Gangjin or Gangjin-gun (강진군, 康津郡, literally "comfortable harbour county") is one of 17 counties in Jeollanam-do. It is comprised of 1 eup and 10 myeon, and as of 2004 has a population was 43,691, including 141 non-Koreans. It is located in the southwestern portion of the province and enjoys mild weather and an average yearly temperature of 13.5℃. Gangjin is bordered on the west by Haenam county, to the north by Yeongam, to the east by Jangheung, and to the south by Gangjin Bay and, ultimately, the islands of Wando county.
Today, Gangjin is best known for its ties to celadon pottery and for the Celadon Culture Festival held each October. Gangjin's past was less flattering, being the place of internal exile of famous writer Jeong Yak-yong, penname "Dasan," who was expelled from Seoul in 1801. In the 17th century, Gangjin was also home to Dutch explorer Hendrick Hamel, who was imprisoned with his shipmates for 7 years in Byeongyeong-myeon.
An area known as Gangjin first got its name during the Baekje era, when two villages, "Dogang" and "Tamjin," were merged. Gangjin would not become its own county until 1895, so consequently during the Shilla and Goryeo dynasties it was part of Yangmu-gun and Dogang-gun, respectively. During the Joseon dynasty the Jeolla region was threatened by Japanese forces under Toyotomi Hideyoshi's leadership, although Gangjin would play a minor role compared to present-day Naju, Yeosu, and Jindo.
In 1936, Gangjin-myeon became Gangjin-eup, and by 1990 the county had absorbed parts of Haenam county until it reached its present size .
Gangjin county was touched by the pro-democracy protests that started in Gwangju in 1980. According to a local monument, 8 buses of demonstrators arrived in Gangjin-eup on May 21 and met no resistance from the local police force. Using Gangjin Church as their headquarters, they also held protests at the bus terminal and at county hall. Two days later 500 students from Gangjin Agricultural High School joined in on the busiest day of protests in Gangjin. Two were wounded, and others injured during demonstrations in Haenam were taken to a local hospital. On May 24th the protesters moved onto Jangheung to the east.
Celadon in Gangjin
According to one source, celadon production began in present-day Daegu-myeon in the 9th century because of Gangjin's Cheonhae Port's geographical closeness to China, where celadon pottery first began . The above source also states that Gangjin was and is a prime spot for celadon because of ideal clay soil and climate conditions. Kilns flourished in Gangjin during the Shilla and Goryeo Dynasties, especially around Jeongsusa temple and in Daegu and Chilryang-myeon. During the final decades of the 20th century efforts were made to renew interest in the creation and appreciation of celadon pottery. The kiln site in Daegu-myeon was designated Historical Site no. 68 , and in the 1990s a museum and a festival were started to honor the region's ties to this old art. Roughly 80% of the celadon that is designated a national treasure has come from Gangjin .
Hendrick Hamel in Gangjin
Hamel and his ship The Sperwer crashed on Jeju on August 16, 1653 while attempting to reach Japan from Taiwan. Thirty-six men survived and, after staying on the island for 21 months, they were taken to Seoul. From March, 1656 to February, 1663 they were held at a fortress in present-day Byeongyeong-myeon, where a placard reports that some of the men married Korean women and busied themselves with handicrafts . In 1663 the men were separated and sent to different ports in southern Korea. Hamel and 11 men were sent to Jwasuyeong in Yeosu, from whence some escaped in 1666.
One source suggests that the Dutch contributed much during their seven-year stay in Gangjin. Irrigation canals, a certain type of wooden shoes, stone statues, and even the family name "Nam" are thought to have been influenced by Hamel and his men .
There is a statue of Hamel on the east side of Gangjin-eup. At one point in the late-1990s there were ambitious plans to develop a Hamel museum in Byeongyeong-myeon, to restore the old fortress, to recreate the village's appearance during the 16th century, and to establish flower gardens featuring Dutch tulips. Poor funding and planning have, however, kept these ideas largely unfulfilled.
Dasan in Gangjin
Yeongrang in Gangjin
Gangjin in popular culture
Yeongrang's Birthplace in Gangjin-eup was used in the 2002 movie 취화선 (Strokes of Fire).
Geography and administration
The one eup and ten myeon of Gangjin are:
There is a map available online here, in Korean.
There are 27 elementary schools, 25 middle schools, and 23 high schools in Gangjin. There are also two small specialty colleges: Sunghwa College and Green Culture College.
Gangjin is famous for the production of celadon pottery, for which there is a large festival held each October. The Celadon Culture Festival takes place in Daegu-myeon, in front of the Gangjin Celadon Museum, and has various performances, interactive activities, and celadon exhibitions. There are several large tents of celadon vendors, including productions by international artists and local university students.
There are a number of notable temples in Gangjin. Baekryeonsa is perhaps the most famous, and dates to the 8th century. Muwisa is among the oldest and most famous, and it holds National Treasure no. 13. It is set beside Wolchulsan and borders green tea fields known as Gangjin Dawon. Geumgoksa and Goseongsa are located on Boeunsan, a small mountain in Gangjin-eup. Goseongsa is known for, among other things, being the temporary home of Jeong Yak-yong, alias Dasan, during his 18-year exile in Gangjin county. Dasan also spent a significant amount of time at Baekryeonsa, in Doam-myeon, and was influenced by monks who lived there. Dasan Chodang, his house of exile, is located a short hike away. Omcheonsa has over 3,000 loose-stone pagodas (불탑), and Nammireuksa has a large seated Buddha statue that can be seen while driving on the highway.
Gangjin has a few small mountains in the 400 meter range, which make for pleasant hiking. Trails on Boeunsan connect Gangjin-eup with Goseongsa and Geumgoksa temples. And Mandeoksan, made famous by the Dasan, has comfortable hiking trails that link Dasan Chodang with Baekryeonsa and Yongmunsa temples, with blossoms and tea plants along the way.
Gangjin is the hometown of two notable 20th-century poets: Kim Yun-sik and Kim Hyeon-gu (김현구). The former's birthplace (영랑생가) is a local tourist attraction in Gangjin-eup. In addition to these two men and Dasan, Gangjin was also the home of Hendrick Hamel, the 17th-century Dutch explorer and the first westerner to write about Korea. Shipwrecked off the southern coast of Jeju-do in 1651, he and his surviving crew spent 7 years in Byeongyeong Fortress. Since the 1990s there have been a number of goodwill visits and exchanges between Gangjin and Holland .
Other notable spots include Wolchulsan, between Gangjin and Yeongam counties, and the historically-significant Daegu-myeon celadon kilns. For more information see:
A local specialty is 짱뚱어, which can be roasted, fried, or eaten raw. For more information on local favorites, please see this page from Gangjin county
Restaurants are obviously plentiful, but for a small list, please browse this list
And for the numbers and locations of pizza restaurants in Gangjin see this page.
Gangjin county is well-connected by buses. There are three bus terminals: the largest one is in Gangjin-eup and there are two smaller ones in Maryang and Seongjeon-myeon. Buses from Gangjin Bus Terminal in Gangjin-eup travel throughout the province frequently, and make daily stops to Seoul, Busan, Gwangju, Mokpo, Busan, Seongnam (Bundang) and other major cities. The phone number for the Gangjin Bus Terminal is 061-432-9666.
The nearest international airport is Gwangju International Airport, and the nearest domestic airport is in Mokpo. Travel to Incheon Airport is possible via the airport bus which leaves from Gwangju and costs 30,700.
There are about 10 love motels in Gangjin-eup, and there are other love and tourist motels throughout the county, especially near bus terminals and tourist spots. They are easily identified by the neon signs and the awnings over the parking lot. Here is a partial list of accomodation in Gangjin county, from the Gangjin county official site.
Rice fields near Gangjin-eup