones also display a variety of lighthouse equipment such as a lighted buoy, a solar power generator and an air siren to complete the experience.

Explore the many facets of Korean culture and history this summer.  Whether you’re planning on travelling north, west, south or east, South Korea has literally hundreds of educational and entertaining museums to enjoy.

Chosun Minhwa Museum

Address: 432-10 Gimsatgat-ro, Hadong-myeon, Yeongwol-gun, Gangwon-do

Phone number: 033-375-6100

Times: 9:00am ~ 6:00pm (March to October)  9:00am-5:00pm (November to February)

Admission: Adult/University Student: KRW5,000, Elementary/High school student: KRW4,000  Kindergarten student: KRW3,000  Senior citizen (65+): Free

Directions: From Yeongwol Intercity Bus Terminal catch the Nongeochon Bus until you reach Gimsatgat.  Catch the local bus and get off at Minhwa Museum (26 stops)

Jeonju National Museum

Address: Ssukgogae-ro 249, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do, Korea

Website: www.jeonju.museum.go.kr/

Telephone: 63-223-5651 ext.2

Times: 9:00am-6:00pm (Tuesday to Friday), 9:00am-7:00pm (Saturday, Sunday) 9:00am-9:00pm (Saturday, March to October)

Admission: Free

Getting there: Local Bus: 9,31,49,62, 354, 554, 559, 684, 685, 814

Taxi: 30 minutes from Jeonju Station

Gangjin Celadon Ware Museum

Address: 111 Tamjin-ro, Gangjin-eup, Gangjin-gun, Jeollanam-do

Website: www.parandeul.co.kr/gangjin_celadon_museum.htm

Tel: 082-61-430-3114

Times: 9:00am-6:00pm (March to October) 9:00am-5:00pm (November to February)

Admission: Children aged 7 to 12: 400 won, Teenager (13 to 20) : KRW 500; Adult (21 to 64): KRW 1000

Bus: Take the local bus towards Maryang in Gangjin-eup.  Get off at Sadang-ri, Daegu-myeon.  (First bus: 6:00, Last bus: 20:40)

Pohang Lighthouse Museum

Address: 20 Haemaji-ro, 150 Beon-gil, Homigot-Myeon, Nam-gu, Pohang-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Korea

Website: www.lighthouse-museum.or.kr

Tel: 082–54-284-4857

Times: 9.00am to 6.00pm  (Closed Monday)

Admission: Free

Directions: From Pohang Express Bus Terminal take bus #101, get off at Guryongpo Transfer Center and take city bus to Homigot (five minute walk to museum)

From Pohang Station : Walk to Jukdo Market, take bus #200, get off at Guryongpo Transfer Center and take city bus to Homigot  (five minute walk to museum)

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