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The Korean Castles

The relationship between history and castles is like bread and buter. Historical cities and battles have always been with castles. Like this, castle and human are related deeply, and its evidences are all around the world. Generally, when you think ablut castles, you probably imagine European castles, and when you think about the place which has many castles, you may think Europe.

The relationship between history and castles is like bread and butter. Historical cities and battles have always been with castles. Like this, castle and human are related deeply, and its evidences are all around the world. Generally, when you think about castles, you probably imagine European castles, and when you think about the place which has many castles, you may think Europe.

However, there are no other countries except Korea which has lots of different kinds of castles. Korean castles have unique appearances and stories. As the point of travel is creating exotic memories, Korean castles will provide you with great experiences. So pack your bag and depart to a Korean castle.

Earth and Castles   Mongchontoseong and Pungnaptoseong

Driving 30 minutes to Seoul from Incheon airport, crossing Hangang River and driving to Oryun-dong, Songpa-gu, you will see huge hills. Here is our first destination, Mongchontoseong. You may feel embarrassed when I insist those hills are a castle, but those hills indeed are a castle, since Mogchontoseong was built with earth.

Mongchontoseong was built in the 3rd century. Namely, you are seeing an 1800 year-old castle. In front of it, there is a moat around the castle, and on the hill, there are wooden walls so it can defend against enemies. Its circumference is about 2.7km long and the hills' height. is 6 to 7m high. It is very marvel how they built such a huge thing in the 3rd century. Near Oryun-dong, where Mongchontoseong is, there is Pungnap-dong where Pungnaptoseong is located.

Pungnaptoseong also has similar structure to that of Mongchontoseong. Because they were built with earth and were part of the capital of the ancient kingdom 'Baekje' which had prospered for 700 years, Mongchonroseong and Pungnaptoseong are different from our general concept of castles.

War and Castles   Namhansanseong and Mungyeongsaejae

In the past, when a war arose, castles were the safest refuge. Among them, the greatest was a castle on a hill. Also, as it was used to intercept an enemy's route, the history of a castle on a hill is in other words, the history of war. Korea, especially, since the northern part of Korea had often been attacked by the northern race, and southern part by Japanese, Korea had several great battles, and Korea, unlike other countries, has many castles on hills. Among them, Namhansanseong and Mungyeongsaejae are the most famous. After sightseeing Pungnaptoseong, go south to Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do province, and you can reach Namhansanseong.

It was for protecting south of Seoul and built in 1624. There are 4 gates along Namhansanseong. Jihwamun, the south gate is the largest among them. On the wall, there 43 War and Castles Namhansanseong and Mungyeongsaejae Earth and Castles Mongchontoseong and Pungnaptoseong 44 are many military facilities. First, Sueojangdae is a house for commanding armies and watching enemies. Haenggung is a temporary palace for the king. Ongseong is a protruded wall originally for attacking enemies climbing the wall, however, now it is used a place for seeing the views. The view seen from Ongseong is so beautiful that we can see ancient people's taste.

However, Namhansanseong has humiliating history. In the winter of 1636, when the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910) was attacked by Ching, it had to relinquish its capital Seoul. Its King Injo had to flee to Namhansanseong. Though the king and the people had fought for 45 days, they finally surrendered. One thing touching is that the surrender was due to the lack of provisions. In the castle, there were provisions for only 50 days. So its view of winter is more impressive than any other season.

From Gwangju where Namhansanseong is, go to the south, and then you can reach Mungyeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. Here is your fourth destination Munkyeongsaejae. The name 'Saejae' means the pass that even birds cannot cross over. As you notice by its name, Mungyeongsaejae has a steep terrain, so ancient people often called here as the place which defended 1,000 enemies only by one soldier. Also, in the past, here was the only way to cross Sobaeksanmaek (Sobaek mountain range). Since it was located in an important place as said above, 3 castles were built to protect this location. But it is too missed when General Shin Lip didn't deploy his armies during Imjinwaeran (the 7 years’war). If he had deployed here, the war would have ended within just 1 week.

