Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kaesong! A Glimpse of Pre-War North Korea

Peeking out through the window at the Kaesong Folk Hotel.
The capital of Korea during the Goryo Dynasty (936 - 1392 AD), and with archaeological evidence stretching even further back into the Neolithic, Kaesong (개성) is a city (I use this term loosely, there are about 300,000 residents) rich in culture and history. It is also one of, if not the, only city in the DPRK where pre-Korean War traditional-style buildings remain. While all of the other cities in the DPRK were flattened by aerial bombardment during the war, Kaesong was spared by virtue of the fact that, until it was captured by the North Koreans, it had been on the South Korean side of the border. Although our movements were much more restricted here than in Pyongyang (Kaesong is located very close to the border and only 80km away from Seoul on the other side), it was definitely worth visiting. It was nice to see the different style of life. It was also great to get to stay in the North Korean version of a traditional Minbak-style guesthouse.

Traditional housing is in single rooms with mat floors located around a quadrangle.

Minbak is a no frills experience, but it's a beautiful one! Bucket showers for all.

Residents just going about their day

A pavilion a atop Mt Jaman, the central hill upon which sits the city;s Kim Il-sung statue.

A view of the city from the top. The large building is Kaesong's children's palace - the location for children to practice their extra curricular activities.
I sadly can't remember the name of this mountain, but it's very famous for resembling the profile of a sleeping pregnant woman.

Children on the hill. They were adorable, but very shy.

A view of the 13th century (rebuilt in the 17th century) Koryo Pak Mul Gwan (고려 박물관) or Confucius School, located just outside of the city. 

The reconstructed shrine leading to the tomb of the 31st King of the Goryo Dynasty, Kongmin (공민). 14th century AD.

Kongmin's tomb.

Just two guides hanging out.

Kongmin ruled the Korean peninsula during the era of Mongol control over Asia and, accordingly, married a Mongol Princess. The sheep surrounding their joint tombs are representative of her heritage.

These tigers (I know, I wasn't sure what they were either...) are representative of his.

Officials to attend them in the afterlife

No comments: