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Making New Memories

Posted April. 28, 2005 23:50,   


Yesterday was the 460th anniversary of General Yi Sun-shin’s birthday. In this time, when national pride has been hurt due to Japanese arguing over Dokdo’s possession rights and history textbook distortions, our hope of strongly punishing Japan just like during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592 (Imjinwaeran) when the Turtle Ship destroyed several hundred Japanese ships, makes us wait for a hero like the general.

There is no better way to meet the Lee of history in real life than traveling. The glorious history of the sea battles during Imjinwaeran, when he won all 23 battles, suffering with and following the army due to misinformed notice, Wongyun’s defeat and the vindication of Myeongryang’s honor, Noryangdaecheop, which ended the seven year war with a win, and heroic death in battle… I set off to Namhae of Hallyeosudo, where the general’s movie-like life still is reflected in the indigo sea.

The Daejeon Tongyeong Expressway is the shortcut to Namhae from the Seoul metropolitan area. The end is Jinju, a forked road which is linked to Namhae Expressway. Through this expressway, you can visit Yeosu, Gwangyang, Suncheon and Sacheon, Tongyeong, and Geoje. Turn in the direction of Gwangyang where Jingyo IC (Hadong) is. There, we can visit Hadong’s Mt. Geumoh (849m above sea level) before going to Namhae.

Dado Sea’s Scenery Seen from the Top of Mt. Geumoh is Like a Watercolor Painting-

The highest mountain can be seen from the nearby seashore. As there is an asphalt road to the top of the mountain, cars can go up easily following a fantastic mountain road. Once at the top of the mountain, the Dado Sea’s indescribable scenery is like a panorama. It is not easy to find places where you have this kind of sea view.

Unfortunately, Namhae Bridge (Hadong-Namhae), which links Hadong and Namhae Island, is hidden behind the mountain. The sea under the bridge is Noryang, the place of the Noryang sea battle, the last sea battle of the seven-year Imjinwaeran war and the battle where the general died.

Quickly, I crossed Namhae Bridge with my car. This arch-form suspension bridge, which developed Namhae from an island to part of the land, was still beautiful, and the sea underneath had white foam due to the strong water flow. Crossing the bridge, I went down to the boat arrival pier under the deck. A shrine, Chungryeolsa (Noryang, Namhae), is located there. It is where the general’s family shrine and his portrait are placed, and in front of the pier, there is a model of a Turtle Ship.

Chungryeolsa can be found after climbing up stone stairs. It is place on top of a hill where a good view of Noryang’s narrow sea and Namhae Bridge can be seen instantly. This shrine was built on the 34th anniversary of the general’s death (1632, King Injo year 10) by scholars who respected the general. Inside the shrine, there is the general’s portrait and a Noryang sea battle fighting scene picture.

Coming out of Chungryeolsa, I took the Namhae tour road, road number 19. After about three kilometers, there is a sign to Yiraksa. Yiraksa is in Gwaneumpo, where the general’s corpse was first buried. Yiraksa, with Asan Hyeonchungsa and Namhae Chungryeolsa, is one of the three shrines which have been built for the general.

Gwaneumpo is the place where the general captured a Japanese ship after inducing them with Noryang’s fast water current and making a fierce attack. During the battle, the general died after being shot by the opposition, and his remains were taken to Songlim forest where Yiraksa is placed.

There is a stone in the parking lot at the Yiraksa entrance carved with these words: “It is the general’s dying wish that you ‘do not announce my death, as the battle in front of us is urgent.’” It is a phrase that shows his strong responsibility as a general and his deep love for his country.

The Winding Number 19 Road and Friendly Ditch-field Scenery on the Edge of the Island-

We walk for 10 minutes to the sea through a narrow way inside a forest. The way continues through Yiraksa to Cheommangdae on a hill where Gwanumpo is seen. On the shrine, there is a plate written by the former president Park Jung-hee saying, “A big star falls into to the sea.” Cheommangdae is built in two-story tower form so that Gwaneumpo, the place of the fierce battle, can be seen. At the bottom, there is map and notice board describing the battle.

The general’s corpse remained in Yiraksa for three days. Then, it was moved to Chungryeolsa for 90 days, and then was buried in Hyeonchungsa, Asan, and Chungnam. Asan is the place where the Seoul-born general spent his youth and is like a second home to him.

Namhae’s scene in spring is amiable. The riverside of Chogok village, on the side of Road 19, is decorated in bold colors of red tulips and yellow rape flowers, and the island’s plain forms a green sea made of garlic stretching its green leaves just before the harvest. Spring light reflected on Hallyeosudo’s water is beautiful, and fat flounders in fish restaurant water tanks are appetizing. The cute ditch field scenery of Daraengyi village on the steep island edge of Gacheon seashore is Namhae’s best scene.

Driving along the Namhae seashore is a most pleasant experience. The end is met with Samchunpo Bridge, “Namhae’s gold gate bridge,” which is linked to Sacheon. The five differently constructed bridges, including Danhang Bridge, Changseon Bridge, Neukdo Bridge and Choyang Bridge, which links four islands, decorates the end of the Namhae travel area.

Travel Information-

Finding the Way:

Mt. Geumoh driving course (Hadong): Namhae Expressway to Jingyo IC - 1002 Country Road – two kilometers - Geumseongsa entrance - village road - mountain road (single road: six kilometers) - KT relay station (spring water) - 0.8km - summit.

Gacheon Daraengyi village (Daraengyi.go2vil.org): Namhae Bridge - Road 19 – Yidong-myeon Office - Country Road 1024 - Gacheon Village (Daraengyi village)

Namhae County Office: www.namhae.go.kr, 055-860-3801

Good Restaurants-

Jaedoo Restaurant: A traditional restaurant run by Kim Sun-ja (65) for 40 years under Mt. Geumsan (Parking place at the hiking course entrance). A formal meal with hand made soybean paste made from home-grown vegetables, and seasonal fish and marine products (oysters) are 6,000 won per person. Rooms for groups are available. 055-862-6022.

Seung-Ha Cho summer@donga.com