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Pyeongyang Area
Pyeongyang city is the center of North Korea’s politics, economics, culture, and tourism. Occupying an area of 2600 square kilometers, it has a population of 3.43 million. Pyeongyang was once the capital of Goguryeo (37-668 B.C.), founded by Jumong and Goguryeo, the very first nation of the Korean peninsula. Famous tourist sites include the Daedongmun, Botongmun, and Dongmyeongwangreung Grave. Daedongmun is the east gate of Goguryeo Pyeongyang Fortress’ inner complex.
The most important of all Pyeongyang Fortress gates, it is North Korea’s national treasure #1. Botongmun Gate is also a relic from the Goguryeo era, and is North Korea’s National Treasure #2. The Dongmyeongwangreung Grave is the gravesite of King Dongmyeong, founder of Goguryeo- it was discovered and excavated in 1974. It is known for the murals of lotus blossoms that graces its walls and ceilings. Dangunneung is a pyramidal grave of nine sections built out of granite. Mt. Moranbong is named after the Moran Flower; it has four castles called Naeseong, Oeseong, Chilseongmun and Eulmildae. Eulmildae castle was built in the middle of the 6th century, but was rebuilt in 1714 and it was renamed Bukjangdae castle in Naeseong. Eulmildae castle’s spring outdoor festival (Bomnori) is one of eight famous Pyeongyang festivals.
Other places of interests include the Joseon Revolutionary Museum, Joseon Art Museum, Botonggang River Park, Central Botanical Garden, and Central Zoo. Pyeongyang is also well known for its food, such as the Pyeongyang naengmyeon (cold noodles) and kimchi-mari. Pyeongyang naengmyeon is made of buckwheat noodles complemented by a sweet pear-flavored soup. Kimchi-mari is cold rice, kimchi, and sesame oil immersed in kimchi juices.
Gaeseong District
Gaeseong was the capital of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) for about 500 years. It occupies 1200 square kilometers and has a population of 390,000. Beginning in the Goryeo era. It cultivated a history of fine craftsmanship (Goryeo Celadon is a fine example) and international trade. Gaeseong was also active in ginseng production, and Goryeo ginseng from the area is world famous. Tourist sites include the Seonjukgyo Bridge and Namdaemun Gate.
The Seonjukgyo is a Goryeo era (1392-1910) stone bridge, and in the east there is a memorial containing the calligraphy of the Joseon era’s famed calligrapher Seokbong Han. The Gaeseong Namdaemun Gate is the south gate of the Gaeseong Naeseong Fortress.
Parkyeon Falls has two small ponds, Parkyeon pond is the upper one and Gomodam pond is the lower one. Thanks to the gazebo next to the falls, one can relax while enjoying the view. Gongminwangreung is a twin tomb for King Gongmin and his wife. In the tombs are a twelve animal mural (Jisinsang) drawn by King Gongmin.
Other attractions include the Gaeseong History Museum.
Mt. Baekdusan District
With a peak at 2,744m, Mt. Baekdusan is the highest mountain on the Korean peninsula. A dormant volcano, its volcanic activity began dying down about 2 million years ago, forming its current shape. Its climate is typical of high altitudes, with extreme temperature fluctuations. The average temperature is 6~8℃, with an average rainfall of 1,500mm. Many rare animals inhabit the area, including tigers, bears, and panthers--as do over 2,700 plant varieties.
At the peak of the mountain is Cheonji Lake, a caldera lake with an area of 9.17 square kilometers and an average depth of 213.3m. It is surrounded by peaks on all sides, and harbors many marine life forms. Cultural artifacts in the Mt. Baekdusan area include the Mt. Baekdusan Jeonggyebi Memorial, raised in 1712 to mark the boundary between Joseon and China.
Mt. Myohyangsan District
Mt. Myohyangsan is 1,909m tall, and is named Mt. Myohyangsan because of its strange and beautiful shape. The temperature averages 8.3℃. There is a wide variety of plants as well as rare animals. Historically the mountain is significant because in 1592 (25th year of King Seonjeo’s rule, Joseon era), when faced with the Japanese invading forces, the monk Hyujeong gathered a militia of monks in the mountain in defense of the nation. Making it even more attractive as a tourist spot is the Dangunsa, which contains relics of Dangun, founder of Gojeoseon- the very first nation on the Korean peninsula. Also in the area is the International Friendship Display, which exhibits various gifts given to Ilseong Kim and Jeongil Kim from nations around the world. The Myohyangsan History Museum and Mt. Myohyangsan spring water are also worth noting.
Mt. Guweolsan and Gwail District
Mt. Guweolsan is 954m tall and contains the famous Yongyeon Falls, Guweolsansanseong Fortress site, and kiln site. Yongyeon Falls is where all the rivers of the mountain converge to crash over a fall- a fantastic sight. The sight of the Guweolsansanseong Fortress site manages to give an idea of the vastness of the fortress when it still stood- its circumference was 5.23km. The kiln site was used to fire Goryeo Celadon. Mt. Guweolsan was also the place where anti-communist forces fought against the North Korean communist army during the 6.25 War. Gwail-gun is comprised of over 70% fruit fields and orchids--the largest fruit-producing region in North Korea. Because it is in close vicinity to Pyeongyang, it is perfect to visit together.
Weonsan and Geumgangsan Diamond Mountains District
Encompassing a 110km area from Weonsan (a port city) to the Geumgangsan Diamond Mountains, this area is a tourist heaven which contains fabulous shores, lakes, mountains, and temples. The Geumgangsan Diamond Mountains are home to the Birobong Peak, the tallest point of the mountain at 1,638m. With 12,000 mountain peaks, valleys, waterfalls, and ponds, it is a truly phenomenal vision of nature. There are over 940 types of plants as well as endangered fish species.
Major tourist sites of the area include the Guryeong Falls, Manmulsang, Samilpo Lake, and Haegeumgang River. The Guryong Falls are the greatest of all Geumgangsan’s waterfalls, the Manmulsang is a collection of oddly shaped boulders, and the Samilpo Lake and Haegeumgang River are places that offer the beauty of lakes and oceans. Weonsan is a port city situated on the east coast, with a population of 280,000.
Sinuiju and Uiji District
Sinuiju is a transportation hub located at the mouth of the Aprokgang River. Sinuiju city is laid out in the form of a checkerboard, with the northeast region occupied by government agencies and residences, and an industrial area on the Aprokgang River. With an area of 10.6 square kilometers and a population of 32,500, Uiju is a major city not far behind Pyeongyang or Gaesong, filled with historical artifacts that include the Tonggunjeong. The Tonggunjeong is a raised gazebo, which served as a military lookout during the Goryeo era. Its festive structural design is notable.
Nampo District
Nampo is an international port city. With an area of 82.9 square kilometers, it has a population of 800,000. There were about 10 islands in the area until the 1960s, but beginning in the 1970s the islands became connected through artificial land and roads by development. Nearby tourist sites include the Taeseongho Lake and Ssangyeongchong.
Sehaegapmun is a gate (35m high, 8km in length) in the mouth of the Daedong river so ships up to five- tons can pass through.
The beautiful Taeseongho Lake is a multi-purpose dam with an area of 7.79 square kilometers and a circumference of 32.5km. The Ssangyeongchong is a Goguryeo era grave with murals of people and the 4 gods painted on its walls.