Travel diaries

Looking back at some of my travel photos, I can’t help but notice the prominence of turtles in the south of the peninsula. The symbolism of the turtle is explained briefly in the Life in Korea website as follows: While the dragon was considered the ruler of all animals, the turtle ruled over the insects. […]

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Mun Ik-jeom: dutiful son and smuggler of cotton seeds

by Philip Gowman 18 July 2014
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Mun Ik jeom (문익점, 文益漸) was a rare individual who was honoured by the kings of two royal dynasties, first by King U of Goryeo and second by the great Joseon King Sejong. The honour received from Sejong was posthumous, and was in recognition of what started, in modern day terms, as industrial espionage. And […]

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A quick thank you to the many who once again made my Korea trip so special

by Philip Gowman 28 September 2013
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While this year’s trip to Korea is still fresh in my mind, here are a few thank-yous to the many people who made the trip special. Write-ups will follow over the coming weeks, not necessarily in chronological order. Thanks… To former LKL contributor Shin Eunjung and Tim Anderson for the splendid Gwangyang Bulgogi in, er, […]

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MMLG6: An editing project is born

by Philip Gowman 7 September 2013
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Donguibogam Village, Sancheong-gun, Saturday 7 September, 7am.  We must have done some good work on the Blue Label the previous evening, because I wake up very groggy. The forecast for later that day is for clear skies – good news for my Jirisan hike – but for now there is little but grey. In an […]

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MMLG5: The official duties

by Philip Gowman 6 September 2013
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Donguibogam Village, Sancheong-gun, Friday 6 September, 2pm. After lunch, I realise that I now have to perform my ambassadorial duties. My sense of gloom is at odds with the enthusiastic spiel that I have to present to the camera. We proceed to the Donguibogam Museum where we meet up with a few people in an […]

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MMLG4: Honouring the spirits, feeling the gi

by Philip Gowman 6 September 2013
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Donguibogam Village, Sancheong-gun, Friday 6 September, 9am. In the daylight, I am beginning to get my bearings. The Sancheong World Traditional Medicine Expo is set in a 109 hectare (269 acre) site dominated by the dramatic peaks of Pilbongsan (pencil-peak mountain) and Wangsan (the King’s mountain). The natural slopes of these mountains establish the geography […]

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MMLG3: Preparing for the Expo

by Philip Gowman 6 September 2013
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Donguibogam Village, Sancheong-gun, Friday 6 September, 7am. Four hundred years ago, a ground-breaking medical encyclopaedia was published. The Donguibogam, literally the Principles and Practice of Eastern Medicine, was compiled and edited by Heo Jun, a Korean royal doctor, with the support of a team of medical scholars and academics. The work had been commissioned by […]

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MMLG2: Arrival in Sancheong

by Philip Gowman 5 September 2013
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Incheon, Thursday 5 September, 2pm. As I leave the plane at Incheon, one of the hostesses says: “I hope it’s alright. We tried to get most of the tomato juice off…” Ah, so that’s what my neighbour had been apologising about in the first place, before he added to the offence by tipping water on […]

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MMLG1: The release of stress

by Philip Gowman 4 September 2013
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London, Wednesday 4 September, 3pm. The stress of clearing the desk before leaving the office, of wondering if you’ve packed everything you need, immediately evaporates as you get into the taxi. There’s nothing more you can do, as you make your way through the rush hour traffic to Heathrow for the evening flight to Seoul. […]

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LKL’s 2013 Travel Diaries: Mountain Medicine Land and Grain — Introduction

by Philip Gowman 3 September 2013
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In 2010, I travelled to Korea on a visit sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Culture Sports & Tourism, and ended up getting my travel diary printed up as a book courtesy of that Ministry. My visit had encompassed things I myself had wanted to do, and things that my hosts and Korean friends had […]

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2012 Travel Diary #22: The Burial Grounds of the Royal Joseon Placentas, and why underfloor heating is not always good for you

by Philip Gowman 3 December 2012
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1 April 2012. Yes, it’s 1 April, and no, this article is not an April Fool’s joke. Sunday in Sancheong town, and the National Assembly election campaign is in full swing. All along the main street, the ppongtchak trucks are parked nose to tail, probably about eight of them. All of them blare out loud […]

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2012 Travel Diary #21: Seong Cheol’s birthday, Park Chan-soo’s museum and Gaya period tombs

by Philip Gowman 26 November 2012
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31 March 2012. The impact of the love shots is still fogging my brain when Mr Yoon arrives at 9:30 in the morning. Today, he is accompanied by his wife, who is to join us for the morning. It is, after all, a Saturday, so Mr Yoon is working overtime on behalf of the Sancheong […]

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2012 Travel Diary #20: Rabbit Stew and Love Shots

by Philip Gowman 7 November 2012
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30 March 2012. The ice on the mountain trail the previous day had given me metaphorical cold feet about proceeding upwards beyond Beopgyesa to Jirisan’s summit. During the night, the wind and rain outside our comfortable cabin in the temple compound confirmed the decision that we would head downhill, rather than up, in the morning. […]

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2012 Travel Diary #19: Beopgyesa Temple and those Japanese feng-shui stakes

by Philip Gowman 16 October 2012
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Beopgyesa Temple (법게사) is the highest in Sancheong County and at least the third-highest in Korea. The good people of Sancheong believe that Beopgyesa is the highest temple in South Korea, a claim which is supported by Beopgyesa’s entry on the Cultural Heritage Administration website, where the following text is to be found: “It is […]

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2012 Travel Diary #18: The hike to Beopgyesa

by Philip Gowman 30 September 2012
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29 March 2012. The road through Jungsan-ri stops in a car park beyond which are the Jirisan National Park office and a barrier across the road. Jungsan-ri is the start of the shortest (but not necessarily the gentlest) trail to Cheonwanbong, Jirisan’s highest peak. We are permitted to proceed through the barrier, shaving a boring […]

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2012 Travel Diary #17: On hiking in Korea

by Philip Gowman 21 September 2012
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29 March 2012. “Have you got proper hiking boots?” That’s the standard question from concerned Koreans when I told them I was going to walk up Jirisan. I was familiar with the Korean custom of dressing properly for hiking. You can’t miss the hikers on the subway, and indeed heading out to Gwacheon on line […]

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2012 Travel Diary #16: Silla pagodas, Korea’s first beautiful village, and Nammyeong’s tomb

by Philip Gowman 19 September 2012
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29 March 2012. Today is the day we start the ascent of Jirisan, but first there’s a couple of local sites of interest that I need to visit. First, the two Unified Silla dynasty stone pagodas, which are now the only remnants of Dansoksa, a temple built in the middle of the eighth century. The […]

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