*Ancient Mountain Fortresses in Central Korea (2010)
- Anyone familiar with Korea and its long history will know there are an incredible amount of fortresses in Korea. Current estimates number 2,400 fortresses in Korea. (offcourse varying degrees of intact fortresses remain, some only being earthen fortresses) Nearly every national or provincial park in Korea has at least one sanseong (fortress). There are basically three types of fortresses in Korea: Fortress to protect the Royal Family - Fortress to protect a town/city/village - Mountain Fortress (being by far the most numerous) The fortresses in this nomination are unique in the fact that all are located in the border region of Korea's ancient three kingdoms: Silla, Baekjae, and Goguryeo. Nearly all 7 fortresses in this serial nomination were held. rebuilt, or restored by two or more dynasties. I visited Samnyeon sanseong & Sangdang sanseong (I may visit two more in the Chungju vacinity). Samnyeon sanseong is unique in that it is very much a ruined fortress and was not rebuilt by the Joseon dynasty (this fortress is a Silla fortress and is in rough shape, this fortress was nominated individually on Korea's previous T-list) Perhaps unfortunately there is a completely rebuilt section of Samnyeon sanseong, and it stands out; also the fortress is kind of out of the way. (no tourist facilities) Sangdangsanseong is a much more common mountain fortress in Korea, heavily restored early in the Joseon Dynasty this fortress is mostly intact, with some newly renovated sections. Beautiful location. The vast amount of fortresses in Korea have played a central role in defending the nation. Ancient Korea was never conquered by its two larger neighbors in large part because of the impossiblity of enemy forces capturing countless formidable town and mountain fortresses. One fortress would be captured, word would spread to a nearby fortress to prepare, and another siege would commence. China and Japan both suffered slow costly defeats trying to invade Korea. So there is tremendous historic importance concerning Korea's ancient fortresses, however do they merit the label of OUV? I honestly don't know. Hwaeseong is already incribed, but that is a recent fortress only built in 1799. Samnyeon Sanseong is from the 7th century, and marks Silla's slow expansion and eventual success (together with Tang dynasty China) in defeating Baekjae and Goguryeo. I am curious to see the outcome of this nomination.
*Iksan Historic Areas (2010)
- First and foremost if you visit Iksan hopefully it's by car, as these sites are spread out and only few of them are accessible by bus. I visited Mureuksaji temple site, and the Wanggung Palace site. These historic areas really feel like archeological sites. There are few remians, but fascinating nonetheless. Interestingly enough the famous and enormous Mureuk 5-story pagoda (originally 7-story) no longer exisits in a sense. Pretty much the only major remain at the site, Mureuk pagoda has been dismantled to strengthen the base and back portion. So what you see is a huge building over a largely disapeared pagoda. The original stones are numbered and layed out over an area the size of a basketball court, all properly numbered and waiting to be put back together. (very much like a jigsaw puzzle) The pagoda was in serous danger of completely collapsing under its huge weight, so I think the current plan is the best option. Mureksaji was likely the largest temple in Korea, and the pagoda is the largest to my knowledge. The Japanese in 1915 built concrete supports at the back of the pagoda, helping the pagoda last another hundred years. When the pagoda is put back together it will be whole for the first time in about 400 years. (the pagoda dates back to around 600 AD, likely the oldest stone pagoda in Korea) The Wanggung palace site is almost completely gone with only another stone pagoda, and some small stone pillar and wall structers remaining. (most of the site is closed for archeological studies. In the Iksan area alone there have been more than 19,000 Baekjae artifacts already unearthed. The sites in Iksan are interesting, but most visitors will come away somewhat disapointed, visit some of the excellent museums to add value to the sites. Undoubtably there will be a Baekjae nomination inscribed, it is a very important dynasty in Korea, which came into contact frequently with Japan and China along its coastal areas though trade and regional dominance. (noteworthy is Baekjae's influence on ancient Japanese kingdoms) I expect the historic areas of Gongju, Buyeo, and Iksan will be combined for a successful Baekjae Dynasty nomination.
*Oeam Village (2011)
- Oeam village is a beautiful small village, whose inhabitants are largely in the 60+ range. The village is not really a tourist site, more being an actual old village which exhibits quite a few authentic structures. The unique aspect of Oeam is the artificial water system that goes through the entire village for gardens and agriculture. I enjoyed my visit, slightly dissapointed at first, but after wandering the village for about an hour my enjoyment increased. There are no wow sights in the village, the atmosphere and setting is more whats on display. Very little tourist facilities. I doubt the site will be inscribed, many villagers have upgraded their quant homes, adding modern comfort improvements.
All of Korea's new T list is at varying levels of readiness for inscription by Unesco. Many of the sites are being developed to be more toursit friendly sites, with new English information panels, and quite a bit of restoration work.
In 2008 I visited Seokaksan National Park, and Gongju and Buyeo historic sites. This leaves only 3 tentative sights I have not yet visited. Perhaps in the coming years. I will be heading back to the USA soon. (2012 or 2013 maybe?) I have been pleasantly suprised by the new T list. I expect about 3 or 4 sites of the 13 to be inscribed. Not a high number, but Korea already has 10 WHS!!!
I have previously reviewed both Gongju and Buyeo Historic Sites and Mt. Seoraksan Natural Preserve. When I come back to Los Angeles I will review the latest sites I have visited with pictures, including my recent trip the Philippines.
I am now nearing completion of my 1 month return trip to Korea (with a week side trip to the Philippines) and I have had a busy itinerary. Furthermore, I visited other parts of serial nominations I had not visited. I had previously visited some of the Ganghwa Island dolmens in 2008. This time I got the chance to visit the Gochang Dolmen cluster. Very impressive in number and some dolmen were pretty large in the stone table style. However, concerning dolmens only the huge dolmen in Gangha truly wowed me. On another note, I visited 4 more Joseon dynasty tomb clusters (bringing my count to 8) My favorite tombs are King Taejo at Donggureung, King Taejeong at Heolleung Cluster, King Sejong at the Yeongneung Cluster, and finally King Sejo at the Gwangneung Cluster (which probably has the most beautiful location, located in a Unesco Biosphere Reserve). I should mention, the final two Joseon Dynasty Emperors, Gojong and his son's tomb are fascinating as well, but you can't actually walk up to the tombs at the moment. (The statues are certainly interesting though, a camel?) If you visit these 4 or 5 tomb clusters you will see more variety in tombs, some of the most important rulers, and some beautiful natural locations around Seoul and Gyeongi-do. In a couple days I will visit the recently added Hahoe Village, part of the Historic Villages of Korea WHS, which will conclude my stay in Korea for the time being.
Obviosuly, I have a passion for Korea.