That was the first question I asked when my friends Will and Lindsay told me they were placed in Gangneung, South Korea as part of the EPIK Program.
I had never heard of this place before in my life, and I’ve been around the Korean block a few times. So last weekend, my husband and I hopped on a bus and went for a visit. The bus from Daegu leaves from Bukbu Terminal and takes about four hours to reach the city of Gangneung. So we had plenty of time to catch up on our reading.
Gangneung (강릉) is located in Gangwon-do on the east coast of Korea, a picturesque city surrounded by mountains, ocean and coffee shops. In 2018, it will be one of the host cities of the Winter Olympics for the indoor events.
It is also the birthplace of Yi I (이이), the handsome fellow on the 5,000 won note who was an esteemed scholar of Confucianism during the Joseon Dynasty. Yi I’s mother, Shin Saimdang, was a writer and artist and can be seen on the 50,000 won note.
Gangneung is rich in cultural landmarks, and just walking through the town you can feel history seeping into your bones. Kangwŏn Province was formed in 1395, and after the division of Korea in 1945 was split in two, with Gangwon in the South and Kangwŏn in the North.
Gangneung is also home to a thousand-year-old Ginkgo Tree and is famous for having many quaint coffee shops, a fact confirmed by my colleagues this morning when I told them where I went this weekend. (“Gangneung, yes, coffee?”)
We only really had one day to experience all the loveliness of Gangneung, but our friends were excellent tour guides. We spent the morning shopping and exploring the streets, paid a brief visit to Seongyojang House and had a fantastic lunch at Budnamu Brewery. We ended the day on Gyeongpo Beach where we drank coffee and beer and took in a sunset fashion show.
If we had more time, I would’ve loved to visit Unification Park and the Charmsori Gramophone and Edison Science Museum. I guess I’ll have to go again.