Nami Island: Check out this other world inside Republic of Korea

by Senior Airman Kristina Overton
51st Fighter Wing PAO

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OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- A world of its own, and only two hours from Osan, Nami Island is one the most unique and creative attractions on the peninsula. Renamed the Namira Republic in 2006 after declaring their cultural independence, the imaginary country offers a variety of activities for visitors seeking to get lost in a world of creativity.
With little knowledge of the island when I signed up for this Information Tickets and Travel trip, I had literally just jumped at the opportunity to get out of the local area and enjoy some of the cultural diversity of the Republic of Korea. The bus departed the base at 7 a.m. and just a few minutes past 9 a.m. the Gapyeong Wharf was in sight.

Formed in 1944 during the Cheongpyeong Dam construction, the island has been a cultural, spiritual and artistic haven for guests around the world. The Naminarians even invented their own flag, anthem, currency, stamp, telephone card and passport, which visitors must use to gain access onto the island. (One of the things ITT provided for us)

After exiting the ferry, or in my case, zip lining down to the island, I found myself walking down a tree-lined path of hanging lanterns. It's not enough to say this island is strewn with random collections of art, but literally acts as a canvas for artists from around the world who've contributed paintings, statues, pottery, instruments and hand-made glasswork that add to the innovative ambiance of Nami.

Nami Island is an ideal place to walk around and enjoy the relaxing scenery, but if you'd rather see it on wheels, they have single, tandem or family bicycles, four-person electric tour cars or electric tricycles available for rent.

Among the many interesting sites, a few of my first stops --and some of the most renown -- are the General Nami's Tomb, Song Museum & Magic Hall, and Metasequoia Road.

The half-moon shaped island was named after Gen. Nami, a young and courageous soldier during the Joseon Dynasty. The young general had been named the Minister of National Defense at age 27 for his heroic military exploits. Within his term, false accusations were made against him, which led to his execution. After the truth was uncovered more than 300 years later, Gen. Nami's good reputation was restored and a monument was erected in his honor. His tomb, along with a poem engraved on a burial stone are a highlight and must-see when visiting.

My next stop was to the Song Museum and Magic Hall. This facility is Korea's first national pop-music museum. It includes a music art exhibit, a museum featuring hundreds of instruments and their history, a recording studio, a music stage and a riverside café.

Another well-known feature of the island is the Metasequoia path, a forest path surrounded by 40-feet tall white birches and Korean white pines. The path was one of the locations used during the filming of a "Winter Sonata," a Korean drama that was part of the 'Korean Wave', the international popularity of Korean arts and entertainment.

The island also plays hosts to the Nami Island International Children's Book Festival or NAMBOOK. At random points on my journey through the island, I noticed cubbies, shelves and even corners filled with books. This addition was to inspire the creative minds of youth so that on any day, children and families could picnic or sit out by the waterfront and read.

The island is a dream--the dream of many who aspired to build a world within the world dedicated to beauty. For a small fee and a short ride, anyone can experience the Naminarians fairy-tale. As their Proclamation of Independence states:

We build a fairy-tale world
On this Nami Island where happiness and love lie
The sound of birds, water, and wind becomes one with our breathing
On this island of songs, river of music, we hum a song
The one and only small country inside the Republic of Korea
Where the freedom of imagination and creation reawakes our little dream


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