What is Saturdays in Korea?

Tired of doing the same old thing every weekend? Saturdays in Korea is activity club for those who want to break their normal weekend routine and do something different. For Koreans, it's a good chance to practice English. For ex-pats, it's a good chance to practice Korean. For everybody, it's a great chance to meet new people and have fun.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Tomb of Sejong the Great (세종대왕릉)

Southeast of the city of Seoul in the fertile plains of Gyeonggi Province (경기도) sits the town of Yeoju (여주) along the North Han River (남한강). Just outside of this town is the burial sites of the most revered King in Korean history, Sejong the Great (세종대왕). If you are ready to escape the hustle and bustle of Seoul and get out to the countryside, Yeoju and the Tomb of Sejong the Great will make a great day trip.


A (Very) Brief History of Sejong the Great

Sejong the Great was the fourth King of the Joseon Dynasty (조선시대) and the grandson of King Teajo (태조) who founded the Joseon Dynasty in 1392. He is the most revered King in Korean history for his benevolence towards to the people; his achievements in science; his military expeditions to secure the boarders of his lands; and the invention of the Korean alphabet: Hangul (한글).

Before Sejong's reign, Chinese characters were used for written communications in Korea. While many of the words in Korean and Chinese overlapped, Korean is a very different language from the Chinese. Because of this, Chinese characters cannot perfectly convey everything in the Korean language. To solve this problem, Sejong the Great commissioned the Korean alphabet and presented it to the people of Korea in 1446.

During my time reading about Korean history, the texts in English that I have found about him only talk about his merits and accomplishments (George Washington cut down the cherry tree and never told a lie, right?). Throughout conversations with some of my Korean friends, I have found out a few other things about him including his affinity for meat, women and cursing.

Meeting Location & Getting to Yeojou

For those living in Seoul, meeting at Exit #1 of Express Bus Terminal (고속버스터미널) will be a good choice. Exit #1 is nearby the ticket booth that sells the tickets to Yeoju. One way tickets to Yeoju cost 5,200 Won and leave from Gate 23, which is also close to Exit #1. The first bus to Yeoju leaves at 6:30am with buses leaving every 20~30 minutes until 10:00pm.

View The Tomb of Sejong the Great Meeting Location in a larger map

The trip from Express Bus Terminal to Yeoju normally takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes. One note when planning a trip outside of Seoul by bus, do not plan a trip during a three day weekend. Our trip was on the three day weekend during Buddha's Birthday (부처님 오신 날). The normally 70 minute bus ride ended up taking 3 hours due to all the travelers trying to leave Seoul at the same time.

From The Tomb of Sejong the Great (세종대왕릉)

You know you have arrived in Yeoju when you see the statue of Sejong the Great at the entrance of the town of Yeoju. The Yeoju Bus Terminal is right behind the statue.

The Tomb of Sejong the Great

Upon your arrival at Yeoju, you will be at the Yeoju Bus Terminal in the southern part of town. Once you exit the bus terminal, turn right and you will be facing north. Only about 75 meters down the road will be a local bus stop in front of the convenience store Buy the Way (바이더웨이) and Kimbab Heaven (김밥천국). From here you can catch a bus to the Tomb of Sejong.

Buses to the Tomb of Sejong the Great
Bus Number
Departure Time
Bus #52-2
Bus #52-6
Bus #54-2

View Yeoju & The Tomb of Sejong the Great in a larger map

If you are quite a bit early or just missed the bus, there will be a line of taxis nearby. From the Yeoju Bus Terminal to the Tomb of Sejong the Great will only take a couple of minutes and cost about 4,000 Won. Since this is the countryside, some of the taxi drivers' ability to communicate in English might be a bit lacking. Never fear, you can copy the following, print it out and present it to the taxi driver. 세종대왕릉으로 가 주세요. (Please take us to the Tomb of Sejong the Great.)

Once you arrive, a short walk across the parking lot will bring you to entrance to the grounds leading to the Tomb of Sejong the Great. The entrance fee here is only 500 Won. One of the first things that you will notice when you first enter on your left is a display of different scientific instruments that were developed during the reign of Sejong the Great. One notable item would be the Armillary Sphere (혼천의) which was built buy the famous inventor Jang Yeong-sil (장영실) and is also found on the back of 10,000 Won Korean Bank Note.

From The Tomb of Sejong the Great (세종대왕릉)

On the right is a another statue of Sejong the Great. Just beyond this statue and the display of the scientific instruments of Sejong the Great's time is an indoor and outdoor museum about Sejong the Great and the Kings of the Joseon Dynasty respectively.

From The Tomb of Sejong the Great (세종대왕릉)

Further into the park, you will find a small man-made lake on your left. Next to the pond is a vending machine that sells food to feed the Koi fish for 500 Won. Beyond the lake, the park opens into grassy expanse that is surrounded by tall, slender, Korean Red Pine trees.

From The Tomb of Sejong the Great (세종대왕릉)

At the end of the opening, a few small buildings will appear. Behind them is a small hill that is flanked by trees on all three sides. At the top of the stairs is the Tomb of Sejong the Great and his wife Queen Wongyeong (원경왕후). You can get to the top of the hill to view the tomb by the stairs on the right.

From The Tomb of Sejong the Great (세종대왕릉)

When you are ready to head back to Yeoju, you can catch a bus at the same bus stop that go off at near the entrance to the park. Be sure to plan your time carefully since there are only three buses that stop here. The departure time of these buses are as follows.

Buses to Yeoju Bus Terminal
Departure Time

If you end up missing the bus, you could always call the local taxi service at: 031-884-4197. If no one in your group speaks Korean well enough to call for a taxi, you could ask someone nearby to help you. You can print off the following phrase: 우리는 여주로 가는 버스를 놓쳤으니까 택시를 불러 주세요. (Could you call a taxi for us since we missed the bus to Yeoju.) Puppy dog eyes may help in this situation.

Local Restaurant

If you are looking for some food from a local restaurant that serves Korean food, you can find a restaurant called Bird of the Sky (하늘새) just southeast of the Yeoju Bus Terminal.

View Dining in Yeoju in a larger map

From The Tomb of Sejong the Great (세종대왕릉)

Bird of the Sky is a restaurant that serves Korean meals based around side dishes (반찬). This type of meal in Korea is called Han-joeng-shik (한정식). For 11,000 Won per person, you will be served three rounds of different types of side dishes. There is definitely a large variety of foods and tastes in this type of meal.

From The Tomb of Sejong the Great (세종대왕릉)

This restaurant may be a tiny bit pricey, but it offers a selection of more tradition Korean food. A much better (and healthier) choice than hitting up a local fast food chain.

Yeoju and the Tomb of Sejong the Great is a excellent choice for a day trip to escape the concrete jungle of Seoul. The town is just about an hour outside of Seoul by bus. This trip offers some lovely scenery, clean air and an important part of Korean history.

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