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South Korea enthralls with seamless blend of traditional, modern cultures

July 05, 2019

South Korea – the land that brought K-Pop, K- Dramas and K-Beauty to the world – continues to be one of the most visited countries in Asia. It is also an ever-growing place of interest for Filipinos with its great culinary finds, diverse attractions and a wide variety of activities for all ages.

As close allies, Koreans have further strengthened their bond with Filipinos as Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Han Dong-man announced early June that the country will relax visa requirements for their friends in these islands soon.

Sunshine Land — the main filming location of the popular K-drama ‘Mr. Sunshine’ — transports visitors back to the Joseon era.

The envoy noted that the Korean Embassy in Manila would minimize the number of documents needed for visa applications – especially for businessmen, media practitioners and government workers. He added that qualified individuals would be given multiple visa at least five years or 10 years with one single document proving their employment to a certain company.

It will be remembered that the Korean government has been issuing multiple-entry visa to Asean countries, including the Philippines, for convenience when visiting South Korea, and is gradually expanding the scope of eligibility for multiple-entry.

Because of this development, there are more reasons for Filipinos to book a trip to South Korea to enjoy its mostly mountainous landscape, lively cities and ancient culture. It is definitely worth a stop on everyone’s itinerary.

The Uineungjeongi cultural street and sky road features an arcade-type LED screen 214 meters-long.

Daeheung-dong Cathedral is the most modern Catholic church in Daejon and was once the highest building in the city when it was erected in 1962.

On June 13 to 17, The Manila Times was one of the privileged media entities to be invited by the Korean Tourism Office (KTO) in Manila for a Familiarization Tour.

The following are the highly suggested places for an enjoyable experience of mixed traditional and modern cultures in contemporary South Korea.


It is quite understandable why tourists worldwide regularly rank Seoul — the capital of South Korea — as their favorite city on earth. Besides being the business hub of the country, Seoul is the fashion, technology, entertainment and at the same time the cultural heart of South Korea.

Artee Pedicab. Easily recommended for tourists is the Artee Pedicab. Its tours are best suited to those who desire to catch hidden secrets of the 600-year-old capital with a little help from a driver-tourist guide on a comfortable three-wheel cycle ride.

Some places they offer for visiting are Bukchon Village — home to hundreds of traditional Korean houses called hanoks, some of which date back to the Joseon Dynasty; Sechon — one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seoul, now known for maze-like alleys, traditional market and galleries; and Blue House, the executive office and residency of the South Korean head of state of the Joseon.

Myeong-dong Cathedral. Located in the heart of downtown Seoul, Myeong-dong is known as a shopping area packed with international fashion brands, luxury department stores and homegrown cosmetics shops. It also houses the Myeong-dong Cathedral, which is not the only first parish church in Korea but also an important symbol of the Catholic Church in the country.

Besides its historical value, the cathedral is also known for being one of the earliest and most notable examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Korea. The cathedral floor plan is cross-shaped, with the main building rising to 23 meters and the bell tower to 46.7 meters high. The structure is also a great background for photos as it retains the pure Gothic style without architectural adornments.

Byeol-Madang Library. This gargantuan library right in the the middle of Starfield Coex Mall boasts of having a collection of 50,000 books and 600 magazines – including many foreign titles, as well as e-books and other e-publications – displayed on 13-meter high shelves. Anyone can use the library as it has seats, tables and electrical outlets. Books and magazines can be borrowed, read and purchased as well.

Endless pots of sauces and condiments make for an interesting and unique sight in Nonsan, Chungcheongan.

King’s Cross in Hongdae, Seoul is a massive four-storey Harry Potter-themed cafe.

The Artee Pedicab tour is best suited for travelers looking to uncover the secrets of the 600-year old capital.

The massive Byeol-Madang Library houses some 50,000 books and 600 magazines.

This is one of the must-visit-places for tourists especially for K-Pop fans as SM Entertainment (a talent agency) shopping complex is located in beside the mall too. Also outside the indoor multi-shopping complex is the Statue of Gangnam Style, a statue dedicated to the South Korean music hit “Gangnam Style” popularized by Psy. The huge metal sculpture shows two fists overlapped in the style of the song’s “horse-riding” dance move.

King’s Cross cafe. The King’s Cross in Hongdae, Seoul is massive four-story Harry Potter-themed cafe. Visitors can have a memorable photo opportunity by borrowing robes and scarves depending on chosen house – Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor or Slytherin. There is a pub where visitors can have alcoholic drinks, a common room which has a lot of tables for drinking or enjoying pastries and coffee, and of course, a merchandise shop.


Chungcheongnam-do tends to fly under the radar of most travelers, and that’s unfortunate because not many Filipinos – and even Koreans – know that this is South Korea’s richest province. Once the center of the ancient Baekje Kingdom, it is by far the country’s fastest growing region and was since transformed from a mostly agricultural to a highly industrialized economy in the 21st century. Traces of its history are scattered about the region which can be visited by culture-seeking Filipinos.

