An Afternoon in Gangnam

If you find yourself with a class schedule where you have the morning or afternoon off and you are looking for something to do, taking a little trip to Gangnam (강남) is a fun way to spend your time. You might associate Gangnam with the rich and famous and a luxurious lifestyle. However, this area also has some sites that I think are worth mentioning. There are three places very close to each other that I recommend seeing.

The first place I recommend visiting to Bongeunsa Temple (봉은사). To get to there from Wangsimni Station (왕십리역), take the Bundang line (분당선) to Seonjeongneung Station (선정릉역) and transfer to line 9 going towards Bonguensa Station (봉은사역) and leave from exit 1. Walk ahead and you will be greeted with a busy street where Bonguensa temple is located. If you are lucky to be in Seoul near Buddha’s birthday, the temple will be decorated in a rainbow array of lanterns that adds a festive attitude towards the temple. As you walk throughout the temple grounds, there are many different temples where worshipers can come and pray. Take note of the stones which people have stacked together throughout the grounds which is a form of asking for good luck or fortune to be placed on the person stacking the stone or for their family (http://www.tomrchambers.com/index-96.html). Bonguensa temple is also home to the largest statue of Buddha in Korea, and in the spring time, it is surrounded by colorful flowers which makes for a serene setting. This temple provides a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of Seoul city life.

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Across from Bonguensa Temple is the convention portion of the COEX Mall (코엑스몰). However, if you keep walking south, you will be able to enter the mall portion of the COEX. For more information on what to do here, you can check out this article by Eli! https://myhubs.org/2016/04/10/an-excursion-in-coex-mall/

If you want to continue a historical tour of Gangnam, the next place I recommend is Seolleung (선릉) and Jeongneung (정릉) which is the place of the royal tombs from the Joseon Dynasty (조선왕조). This is a park about a 15 minute walk from Bonguensa temple and cost 1,000 Won to enter. It also should be noted that this park closed on Mondays. This park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Seolleung holds the tombs of King Seongjon (선종)and Queen Jeonghyeon (정현왕후). Jeongneung is the royal tomb for King Jungjong (정종). The three tombs have a similar layout where the main focus is a burial mound surrounded by various stone animals. The tombs have been designed as places “where the sacred realms of the deceased meet the secular space of the living.” The burial mounds themselves are considered the sacred realms, and you are not allowed to enter there. There is also a shrine in front of the mound where the living and deceased can meet through memorial rites. You will find many locals walking around the park and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. This is a great place to learn more about Korea’s ancient history and be among nature in the otherwise metropolitan Gangnam area.

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You may have heard about Korea’s intense education system and if you’re curious about it, you may want to check out Daechi-Dong (대치동) in the Gangnam area. Take line number 3 to Daechi Station (대치역) or if you’re coming from Seolleung, take the Bundang line from Seolleung Station (선릉역) to Dogok station (도곡역)and change to line number 3 where you will exit at Daechi station. Here, you will find a street lined with hagwons (학원) which are privately owned academies that help students learn subjects outside of their normal school curriculum or in addition to their normal curriculum. In Daechi alone, there are 400 hagwons which makes it the largest region for hagwons in Seoul. Hagwons are like amplified tutoring centers, and it is so intense that the Education Ministry (교육부) had to prohibit them from teaching late at night. Currently, students typically leave to go home from hagwons at 10 pm, and this is after the new regulation. This would be a great place to experience the Korean education system below the collegiate level.

Information from this article can be found at: http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=2912051

 

Article by Catherine from the U.S.A.

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