The Korean Peninsula sits in the middle of Northeast Asia. Its neighbouring countries are China to its west and Japan to the east. South Korea, one of the two main regions, shares a border with the North. A land rich in heritage, Korea boasts over 5,000 years in ancient history. Palaces, shrines, and traditional attire have maintained their prominence.
On the other end of the spectrum, Korea is a world leader in technology. It’s home to top mobile brands and carmakers. And as far as cultural influences go, the country’s biggest exports are its distinct wave of pop music and movies.
WHEN TO VISIT
Korea’s four-season climate lends its own taste of thrills and chills. Lush greens of spring emerge from March to May. This continues through June and August in a sweltering summer. The autumnal foliage appears in September through November while the frigid winter comes in December to February.
As nature’s abundant grace sprawls around Korea, so do the festivals. In Jeju Island alone, there are annual events that involve thousands of oranges, hundreds of snow sculptures, and one gigantic fire. Hence, there’s really no low season for travellers to the country.
Overseas flights departing for South Korea arrive at Incheon International Airport (IIA). from Incheon, the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) travels straight to the downtown Seoul. Airport buses and cabs are good alternatives, but the subway (also called Metro) is the cheapest and most convenient way of getting around. The subway system covers the main cities of Seoul, Incheon, and Busan and reaches Daejeon, Daegu, and Gwangju.
Foreign travellers may use a T-Money Card to pay for train, bus, and taxi fares. While the transportation system is highly efficient, destination signs, usually located at bus stops, are mostly in ‘hangul’ or Korean alphabet.
Korea’s celebrated cuisine is a reflection of its vibrant culture. Traditional dishes such as kimchi (fermented cabbage) and bulgogi (sliced beef) have taken off from humble household tables to restaurants across the world. Spicy yet flavorful, Korea’s slew of gastronomic creations has won over millions of palates. Although the style of dishes may vary geographically, it’s a custom for meals to have a few side dishes such as bean sprouts, spinach, and cucumbers.
From traditional to eccentric, festivals in Korea are essential parts of culture. One of the most prominent is the Seoul Lantern Festival. For two weeks in May, locals and tourists gather in the streets of Cheonggyecheon to celebrate Buddha’s birthday, see thematic lanterns, and celebrate in the parades. Summer heat reaches high temperatures for the Boryeong Mud Festival.
Meanwhile, the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival in the district of Gangwon-do creates the unique winter experience of barehand fishing in icy waters. In April, the Gochang Green Barley Festival enchants visitors to the green barley fields of Gochang-gun.
Korea Tourism Organization (official website)