Gangwon Province: A Visit to the Past, Present, and Future

In 2011, PyeongChang was named the host city for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, to be held in February 2018.  Already, preparations are underway to ensure that PyeongChang is ready to welcome athletes from around the world.  Right before the Lunar New Year, Robyn, Sejun, and I visited PyeongChang and Jeongseon to attend the Audi FIS Ski World Cup, the first of 28 official test events for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games.  On our way to PyeongChang, we also visited Gangneung to take in some cultural and historical attractions in the region.

While in Gangneung, we visited the beautiful Ojukeon House, where Sinsaimdang, the great female artist of the Joseon Dynasty, lived and where her son Yulgok Yi, scholar and politician of the Joseon Dynasty, was born.  Sinsaimdang and Yulgok are featured on South Korea’s 50,000 and 5,000 won notes, respectively.

Ojukeon, or “Black Bamboo,” House

Sinsaimdang featured on the 50,000 won note

Yulgok Yi featured on the 5,000 won note - Ojukeon House and black bamboo in the background

We also saw a performance of Nongak, a traditional Korean farmers’ dance.  Nongak is listed as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO.  We were so thankful to receive this special holiday weekend gift from the performers!

Thank you for the exciting Nongak performance!

The next stop was to the Gangneung Joongang Market, where we saw firsthand what Koreans buy for the Lunar New Year holiday.  As you may know, I’m a big fan of chimaek, so I loved sampling the rich taste of Dakgangjeong, or deep fried chicken glazed in a sweet and spicy sauce. We also tried Memil jeonbyoung (buckwheat pancake with kimchi filling) and dried squid.  I also bought some nice “Pororo” pillows for Sejun and Grigsby – Grigsby couldn’t come with us and would have been jealous if only Sejun had gotten a pillow!  I enjoyed walking around meeting many different people in the market – both shoppers and local vendors – and I took quite a few selfies with the merchants, which were highlighted in one of the local newspapers.

Thumbs up for the delicious Dakgangjeong!

Pororo pillow presents for Sejun and Grigsby

Great to be featured in Yonhap News ( taking a selfie at Joongang Market!

After the market visit, we continued to PyeongChang to attend the welcoming reception of the 2016 Audi FIS Ski World Cup, a warm-up event for the Olympics.  I was impressed with the large turnout of representatives of many international sporting bodies, of ambassadors from countries that had teams participating in the skiing events, and of the President of the 2018 PyeongChang Organizing Committee Cho Yang-ho as well as of Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Jong-deok.  Everybody, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, is very excited about PyeongChang’s preparations to host the winter athletes from all around the world.

With Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Jong-deok

The following day, we headed to the Jeongseon Alpine Centre to watch the 2016 Audi FIS Ski World Cup events.  We enjoyed the men’s downhill races, and I was happy to see Team USA’s skier Steven Nyman finish third.  The mountains in the area are very beautiful, and they reminded Robyn of her home state of Vermont.  We brought Sejun’s sled along so he could get in on some of the winter sports action, but unfortunately he wasn’t feeling very well so he had to be satisfied just watching the games like the rest of us.  All in all, it was a great first start for the Olympics preparations – the course was in great shape, the athletes had a great time, and the audience was really lively and engaged in the event.   

Family photos at the 2016 Audi FIS Ski World Cup

Despite the chilly temperatures, I felt the warmth of the people in Gangwon during my stay there.  It was such a pleasure to meet everyone and enjoy the local hospitality.  I wish everyone continued success with preparations for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics!

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