Sunshine Land. K-drama”Mr. Sunshine” reveals stories of the Joseon Dynasty (the former name of Korea before the Japanese colonization) around 1900, when the nation was a melting pot of cultural influx from countries like Japan, United States and United Kingdom. In order to depict scenes of Joseon in its time of enlightenment, streets and buildings of the country’s capital during that period are skillfully reproduced, allowing visitors to feel like as if they have traveled back in time. Visitors can also enjoy a cup of coffee at a café inside Glory Hotel, just like Eugene Choi from the drama.

Sunshine Land consists of 1950s Open Film Set, Survival Game Zone, Military Experience Center and Sunshine Studio, where many of the scenes from “Mr. Sunshine” were filmed. Taking photos is a must here as the set offers nostalgia in the Joseon era and good photos will for sure turn out from every angle as visitors can also rent and try out Korean traditional clothing like hanbok.

House of Myeongjae. Myeongjae Old Mansion also in Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do shows a typical nobleman’s house in Hoseo region (Chungcheongdo) during the mid-Joseon years. It is a model of a private mansion where the high class lived in the middle period of Chosun Dynasty.

There are rooms of various moods and sizes in the house, where visitors can experience staying there while receiving the ambiance of the Korean style house. There is also a seminar room available for various activities. Visitors can also experience Korean tea ceremony or natural dyeing, among others.

Oeam Folk Village. Perfectly preserved in its traditional appearance, Oeam Folk Village consists of houses of the nobility but in a style unique to the Chuncheong-do area, thatched-roof houses, stone walls, gardens as well as daily tools and folk objects. It is also well-known for its characteristic garden with pond, whose source is located in the valley of Seolhwasan Mountain situated behind the village.

The village’s 6,000-meter stone walls are well-preserved, and the side streets between the stone walls and the neighboring dense forest add to the charm of the village scenery. Aside from that, it runs diverse traditional cultural and rural experiences like traditional fan-making, rice cake-pounding, traditional wedding ceremony, and culture and art performances.

Solmoe Holy Ground. Solmoe, which means a “mountain with a dense pine forest,” is a small village located in Dangjin, Chungcheongnam-do. As the birthplace of the first Korean-born Catholic priest, Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, it welcomes countless Catholic pilgrims who come here to visit his former home and memorial hall. Pope Francis, who also paid a visit there in 2014, had a statue erected alongside the Saint.

Ami Art Museum. Also located in Dangjin, Ami Art Museum is an art gallery that was remodeled from an elementary school. The museum consists of various exhibition gallery halls that house temporary interesting exhibits. From families, youngsters and couples, everyone visits this place because of its Instagram-worthy area. The whole museum is surrounded by crawling vines and is wrapped in fine greenery, and each exhibit provides many opportunities to snap potential display photos.


Unlike Seoul, Busan or Jeju Island, the city of Daejon is usually not in the list of usual travel destinations of Filipinos visiting South Korea. But surprisingly, it is the fifth largest metropolis and is known as the mecca of research and development in the country and one of the world’s leading cities in that field.

Just an just an hour or two away from the capital by either high-speed train or bus, Daejon is the perfect place to go if in need of escaping the hectic city life as it provides a tranquil environment filled with a variety of lush green parks surrounded by mountains on the horizon.

Daeheung-dong Cathedral. This Catholic structure in Daejon was built in 1962 in the modernist architectural style adopted for Korean Catholic churches of the mid-20th century. The church was built with reinforced concrete rather than bricks, the most widely used building material at that time, which made it possible to dispense with columns in its interior.

Tourist guide Eugene Aan told The Manila Times that it is the most modern Catholic church in Daejon and was the highest building in the city – 49 meters high – during the earlier time. In 2014, Pope Francis visited this church during his five-day visit to South Korea on the occasion of the Sixth Asian Youth Day. Across the church is the Sung Sim Dang bakery which became more famous after Pope Francis ate right after his visit.

Sajinchango Cafe and Photo Studio. For photography fans, Sajinchango in Dongdae, Dong-gu, Daejeon is the place to be. At the back of a café located inside a charming old building, a photography studio charms every visitor for its display of black and white photographs.

Mr. Pae, owner of the cafe and studio shared to The Manila Times, “This place used to be a rice granary. And when I took over two years ago, I reconstructed it. This place is surrounded by several antique items I bought which are perfect for a photo background.”

Uineungjeongi cultural street and sky road. Uineungjeongi Cultural Street is more recognizable at night with colorful lights. After sunset, the area becomes a place for parties. The sky road or sky street that opened in 2013 was built with an arcade-type LED screen equipment with a length of 214 meters, width of 13.3 meters and height of 20 meters. It is a famous tourist attraction in Daejeon and displays a range of content providing both entertainment and publicity using the main screen and media hub.

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