31 July 2015 | Gangwon-do, South Korea —
One late Friday afternoon, I didn’t know what came to Danny’s mind but he drove both of us all the way to 철원 (Cheorwon), situated at the center-most of Korea peninsula. I would have been very scared and probably refused if it was after the recent tension that has been all over the news for many days.
We visited 2 major historical places in Cheorwon.
1. North Korean Labor Party headquarters (노동당사 / Nodongdangsa)
Here’s what it says:
This is the North Korean Labor Party Cheorwon Office Building used to strengthen communist politics and control people before the Korean War. For 5 years, North Korea ruled this area committing numerous brutal acts such as torturing and killing people. The building was so notorious that people used to say “anyone who goes in there never comes out intact”.
It was constructed in 1945, some years before the bloody Korean War (1950-1953). While we were going around the ruins, I noticed that the majority of visitors were elderly and middle-aged adults.
Apparently, to preserve the 70-year-old ruin, they had to put up some beams and metal rods for support.
Address: 3-2 Gwanjeonri, Cheorwon-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwondo, South Korea
2. Battle of White Horse (백마고지 / Baekma-goji)
I won’t go into details because Wikipedia has it all.
The Battle of White Horse was another in a series of bloody battles for dominant hilltop positions during the Korean War. Baengma-goji was a 395-metre (1,296 ft) hill in the Iron Triangle, formed by Pyonggang at its peak and Gimhwa-eup and Cheorwon at its base, was a strategic transportation route in the central region of the Korean peninsula. During ten days of battle, the hill would change hands 24 times after repeated attacks and counterattacks for its possession. It was one of the most intense position-grasping battle for a small hill during the course of the Korean War. Afterwards, Baengma-goji looked like a threadbare white horse, thence its name of Baengma, meaning a white horse. ©Wikipedia
Address: Sanmyeongri, Cheorwon-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwondo, South Korea
In conclusion, living in (or travelling to) Korea isn’t just about partin’ in the streets of Hongdae, shopping in Myeongdong, going to Kdrama sets, or even hanbok (Korean traditional clothes) fitting in Insadong. Korea had a long, difficult and profound history. If one is sincerely interested to a culture, a trip to these kind of places should be included in one’s itinerary. Right?