Gangwon Province, South Korea
Gangwon Province, or Gangwon-do (강원도), is South Korea's most northeasterly province, with it's eastern
coastline meeting the East Sea (or 'Sea of Japan', depending on which map you are looking at), and it's western
border meeting Gyeonggi-do
(which is home to the nation's capital - Seoul).
It is hailed by many as the 'most beautiful province in Korea', with it's famed mountainous terrain being
home to one of Korea's most beloved National Parks and mountains –
Seoraksan. In fact, four fifths of Gangwon-do's
landscape is comprised of woodland and mountains, and it's population (around 1.5 million) is among the smallest of
any Korean province. In contrast to the mountains (which are teeming with popular ski resorts in the snowy Korean
Winters), Gangwon-do also boasts beautiful coastline with a number of beaches – popular with 'Seoulites' looking to
escape the city in the hot Summers.
Northern Gangwon-do borders the DMZ between North and South Korea, and there is still a pretty large military
presence in Northern areas, so you will see lots of Korean guys wearing their camouflage soldiers uniforms around
many of the Northern towns. Despite this closeness with the North, Gangwon-do is still extremely safe and free from
any military unrest. The people in the province are friendly and traditional, and live peaceful, simple lives; many
are farmers or shop owners.
The islands of Ulleungdo and Dokdo are also part of Gangwon-do. Dokdo is famous as it is a constant source of
argument between the Koreans and the Japanese, who claim the island belongs to them. The island itself is very small,
but the area of sea which surrounds it is very valuable for the country to own, and this is one of the main reasons
Japan wants to claim it so badly.
Transport links from Gangwon-do are plentiful, especially in terms of bus travel, and so it is easy to travel to
Seoul from any area of the province. The longest journey time would take a little over 3 hours. This means that Incheon
Airport is also within fairly easy reach; although Gangwon-do is also home to a number of small local airports, where
you can catch short flights to destinations such as Jeju.
Gangwon-do borders Chungcheongbuk-do
and Gyeongsangbuk-do to the south,
and buses also run to Busan, Daegu, Daejeon and most other major Korean cities.
The province itself offers much for the traveler/expat to see and do. It's capital city,
Chuncheon, is large enough
to offer many activities, but small enough that it still feels like a provincial town, rather than a big, bustling city.
It's biggest city is Wonju, which is fairly uninspiring to look at in it's
centre, but offers a wide range of entertainment and shopping opportunities. Other larger towns include
Gangneung and Sokcho,
both on the coast.
For more information on the history, geography and county divisions in the province, visit the
Wikipedia page or the
Offical Gangwon-do Home Page