Korea's mountains and walking trails continue to see a growing number of visitors. It is rarely known that Seoul is a mountain city with Bukaksan, Inwangsan, and Ansan sitting inside city limits, while Bukhansan, Dobongsan, Buramsan, Cheonggyesan, and Gwanaksan surround the outer boundary. Most of the mountains can be easily accessed within an hour by public transportation and require basal physical fitness rather than professional climbing skills. “Whether Dobongsan, Bugaksan, or Bukhansansong, [no]where else in the world can a person be transported so quickly from being in the midst of a major city to the top of a mountain peak, looking down to see the city spread below in all directions,” wrote Kathleen Stephens, former United States Ambassador to Korea, in her personal blog. With health consciousness a growing trend, more and more people these days can be found exploring Seoul's numerous mountains and trails.
A starting point of the trail Designated as Historic Site No. 10, the Fortress Wall of Seoul is one of the best trails in the city. The 18.2-kilometer fortress wall was built along the ridges of Inwangsan, Bukaksan, Naksan, and Namsan, and has gained popularity as a place where people can learn about Korean history, culture, and ecology. The construction of the fortress wall dates back to the Joseon Dynasty. Upon his accession, Taejo focused on building palaces and facilities, and in 1396 construction on the wall began in order to protect the palaces. The guidebook co-published by the Cultural Heritage Administration and Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation says that the first-built fortress wall went through major phases of expansion and reconstruction during the reigns of King Sejong and King Sukjong.
The Fortress Wall of Seoul is one of the best trails in Seoul.Along with the Seoul Fortress wall, King Taejo also built four gates facing north, east, west, and south, as well as four sub-gates between them. The four main gates are named Heunginjimun (east), Donuimun (west), Sungnyemun (south), and Sukcheongmun (north), and the four sub-gates are Hyehwamun (northeast), Gwanghuimun (southeast), Souimun (southwest) and Changuimun (northwest). Built to protect the capital city and its various palaces, the complex of fortresses consists of three layers of defense: an inner fortress wall surrounding Gyeongbokgung, a middle wall surrounding the city, and fortresses lining the outerlying mountains. The role of the middle fortress, however, was less to defend against enemy attacks and more to serve as a symbolic structure of the capital city.
Sukjeongmun (photo: Yonhap News)The Fortress Wall, completed in 30 years' time, was destroyed in many parts due to various city planning initiatives and the introduction of tram lines. The best-preserved and best-known part along the course is the Seoul Fortress Wall of Mt. Bukaksan, the 2.3-kilometer trail which cuts through Sukjeongmun to Changuimun. This part of the course was previously off-limits to the public, having been designated a Military Reserve area due to its proximity to Cheong Wa Dae, but it has been open to the public since 2006. With very few alterations or artificial structures having been introduced to the area over the years, the natural environment remains relatively intact. An additional highlight of the trail is a curved area called Gokjang. The curved area once served as an observation point for watching enemy movements, and tourists today can stop here to indulge in a panoramic view of Bukhansan. They should keep in mind, though, that the beauty before them is for their eyes and and memories only -- photography is not allowed. At an elevation of 293 meters, Cheongundae is another must-visit site on the Bugaksan Mountain course, with direct views of Gyeongbokgung, Gwanghwamun, and Sungnyemun. The view of Gyeongbokgung is especially ideal, giving a bird's-eye view of the entire layout of the palace.
Photo courtesy of Jongno-gu
The course peaks at Baegak Maru, which offers a breathtaking panorama of nearby Inwangsan as well as the Seoul cityscape. High-rise buildings towering beside the ancient palace complex show the city's unique blend of new and old.
Visitors looking to trace the walls of Seoul Fortress along Bugaksan Mountain are required to show valid identification, including a passport or certificate of alien registration for non-Koreans, in exchange for a badge that is to be worn around the neck throughout the course. Badges are distributed at the three starting points for the Bugaksan Mountain trail -- the Sukjeongmun Gate Visitor Center, the Malbawi Visitor Center, and the Changuimun Visitor Center.
A recent addition to the excitement of the mountain adventure is a campaign sponsored by Jongno-gu that rewards travelers who travel to Sukjeongmun, Dongdaemun, Sungnyemun, and Donuimun, with stamps of completion at each location. Travelers who collect all four stamps can receive a commemorative badge.
By Lee Seung-ah
Korea.net Staff Writer
[Source : Korea.net]