Traveling Mungyeongsaejae starts from its first castle called Juheulkwan. Passing it, you will see many studio sets of historical movies and dramas. Walking some more, you will probably reach the second castle Jogokkwan. And the final destination of your Mungyeongsaejae travels, the third castle, is called Joryeongkwan. From Juheulkwan (1st castle) to Joryeongkwan (3rd castle), no cars are allowed, so you can enjoy a peaceful walk. While walking, you will see lots of beautiful scenes, so walk slowly and look around. Mungyeongsaejae has lots of related stories as much as its beautiful scenes. But as we have focused on castles, we will not talk about them.

People and Castles   Haemieupseong and Gochangeupseong

Though war is over, people have related with castles. This time we will visit the castle surrounding the village. In Seosan, Chungcheongnam-do, is where our fifth destination Haemieupseong is. Entering its south gate, Jinnammun, you can see its inside.

Inside of it which has been restored, there is a Korean traditional village. Dongheon, the city hall of today has past traces. Unlike European and Japanese castles, Korean castles were not ostentatious buildings. European and Japanese were constructed for showing the lord's power in feudal society, however, since Korean castles were more functional, and their governors emphasized concern of their people, they couldn't construct luxurious buildings easily. Walking along the plain wall, but having profound meaning, Haemieupseong, let's prepare for the next destination.

In Gochang, Jeollabukdo province, there is the Gochangeupseong. It was built for protecting the village such as the Haemieupseong. Inside of Gochangeupseong, there are traces of the past. Gochangeupseong has a special festival called Dapseongnori. Dapseongnori is women walking with stone on their head. Since there is a saying that if one can walk 1 cycle of the wall, her leg will be cured, 2 cycles, she can live without disease, 3 cycles, she can go to heaven, and in the season of Dapseongnori, many people visit here to enjoy it. Though it is small village castle, its circumference is about 1.7km. When you go to Dapseongnori, do not forget it. Before going back to Incheon Airport, let's visit Suwon, because there is a UNESCO world heritage, Suwon Hwaseong.

King and Castle   Suwon hwaseong

Suwon Hwaseong
Suwon Hwaseong has a special story, because it was not only built for defending enemies, but also constructed for a king's filial piety and enhancing the power of the king. Jeongjo whose father was killed by lieges, tried to check the lieges when he had become the king in the Joseon Dynasty. In 1794, while he was trying to, Jeongjo moved his father's grave to Suwon and ordered to build a Hwaseong to moan him. Jeongjo introduced new ways to built Hwaseong. Especially, Geojunggi, a type of crane, invented by Jeong Yak-yong, did great work. With the Geojunggi, Suwon Hwaseong was built in just 2 years. And it was constructed with bricks. That is different from any other castles in Korea. Suwon Hwaseong has 4 main gates. Paldalmun, the south gate, is the biggest among them. The north gate is called Janganmun named for incarnating the glory of Jangan, the ancient capital of China, to Suwon.

Walking along the wall, you can see many structures. Most of them are military facilities, as the Hwaseong took duty of guarding south of Seoul. First, Jangdae is a command center. There are 2 Jangdaes in it, the west one is called Seojangdae and the east is Dongjangdae. Gongsimru and Poru are where soldiers fire guns and canons, and they have odd structures, unlike other Korean buildings. Bongwhadae is a Korean traditional communication system. It informs an enemy's invasion immediately by fire, and smoke. Banghwasuryujeong is a pavilion. When you visit here, you will see a spectacle. Hwahongmun is a floodgate, and it is one of the 8 beauties of Suwon. In the castle there is Hwaseonghanggung, a temporary palace.

Hwaseong was built recently, and not attacked, so it has been well conserved. If you see it with your eyes, you will see why it is a world heritage.

How do you feel after visiting 7 Korean castles? Though it is different by people, you had experiences that never experienced in any other places. Lastly, except those 7 castles, Korea has many castles, Achasanseong, Bukhansanseong, etc. If you like traveling, and want to visit places where guidebooks do not introduce, I recommend visiting those castles.

Thought it is very short, reading it, I hope you had the opportunity to make great memories with Korean castles.