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Saturday, 18 June 2016

Gangwon Province: The Only Divided Province in the World with a Sensible Bit of Korean Reunification

Gangwon (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization: 강원도/江原道/Gangwon-do), known as Kougen-do during Japanese Colonial Rule is a province in the Republic of Korea (South Korea), with its capital at Chuncheon. Before the division of Korea in 1945, Gangwon and its North Korean neighbour Kangwŏn formed a single province which includes the Northern Side Counties of Hoeyang-Geumgang, Northern Portion of Goseong, Northern Portion of Cheorwon, Icheon-PanGyo, Gimhwa-Changdo, Pyeonggang-Sepo, Anbyeon-Gosan, Tongcheon, Cheonnae and Beoptong and Northern Side Cities of Muncheon and Wonsan. It is currently known as the only divided province in the world due to the aftermath of Korean War (1950-1953). The passenger vehicle registration plate code for Gangwon Province is 50~51(Hangul) 1000~9999. The postal codes of Gangwon Province start from 24000 [7~72 Daema 1st Street/Daema 1(il)-gil, Cheorwon-eup, Cheorwon County] to 26508 [2~133-1 Changchon Alley/Changchon-gil, Sillim-myeon, Wonju City].

Gangwon Province is bounded on the west by Gyeonggi province, on the south by the provinces of Northern Chungcheong and Northern Gyeongsang. To the north lies the province's North Korean counterpart, Kangwŏn Province. The province's landscape is dominated by the Taebaek Range (Taebaek Sanmaek, Taihaku Sanmyaku in Romanized Japanese), a part of Baekdudaegan Belt - the backbone of the moose-headed Korean Peninsula which almost reach the sea. As a consequence the coast is steep.

Gangwon-do was one of the Eight Principal Provinces of Korea during Joseon Period. The province was formed in 1395 - three years after the Foundation of Joseon Dynasty by King Taejo Yi Seong-gye, and derived its name from the names of the principal cities of Gangneung (강릉/江陵) and the former provincial capital Wonju (원주/原州).

In 1895, Gangwon-do was replaced by the Governorates of Chuncheon (Chuncheon-bu/춘천부/春川府) in the west and Gangneung (Gangneung-bu/강릉부/江陵府) in the east. (Wonju became part of Chungju Governorate). In 1896 Korea was redivided into thirteen provinces, and the two districts were merged to re-form Gangwon Province. Although Wonju rejoined Gangwon Province, the provincial capital was moved to Chuncheon, where it remains today.

In 1945 Gangwon (along with the rest of Korea) was divided by the 38th parallel north in 1945 into U.S. American and Soviet zones of occupation in the south and north respectively, which led to Wonsan joining the province's northern half in 1946 to serve as its administrative center. In 1948, the southern half of the province became part of the new Republic of Korea. As a result of the Korean War Armistice Agreement of 1953, the boundary between the South and North Korean portions of the province was shifted northward to the Military Demarcation Line.

The climate of Gangwon-do is influenced by the latitude. In summer along with the higher temperature and there is high humidity, but in winter the weather can be very cold owing to high pressure from the east of the Asian continent. It has many differences between Yeongseo and Yeongdong. Yeongdong's average temperature is higher than Yeongseo's, and Yeongseo's average amount of precipitation is lower than Yeongdong's. Violent winds are common in winter and spring, so Gangwon-do's average wind speed is faster than in other provinces. Sometimes huge amounts of snow can fall, especially in Yeongdong.

The area of Gangwon-do is 20,569 sq km (7,941.74 sq mi), of which four fifths are woodland. Edible alpine plants and mushrooms are harvested in these forests. The province is renowned for its agricultural produce, in particular potatoes and fish (cuttlefish and pollock). Mineral resources of the province include iron, coal, fluorite, limestone and tungsten. There are hydroelectric and thermoelectric power plants.

The main cities in the province are Chuncheon (the provincial capital), Gangneung, Sokcho, Wonju, and Donghae. Mount Seorak (1,708m above sea level) and Mount Odae (1,563m) with its ski run, attract a large number of national tourists. Both are located in national parks in the Taebaek Range. South Korea's largest limestone cave, Hwanseongul, receives over one million visitors a year.

Gangwon-do and its North Korean counterpart Kangwŏn are together referred to as the Gwandong region. The region west of the Taebaek Mountains is called Yeongseo, while the region east of the mountains is called Yeongdong. The term "Yeongdong" is frequently used in reference to transportation services from Seoul, the national capital. Thus, one might catch a bus or train on the "Yeongdong Line," or drive to Gangneung on the Yeongdong Expressway.

Going on to the Dialectology of Gangwon Province, The Korean Gangwon-Yeongdong Dialect is spoken in South Korea's Gangwon Province and in North Korea's Kangwŏn Province. Although they are large provinces by area, relatively few people lived in the Gangwon Province. As a result, people living in the western side of Gangwon (Yeongseo) did not develop a highly distinctive dialect. However, the part of Gangwon that stretches on the eastern coast of Korea (Yeongdong), did develop a distinctive dialect. This is because the Taebaek Range bisect the Gangwon Province, and the people on eastern Gangwon are isolated from the high mountains. The Gangwon dialect uses tones distinguish homophonic words, much like Chinese or Vietnamese do. The other dialects such as Gyeongsang and Hamgyeong are used in this province due to geographical proximity and community of particular area. Hamgyeong Dialect is used at Abai Village in Sokcho City where the Korean War refugees from Hamgyeong Provinces flee to Sokcho to avoid bloodshed between North-South Soldiers and resides there. While the Gyeongsang Dialect is spoken by the people who live at Gangwon-Northern Gyeongsang Provincial Border (i.e: Taebaek, Samcheok and Yeongwol).

The seat of the province is located at 1 Central Avenue/Jungangno, Bongui-dong 15-beonji, Chuncheon City with its postal code: 24266. The current governor is Choi Moon-soon of Minjoo Party, former CEO of Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). Gangwon Province consists seven cities and eleven counties as shown on the map below (in Hangul and Hanja).