WKB Tour 2012 – The Gunsan Goodbye, Day 3


Jinpo Marine Theme Park in Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do

Jinpo Marine Theme Park in Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do

Today I’d like to tell you about the last day of the special reward trip that I earned by blogging for the second round of the Korea Blog. The other WKBs Annabel and EmaGiselaMaria, DorotheaAsif, and I arrived in Gunsan on our last day. We had already enjoyed a welcome dinner in Seoul and tours through Jeonju and Seonyou-do the previous two days, and now only had a few hours left together on our tour. 

Dongguk-sa Main Hall and garden

We began our Gunsan journey by visiting Dongguk-sa (Donguk Temple), Korea’s only remaining Japanese temple left behind by Japan’s occupation of Korea. The white-and-brown facade of the temple looked markedly different from the colourful Korean temples to which I’ve grown accustomed. The walled courtyard was paved with small white pebbles and held a carefully manicured garden and artificial pond, in contrast to the tree-lined and more natural dirt courtyards of the Korean temples that I’ve visited. In their book This is Korea, authors Choi, Jung-wha and Lim, Hyang-ok explain that Japanese gardens are walled, with artificially landscaped mountains, sea, and forest lying within as the Japanese believed the consistency to be aesthetically pleasing. In contrast, the Korean garden allows nature to run free, embracing the changes in landscape and season, and reflecting a reverence for nature. Both are very beautiful, but very different.

In and around the temple, including the main hall

Inside the temple hall, Dongguk-sa’s decor was again more muted than its Korean counterparts. The hall had white walls and dark wood floors and rafters, contrasting again to the light floors, red beams, and painted ceilings of the Korean temple. It was interesting to compare and contrast the Dongguk-sa to other Korean temples and it is well-worth the visit for those interested in Korean history during the Japanese occupation, or temple architecture in Korea. 

We had Gunsan’s famous marinated crab for lunch

We were eager to learn more about Gunsan’s fascinating history only after grabbing a bite to eat – a theme of this trip, I’ve noticed! We dined on another seafood meal, trying Gunsan’s specialty of marinated king crab. I have an adventurous appetite, but I’m afraid the treat wasn’t one of my favourites. I did enjoy the other dishes, namely crab roe and rice, spicy seafood soup, and a variety of sides, and once again was stuffed full without even really trying.

Old Gunsan Customs Office

With another massive meal under our belts, we staggered off to the Gunsan Modern History Museum, a bright building with a spacious courtyard overlooking the ocean. The museum is conveniently located near several other interesting sites, including the Old Gunsan Customs Office and a former branch of Japan’s eighteenth bank. 

The museum’s varied collection is spread out over three floors. On the first level, a lighthouse replica overlooks the spacious lobby and displays about modern fisheries and ocean life. The second level housed a special exhibition about the heartbreaking Okgu farmers’ rebellion, when Gunsan area farmers attempted to fight back against the Japanese forces that controlled them. Finally, the third floor replicated the streets of 1930’s Gunsan for a special quarterly exhibition called 1930’s Time Travel.

Exhibition halls in the Gunsan Modern History Museum

The third floor hall held a mock bank, school, harbour, and theatre. We really enjoyed the interactive exhibit, trying on the costumes of the day and using the various tools on display, including ink stamps and rice scales. I tried on a black and white hanbok and some rubber shoes and posed on a rickshaw for photos. It was a true trip back in time. I was impressed with the museum’s English-language signage and general navigability, and I definitely recommend a visit there.

Ema models a hanbok while Han, Annabel, and Gisela take pictures

We continued down the boardwalk from the museum to the Jinpo Marine Theme Park, an outdoor museum dedicated to documenting marine and military history. Here you can check out different models of tanks, planes, helicopters, and boats used during Korea’s various military missions, and you can even peruse a museum built into one of the ships. The boat museum showcased miniature battle recreations, military photography, and mock-ups of a ship’s living quarters.

Annabel and Ema pose with Korean soldier statues at Jinpo Marine Theme Park

With the day winding down, we knew it would soon be time to part. We made one last stop to peek at a few more Japanese-style homes but unfortunately for us they were under renovation. The spectrum of Japanese influence in Gunsan was very interesting and appealed to the historian in me, so I think I may find myself back in Gunsan soon.

Japanese-style homes in Gunsan

Asif and I then headed to the bus terminal to return to Daegu and Busan. We posed for one last group photo and exchanged hugs and well wishes with the others, now on their way to Seoul. It was truly a phenomenal weekend with wonderful people. Thank you Korea Blog, and my fellow WKBs for our time together and for another wonderful weekend in the Land of Morning Calm!


Choi, Jung-wha and Lim, Hyang-ok. This is Korea. Hollym Corp. Pulishers; Seoul, Korea, 2011.

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