* This post is written by Robert Dunning, one of the Korea Blog’s Worldwide Korea Bloggers.
The Guarded Mountain
The Blue House is the home of the Korean President. This area of Seoul is extremely heavily guarded for obvious reasons. It is common to see both armed guards and undercover police walking the street along this place. If you look at the location of the Blue House you can see a mountain behind it.
Welcome to Bugak Mountain (북악산). Hiking this mountain is unlike any other I have ever hiked. Because of the close proximity to important locations this mountain is covered with secret police and military personnel.
There is one section of this mountain that is accessible only with proper permission. It is easy to get the permission just make sure to bring along proper identification.(Passport or Alien Card)
Getting to this place is not the easiest. There are two points that you can begin. I chose to start at Changuimun and hike to Waryong Park. It is just as easy to reverse and go the opposite way. To begin in the direction I took you can start at Jonggak subway station. Come out of exit 3 and turn 180. Walk to the street and turn right. Walk down this street to the Jogyesa Temple bus stop and take green bus number 7022. It is about a 10 minute ride and you need to keep your eyes out for the correct stop. On the way here I missed the first stop but got off at the next stop and it was not far at all… Just about a 5 minute walk in case you miss it too…..
Once off the bus you can walk up to the permit office. They have applications out front of the building in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese. Fill out the form which is about 4 questions and give it to one of the men inside with your photo ID. They type some things into the computer and give you a tag to wear. The tag has numbers which I heard some of the guards say into the walkie talkies… So I believe this is one way that they keep track of people’s progress on this section of the wall. This area is also highly restricted as to where you can take pictures. There are many signs posted around and the guards will ask to see your photos if they feel you took a picture of something you are not allowed to. At one point I did have a guard ask me to delete a photo because there was a building in the picture that was not allowed to be photographed.
After that I decided it better to just ask the guards if pictures were allowed. It seemed as though all the guards spoke English(at least the ones I spoke to), and were very friendly. I am glad that I asked because there were some places that pictures were allowed and I wouldn’t have known without asking. So when in doubt…. ask….
The hike was A LOT of steps. It was more interesting because of the location and sites rather than the “hiking” aspect of it. One of the famous sites along this trail is the 1.21 Incident Pine Tree. Made famous by the 1968 North Korean attempt at attacking the Blue House, it still has the marks left from the battle that took place between the North and South’s units.
All along this path you can see the different types of security in place. The trail is narrow and very easily marked with a railing all the way from the start to the finish. Just on the other side of the railing you can see sensors that would sound alarms if anything would pass through. This is a place to respect the authority and enjoy a short but interesting trek. Make sure to follow the rules and also bring water with you. There is no place to get water or to use the bathroom between the two check points. It is free to enter and totally worth the time it takes to hike it~~~ Hope you give it a try~~~