My Korea, Your Words: Sights

Written by on August 6, 2013 in Travel

In June, I asked readers and viewers, “What does South Korea mean to you?” The responses flowed in through the comment sections on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The responses naturally fit into several themes. During the month of August, I’ll be sharing four videos made with the answers submitted.

The first theme I chose to work on was “sights.” In this first video, the most common words shared by readers and viewers were beauty, history, culture, and tradition.

The soundtrack for the video is a guitar cover of the Korean folk song “Arirang” by Jeremy Choi (최병욱). He started guitar at seven and most of his life he educated himself how to play. He was a member of Busan Festival Guitar Ensemble in 2007 and during this time he had the opportunity to be taught by Chung-jin Koh, who is a maestro of classical guitar in South Korea. Although all of this, his first professional job was a navigation officer in SK shipping from 2008. Deciding to become a musician, however, he resigned the work in May 2011 and started preparing for his debut album with his own compositions and transcriptions. His album is available now at iTunes. (Choi’s about bio.)

Scenes in the video

The video opens with the image of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple located on the southeastern coast of Korea near Busan. Korea has many temples, but few are in such a majestic setting as this, poised right above a cove with crashing surf, casting mist into the air.

The video then transitions to uniformed guards stationed outside Gyeongbokgung Palace. Throughout the day, the men stand watch over the grandest of the five palaces. The intricate ceremony performed between detachments transitioning watch is steeped in deep traditions and beautiful to watch.

Another family tradition in Korea is returning to the ancestral home of one’s family. Scene three is of the Park Family Cemetery in Hwaseong. It’s one of the larger family plots where members have been buried for hundreds of years. The hallowed grounds always evoke strong emotions from me and represent an important part of Korea’s tradition.

Roughly one-third of Korea’s population is Buddhist. The video continues with a close-up of several Buddhist figures typically found at shrines. Not only are the figures playful, but representative of the spiritual side of many Koreans.

Pungmul is a form of traditional Korean folk music. Having deep roots in Korea’s farming areas, the musical genre has been designated an Important Intangible Cultural Property by the Cultural Heritage Association. In addition to its rhythmic structure, another key feature of its performances are amazing acrobatic moves.

One of the most common pastimes of many Koreans is hiking. Located south of Seoul is Gwacheon and Gwanaksan Mountain. It’s one of the easier mountains to hike surrounding Seoul and at its summit is the Yongju Hermitage. Again tying in the themes of history and culture to the video.

As previously mentioned, Buddhism plays an important role in Korea’s history. The giant Buddha on Seoraksan Mountain is one of the most beautiful in the nation.

However, all traditions must start somewhere. Heading back to Seoul, we turn our attention to the Cheonggyecheon, one of the most frequented tourist destinations in the nation’s capital. Caught on film is a young girl with her mother crossing the stream. As the pair make their way across, the memory solidifies and perhaps years later, the girl will return with her own daughter to make more memories, giving birth to a new tradition.

The video closes with views of the Hangang River. Both from the river itself, showing the ever-present high-rise buildings of Seoul and the river cutting through it from atop Gwanaksan Mountain.

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About the Author

Steve Miller

Steve Miller, the QiRanger, is Korea’s best-known travel video blogger-journalist. His videos have been viewed by millions and seen on media outlets in throughout the word. In addition to sharing his entertaining and informative videos, he writes about life abroad and releases a popular podcast. Steve appears regularly on international radio stations, talking about travel, Korean culture and East Asian news. He’s also appeared on Arirang Television sharing unique aspects of Korean life. You can follow Steve on Twitter @QiRanger or visit his site QiRanger.com.