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A Special Trip around Namdo with Foreign Friends외국인과 함께 한 남도여행
Park Ha-yeon  |  tribune1968@cnumedia.com
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승인 2007.01.16  14:18:09
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Last Chuseok, about twenty foreigners participating in the Residence Program, which was hosted by the Asia Culture Academy & Institute for Communication Research, Chonnam National University and sponsored by the Executive Agency for Culture Cities, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, explored several cultural and historical sites around Jeonnam Province (Namdo). The participants, students and professors each from a different Asian country stayed in Gwangju for about one month and experienced Korean culture. Additionally they delivered presentations introducing each of their own respective cultures. In this issue, Chonnam Tribune deals with their special tour around Jeonnam Province. – Ed.

A Special Trip

 

Around Namdo With Foreign Friends

 

By Park Ha-yeon, Student Editor

 

Last Chuseok, about twenty foreigners participating in the Residence Program, which was hosted by the Asia Culture Academy & Institute for Communication Research, Chonnam National University and sponsored by the Executive Agency for Culture Cities, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, explored several cultural and historical sites around Jeonnam Province (Namdo). The participants, students and professors each from a different Asian country stayed in Gwangju for about one month and experienced Korean culture. Additionally they delivered presentations introducing each of their own respective cultures. In this issue, Chonnam Tribune deals with their special tour around Jeonnam Province. – Ed.

 

Day One of the trip, October 5, 2006

Our trip started on October fifth. After I got on the bus, I introduced myself as a Tribune reporter and the many foreign participants greeted me with a big hand and strong salutations.

Songgwang-sa with wonderful scenery located in Songgwang myeon, Suncheon, Jeolla Namdo, was our first stop. The Chinese character, Song() connotes 18 high priests. Gwang() stands for spreading the teaching of Buddha. Putting these words together, Songgwang-sa is the temple that is supposed to promulgate Buddhism.  

On our way to the temple, Steve (Hong Kong) was curious about all of scenes around it. He took pictures of some restaurants and a cute Korean boy. Around the temple, there was a small vessel which contains water and a small plate in it. If you throw a coin and it lands in the plate, it means that your yearly luck should be very good. After hearing the story, most of them pulled out several coins and chanced their luck. They seemed curious when they faced a Buddhist monk in the temple. They tried not to be noisy and even walked very cautiously.

Heading back to our bus, I chatted with one guy named Ri-Ma who was from India. I asked him some questions about the differences between Indian and Korean Buddhism. He told me that he didn’t know the exact differences between the two of them, but Buddhism originates from India and each country has colored its own characteristics based on India’s. He pointed out that seemingly the color of monk’s clothing is different. According to him, Buddhist monks in India wear orange robes but Korean ones are brown. Indians clasp their hands in their daily life while Koreans only hold their hands when they visit a temple. Furthermore, he complimented our beautiful and clean environment around the temple. He said that the environment was cleaner than his country’s and historic sites including Songgwang-sa have been well preserved.

At the end of our tour in Songgwang-sa, we had a chance to write our wishes on a black tile. A monk explained about this ritual of writing wishes on a tile. It is said that when people wrote their hopes on tiles and offer them to the temple, the tiles would be used to roof of new Buddhist temple to be built next and wishes would be fulfilled. After hearing his explanation, every foreigner crowded to one side and started to write their wishes down on a tile. Most of them wrote about their family and friends’ good health. On the edge of mine, I wrote that I wished all of these foreign friends would have a good impression of Korea.

 

Day Two, October 6, 2006

On the second day, it was Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving Day, which is one of the biggest national holidays in Korea. We accompanied a Korean professor, Kim Shin-dong to his ancestral graves in order to participate in Seongmyo, visiting ancestral graves and making formal bows of gratitude to ancestors, which is the last part of the traditional Chuseok ceremony. Before getting off the bus, each of my foreign friends got dressed in their own countries’ traditional costumes. All of them seemed to be excited at experiencing a Korean traditional ceremony.

When we reached the graves, the professor explained the meaning of Chuseok; During the Chuseok ceremony, the whole family pays their respects and gives thanks to their ancestors for the year’s harvest. Ri-ma tried offering rice wine to Kim’s ancestors very politely. Helan (China) said, “Koreans seem to place much value on their tradition and always keep in mind that their ancestors would help them. Therefore, they give thanks to their ancestors from their heart.” She told me she was impressed with Koreans’ attitudes to their forefathers.

After the ceremony, we dropped in Juam lake to rest for about 15 minutes and went toward a dolmen museum in Suncheon. We were busy taking pictures of the displayed dolmens and the artifacts of the lives of people who had lived in the New Stone Age.

Our last call of day two was Suncheon bay. Suncheon bay is famous for its clean and ecological environment, which retains not only foreshore but also various creatures including hooded cranes and fields of reeds. We arrived there in time to see the splendid scene at sunset. After the ebb tide went away, the tide was rising and at the moment the sun sank down under the mountains the moon began to rise. The beautiful scene of the moonrise was beyond description. All of us were just lost in total admiration and felt great peace and calmness.  

 

Final Day, October 7, 2006

On the last day, we visited a drama set in Suncheon, which is known for the famous Korean drama, “The Love and the Ambition”, newly reproduced with the same story and characters as the 1980s’ original one. Entering the drama set, we could easily distinguish that the shape of houses and properties from that era were different from nowadays. Many foreign friends constantly asked about the use of tools like a water-carrying yoke, a briquette nipper, a handcart and so on. Among them, Margo (Poland) tried to split firewood with a huge axe. On the first try, she looked very enthusiastic and full of energy but soon she got tired.

Next came a Bosung green tea field. Bosung is the largest green tea production place in Korea. When we got to a field of green tea, the field was shining brightly under the sunshine. We breathed fresh air and enjoyed the grand scenery surrounded by long stemmed trees. Some foreign friends except those from China were excited to appreciate the fresh green field. As it is common in China to grow various kinds of teas, including green tea, the Chinese friends were not as interested in the green tea fields compared to other sites.

On our way to Gwangju, we dropped off at The May 18 National Cemetery in Mangweol-dong, where we ruminated on the democratic uprising of the citizens for democracy in Korea on May 18th, 1980. At last, our long trip was completed.

Although all of us were exhausted from visiting the numerous places during the trip, we were pleased to experience traditional Korean culture and learned in less than three days that Jeonnam has a variety of natural, cultural and historical resources.

Several days later I met my friends Helan and Steve again, to interview them. During this interview, they said, “During our month in Gwangju, we have experienced a lot of things and received a pleasing impression of Korea through this visit. Koreans are very kind to foreign people and always try to preserve their cultural heritage. Korea is beautiful, so if I had another chance to come to Korea again, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so”.

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