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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Gangneung, Gangwon Province: Ancestral Seat of Gangneung Yoo Clan, Home of Dano Festival and Hometown of Yulgok Yi I and Shin Saimdang

Gangneung (Hangul/Hanja: 강릉시/江陵市) is a city in Gangwon Province, on the east coast of South Korea. Gangneung is the economic center of the Yeongdong Subregion of Gangwon Province. The origin of Gangwon Province sourced from the combination of two cities in the province: Gangneung and Wonju. The postal code of Gangneung City starts from 25400 [58~96-12 Buyeondong 1st Street/Buyeondong 1(il)-gil, Samsan-ri, YeonGok-myeon] to 25646 [6-23~177 Heuksugol Alley/Heuksugol-gil, Namyang-ri, Okgye-myeon].

The site of present-day Gangneung City, where Yemaek Tribe had lived from the ancient times, belonged to Wiman Joseon in 129BCE, and became a part of Changhae-gun when Namryeo, a general of Yemaek, attacked King Ugeo and surrendered it to Han Dynasty in 128BCE. 

During 14th Reigning Year of King Micheon (313CE), it was combined with Goguryeo and was called Haseorang or Haseulla. Then, it became a part of Silla territory in the 11th Reigning Year of King Jijeung-Maripgan (550), and was called Myeongju in 16th Reigning Year of King Gyeongdeok (757). It was renamed to Gangneung-bu in 34th Reigning Year of King Chungnyeol Wang Geo of Goryeo Dynasty (1308). In the period of King Gongyang - the Last King of Goryeo Dynasty, the east coast area extending from Wonsan in the north to Uljin (present-day Uljin County, Northern Gyeongsang Province) in the south was under the control of Gangneung-daedohobu (강릉대도호부/江陵大都護府) or known as The Greater Gangneung Protectorate.

It was absorbed to Gangwon Province in 4th Reigning Year of King Taejo Yi Seong-gye of Joseon Dynasty (1395). In 33rd Reigning Year of Emperor Gojong-Gwangmu Yi Myeong-bok (1896), it became Gangneung County, containing 21 communes (myeon) in its jurisdiction. In 1931 under the invasion of Japanese imperialism, Gangneung-myeon was elevated into Gangneung-eup. In 1955, Gangneung-eup, Seongdeok-myeon, Gyeongpo-myeon were combined and raised Gangneung into the status of city. At the same time Gangneung-gun was separated and named as Myeongju-gun until 1994. On January 1, 1995, Gangneung city and Myeongju-gun were combined into single entity of Gangneung City.

Gangneung has many tourist attractions, such as Jeongdongjin, a very popular area for watching the sun rise, and Gyeongpo Beach. There is a ROK airbase south of downtown Gangneung which formerly doubled as a civil airport. It is considered special in that it has both access to a lake and the sea. Gyeongpodae is a pavilion overlooking a Gyeongpo lake. It is said that one can see the moon five times when at Gyeongpodae. One sees the moon once in the sky, once reflected in the lake, once reflected in the sea, once reflected in the drinking glass, and once more in the eyes of a lover. The site of Gyeongpodae is known for its location east of the centre of the city.

Inside the Gyeongpodae pavilion, built with 28 pillars, is the Gyeongpodaebu, a poem by Yulgok Yi I. Gyeongpodaebu describes the movement of the heavens and the moon. The best view of the moon is on the 15th of the lunar month. The nearby Gyeongpo Beach has a sandy beach and a line of fresh seafood restaurants, with its proximity to Seoul making it a popular summer destination.

Gangneung has numerous festivals. The biggest and most famous is the Gangneung Dano Festival (강릉단오제) at the Dano fairground near the Namdae River. In 1967, the Gangneung Dano Festival was designated Korean National Immaterial Cultural Heritage No. 13. On November 11, 2005 it was designated by UNESCO as a "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity". Nowadays, it is a combination of several commemoration rites and traditional plays. A highlight is the traditional Gwanno Mask Dance (Gwanno Gamyeongeuk) which is only performed at this festival.

In addition to well established festivals like the Dano, there are several newer festivals in Gangneung, such as the IJAF (International Junior Art Festival) enjoys great popularity. The IJAF is a cultural festival for youth from all over the world. The festival includes both performances of the participating groups and a diversified cultural program demonstrating the essence of Korean culture. Since 2002, the IJAF takes place at Gyeongpo Beach in the end of July. Also, the Gyeongpo Rock Festival was established in 2006. This festival, mostly attracting young people, offers young Korean bands from the Gangneung area a stage for their performances.

There are a number of historical remains and museums in Gangneung. The most prominent being the Ojukheon Museum, which is named after a special black bamboo growing in this area. It is the birthplace of the famous Korean scholar Yulgok (1536–1584) (whose image is on the South Korean 5,000 Won note) and his mother Shin Saimdang (1504–1551) (whose image is on the 50,000 Won note.) In 1963, the Ojukheon Museum was designated as National Cultural Heritage No. 165. It includes one of the oldest wooden buildings in Korea. Several shrines and old residential buildings deliver insight into the lives of these famous Koreans. Next to the Ojukheon Museum there is the Gangneung Municipal Museum which shows folklore and antique pieces from the history of the city. Located in the hills surrounding Gangneung City, there is the revealing Daegwallyeong Museum. It consists of a private collection with more than 1000 artifacts and shows the agricultural history of the region.

The City Hall is located at 33 Gangneung Boulevard/Gangneung-daero, Hongje-dong 1001-beonji with its postal code: 25522. The current city mayor is Choi Myung-hee (Saenuri) and Kwon Seong-dong (Saenuri) as the city assemblyman for 20th Session of Gukhoe (2016-2020). Gangneung City consists a town (eup), 7 communes (myeon), 13 Administrative Precincts on 39 legal precincts as shown on the map below (in Hangul and Hanja). 


Downtown Gangneung