• Updated : 2022.5.27 금 10:21
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Experiencing a Historical Korea in Naganeupseong Folk Village, Suncheon
Maja Elisabeth von Bruun 객원기자  |  tribune1968@cnumedia.com
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승인 2022.03.17  15:27:02
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▲ A stone signpost in the Naganeupseong Folk Village /Photo: Courtesy of Tourism Office, Sunchen City Hall

When I first came to Chonnam National University to study, I knew very little about Korea and its culture. I might have learned a handful of things by watching Korean dramas and following K-pop groups, but I did not know much about the history and traditional culture. I was very interested, however, so when the Language Education Center on CNU’s Yeosu Campus offered a tour to Naganeupseong, a traditional folk village in Suncheon, I immediately signed up to participate.

On the bus ride towards our destination, I learned that the village is often called the “Walled Town” or “Fortress Town” because it is completely surrounded by tall stone walls. Our guide told us it was built during the Joseon Dynasty, and that the walls were meant to protect the people from invading pirates that came from the coast to the south. When we arrived, I could see the walls all the way from the parking lot. They really made the entire village look like one vast castle.

As soon as I walked through the main gate into the village, I noticed a hanbok rental shop near the entrance, where visitors could dress in traditional Korean clothes to make the experience that much more authentic. The shop was unfortunately closed for lunch time, so even though I think it would have been wonderful to walk around in the village while wearing beautiful robes like hanboks, I missed my chance to do so. I think I will do it when I return to the Fortress Town next time!

▲ The view of the Naganeupseong Folk Village in Suncheon

A Real Historical Experience

After a few words from our guide, we could wander off into the village on our own. What surprised me the most was the fact that many people still live in the houses and maintain the traditional culture of the Joseon Dynasty amongst a small community of farmers. Seeing people working in the gardens and sitting comfortably on the verandas outside their houses, all while dressed in clothes that are reminiscent of a past era, made it feel like I had stepped off the bus and into an entirely different era. With so much of the world modernizing at a rapid pace, it was peaceful to walk in an environment that was untouchable by time.

In addition to the historical feeling of the locals, there are many cultural festivals that take place in the village every year, and many performances of traditional Korean music, such as pansori or nongak. Not only that, but there is a vast yard where visitors can participate in traditional games that were played by people hundreds of years ago. I spent at least half an hour playing tuho, a game in which you try to throw a stick into a clay pot from an increasing distance. It probably sounds easy, but I missed way more throws than I scored!

▲ The Naganeupseong fotress wall /Photo: Courtesy of Tourism Office, Sunchen City Hall

Beautiful Structures

As someone who has been to her fair share of historical sites and traditional villages across Europe, it was very interesting to see the difference in architecture of the regular houses. With roofs made of straw and walls built mainly out of clay, they looked very different from the wooden cottages I am used to. It was a welcome change, however, as the new style of building piqued my interest for different kinds of traditional Korean houses.

It felt surreal to walk along the fortress walls that surround the village. It gave you a better view of the small streets and alleys winding their way between, and all the countless houses. You could see everything from up there. The large clay pots in the garden where soybeans are fermented into paste; a small stream of water where the locals would wash their laundry; the many farms where vegetables are grown even to the modern day. Standing over the village made me feel like a soldier or a sentry keeping watch to make sure my home was peaceful and safe.

▲ A walkway in the Naganeupseong Folk Village /Photo: Courtesy of Tourism Office, Sunchen City Hall

During my walk, I also found a few signs with information about popular dramas and movies being filmed in the village, and I was not surprised to learn it. It really is a beautiful place that has kept the traditional culture alive for hundreds of years. There is so much more I wish I would have had time to see. On the map I was given, I saw places such as the Lotus Pond, the different gates leading in and out of the village, and much more. During this visit, I think I was too lost in my own amazement to notice the time, but hopefully, I will be able to take it all in when I go there next time.

▲ platform for crocks of sauces and condiments in the Naganeupseong Folk Village /Photo: Courtesy of Tourism Office, Sunchen City Hall

By Maja Elisabeth von Bruun, Guest Reporter

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