Photos by ChiHon Kim

Photos by ChiHon Kim ()

During times of extreme weather—whether it’s too hot or too cold— choosing a family-friendly destination can be a struggle.

Luckily, South Korea’s topographical landscape offers many amazing caves and tunnels to explore without having to worry about the weather outside.

Recently, my family and I made our way to Cheongdo-gun for a day trip to check out the famous Persimmon Wine Tunnel. It is a 50-minute drive from Camp Henry and Walker.

The old tunnel was finished back in 1904 and played a role in military transportation during the Japanese colonial period. The tunnel was closed in 1937 as its tracks were an energy-drain for the steam locomotives running through.

In 2006, the tunnel was given new life when a local wine producer purchased it. Now, this former military tunnel is home to locally produced persimmon wine, a specialty of the region. Year-round this cellar tunnel maintains the perfect conditions for wine fermentation at its constant 15-degree Celsius temperature and 60-70 percent humidity level.

As we made our way to the entrance, there were vendors selling dried persimmon, one of my favorite snacks. I grabbed a packet for 12,000 won at a stall and made my way to the tunnel. It was tasty!

Before my visit, I thought this place was just an ordinary tourist attraction, but it turns out the tunnel has very historic elements. At the entrance, I noticed a stone sign inscription written in Chinese characters above. I looked into the meaning of it and it roughly means "completed the task on behalf of the Japanese emperor (who symbolizes sky in Japan). " According to a paper from Yeongnam University, the handwriting came from Terauchi Masatake, the first Government-General of Joseon during Japanese colonial rule. The tiny inscription right next to the stone sign says that the construction work was finished during the Emperor Meiji period.

Inside the tunnel, I thought the ceiling made of thousands of red bricks was kind of exotic and my guess wasn’t far off at all. As it turned out, the old and beautiful bricks covered with green moss were from Russia. It is known that the tunnel's ceiling bricks were brought as spoils from Siberia, Russia, after Japan won the Russo-Japanese War in 1904.

While admiring the architecture of the tunnel, I'd noticed the ceiling was blackened, a remnant of the steam locomotives that stopped running there in the 1930s.

Along the railway, you can see thousands of bottles of wine and persimmon vinegar stored in cellars. In the middle of the path, of course, there is a small bar where you can sample the regional specialty at a reasonable price. We made a quick stop at the spot and sampled the sweet wine, enjoying its unique flavor and aroma.

The tunnel is full of a romantic atmosphere and offers not only soft music but great photo-ops, making it a perfect place for couples. Don't forget to snap a photo against the backdrop of the giant illuminated wine bottle.

Further inside the tunnel, tons of wishing cards hanging on the wall of the tunnel were waiting for me. If I had a pen and paper, I could've written down about my wish for recovering the ordinary everyday life that we've been missing over the past two years.

From that section, we went back the way we came. Our adventure was about an hour long. If you love wine, history or both, then the Persimmon Wine Tunnel is a stop for you!

*NAVER MAP pin ADDRESS 100, Songgeum-gil, Hwayang-eup, Cheongdo-gu (ENG), 경북 청도군 화양읍 송금길 100 (KOR) HOURS 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Weekdays), 9:30 to 7:00 p.m. (Weekend) Entrance fee 3000won ($2.51), Free entry until 26 May 2022 Instagram Website PHONE 054-371-1904 Note: Parking is available but limited. Avoid peak hours if possible.

Gam mallaengi: a gem of Cheongdo

If you go to Cheongdo which is well-known for dried persimmon, there is no excuse to not eat a sweet persimmon called gam mallaengi (감말랭이). Dried persimmons are beloved fruit snacks and winter delicacies in Korea.

You may have heard of got-gam which is produced in Sangju, another town that boasts its high-quality dried persimmon. I'm a huge fan of both gam mallaengi and got-gam and technically speaking, there are small differences between the two.

While the gotgam is made of the whole persimmon without cutting before drying, gam mallaengi is cut into three to five large pieces to prepare. Seedless persimmon called bansi are Cheongdo's specialty.

Through the drying process, the pieces of persimmon shrivel up and get smaller. Their soft and chewy texture makes it an optimal snack for munching during a cold winter night.

Though Cheongdo's local specialty can be found everywhere, from traditional markets, small grocery stores to big shopping malls, I believe there is nothing like getting local specialty from the production site. When you find yourself in Cheongdo, don't miss out on the chance to enhance your snacking experience.

Speaking Korean

It's a bit humid here in the tunnel. Yeo-gi an-eun jom seub-ha-ne-yo..

Would you like to drink a glass of wine? Wa-in han-jan ha-sil-lae-yo?

That sounds good! Joh-ayo!

No, thank you. Go-mab-ji-man sa-yang-hal-ge-yo.

I don’t drink alcohol. Jeo-neun su-reul mot ma-sim-ni-da.

What kinds of wine do you like to drink? Eo-tteon wa-in joh-a-ha-se-yo?

Just a glass of persimmon wine, please. Gam-wa-in han-jan-man ju-se-yo.

Why don't we take a picture over there? U-li jeo-gi-seo sa-jin jjig-eul-kka-yo?

Excuse me. Sil-lye-ham-ni-da.

Could you take a picture of us? Jeo-hui sa-jin jom jjig-eo ju-si-gesseoyo?

The best stories from the Pacific, in your inbox

Sign up for our weekly newsletter of articles from Japan, Korea, Guam, and Okinawa with travel tips, restaurant reviews, recipes, community and event news, and more.

Sign Up Now