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Nagan Fortress Folk Village in Korea

Recent Posts, Posted by Matt in ALL DESTINATIONS,Historic Korea,Jeolla, 10 Comments

Nagan Fortress Folk Village in Korea


War, colonization and rapid industrialization have decimated Korea’s architectural heritage, and yet an astonishing amount of it still remains, especially outside the big cities. And thankfully, local and federal governments are making increasing efforts to preserve what’s left of old Korea, especially the numerous “folk villages” that dot the countryside. Among my favorites is Nagan Fortress Folk Village (낙안읍성민속마을) in Korea’s beautiful South Jeolla Province.

From Nagan Fortress Folk Village

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Generally, I’m not a fan of the folk village-meets-theme park that tries to recreate village life with paid actors. Which is why I’m happy to report that most of the folk villages I’ve visited in Korea are actual communities whose family clans have lived there for centuries (see: Andong Hahoe Folk Village (안동 하회마을), Jeonju Hanok Village (전주한옥마을), Seoul Bukchon Hanok Village (서울 북촌한옥마을) ). Of course, village life presents many inconveniences in modern Korea, so the government provides modest subsidies to residents in exchange for not building a new three-car garage or outdoor Jacuzzi.


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Nagan Fortress Folk Village is situated in a bucolic valley near Korea’s southern coast. In the spring, magnolias and brilliant yellow gaenari are in full bloom. At its entrance are several wooden jangseung totem poles to ward away evil spirits. Beyond the nature beauty, the village itself has been designated a historic site. Over the years, many buildings have been preserved while others were restored to their original form.

From Nagan Fortress Folk Village

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The village’s most striking characteristic is the massive stone wall that encircles it. At 1,410 meters long, the wall was built as an earthen fortress in 1397 to repel Japanese pirate raids, a frequent occurrence during the late Goryeo Dynasty. The wall was replaced with stone in 1423, and today, three gates – on the eastern, western and southern sides – and four protruding defense battlements remain. Nagan Fortress Folk Village is considered the best preserved walled fortress town in Korea.

From Nagan Fortress Folk Village

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Inside the walls are dozens of private houses, nine of which are designated as Important Folklore Materials by the Korean government. Typically, two or three grass-thatched buildings wrap around a modest packed dirt yard and garden all surrounded by a waist-high stone wall. Part of the fortress wall arches over the hill. To enjoy a great view of the entire village, climb to the top through a tall grove of bamboo trees and look back over your shoulder.

From Nagan Fortress Folk Village

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While Nagan Fortress Folk Village’s southern side is mostly residential, its northern half features recently restored municipal buildings, including a Joseon Dynasty-era office. Near the village’s east gate is the Nagan Hyanggyo (낙안향교), a Confucian Academy and Shrine, and smack dab in the village center is a monument to General Im Gyeong-eop (임경업 1594-1646). A memorial ceremony is held on the first full moon of the year in his honor.

From Nagan Fortress Folk Village

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One entertaining part of the village is the Oksaji Prison. The adjacent pond is believed to have thwarted escape, and the courtyard has some figures re-enacting a trial of the bound and accused. Another man with wrists and ankles tied to a horizontal wooden cross has pants down, encouraging spankings from visitors. If more conventional sports are more your thing, every May there’s the Nagan Folk Cultural Festival. Try your luck at a tug of war, rope dancing, traditional military arts or singing contests.

From Nagan Fortress Folk Village

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Finally, when I visited Nagan Fortress Folk Village last year, there were a couple of cute, friendly dogs on site. One way the village is unique is because of two stone dogs (originally three) that were worshipped back in the day as guardian deities. While this was a rare event in Korea, it’s more common in Japan where it was called Koma-inoo, which means “dog from Goryeo.” This suggests that the dog worshipping tradition actually originated in Korea during Buddhism’s spread from the peninsula to Japan.

From Nagan Fortress Folk Village

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Oh, one more thing… Inside Nagan Fortress Folk Village are a couple of restaurants, including Minsok Janchi House (민속잔치집), which serves absolutely delicious seafood pajun pancake (해물파전) and soondae blood sausage stew (순대국). Don’t forget to try one of the banchan side dishes – pickled plums!.
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For your information…

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09:00-17:00 (Dec-Jan); 09:00-18:00 (Feb-Apr, Nov); and 08:30-118:30 (May-Oct); Closed Seollal & ChuseokAdmission: ₩2,000 (Adults), ₩1,500 (Youth), ₩1,000 (Children)61-1330
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South Jeolla Province Suncheon-si Nagan-myeon Chungmin-gil 30From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal or Seoul Central City Bus Terminal, take a bus to Suncheon Intercity Bus Terminal. From Suncheon, cross the street to the bus stop at Palmaro St. bus stop. From there, take bus #61, 63 or 68 to Nagan Fortress Folk Village (50 mins.)website
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10 Comments

5 February 2010 00:34

Brian

I like this one better than the one in Andong, and it’s one of my favorite spots in the country. I’ll just add to your post that, in my opinion, two of the best times to visit are when they have their big festivals on. There’s a Folk Culture Festival each spring, and the Namdo Food Festival each fall.

February 05 2010 06:37 am

Matt Kelley

Hey Brian,
Thanks for your comments, and good luck with your move. Sounds like you'll be missed!

Best, Matt

5 February 2010 21:37

Michael

Thanks for the report. I’ll add this one to my list of favorites to visit. Your tastes in the undervalued charms of Korea really mirror mine as well so I’m happy to follow your blog and plan my schedule according to your discoveries.

February 06 2010 13:36 pm

Matt Kelley

Hi Michael,

We have similar tastes, eh? Well, then I'd enjoy hearing about some of your favorite places that I haven't written about... I'm always looking to learn about where else to visit!

Best, Matt

28 February 2010 12:28

Steve

I really need to get to a folk village. I’ve been to so many places around the Seoul Metro area, but haven’t made time for a Folk Village yet. The ‘cross’ reminds me of those at Seodaemun.

March 04 2010 15:50 pm

Matt Kelley

Hi again,
Yes, you should definitely check them out... depending on what you're looking for in terms of the village itself and surrounding things to do, chances are there's a good one to match your tastes. Let me know if you want any help.

Best, Matt

31 October 2010 15:17

Feeding My Passion » Blog Archive » The Best Food in Korea…

[...] looking forward to going to the 17th annual Nando Food Culture Festival (site in Korean) at the Nando folk village in Suncheon, [...]

3 November 2010 17:14

Discovering Korea – All Destinations

[...] Nagan Fortress Folk Village [...]

22 March 2012 15:51

Nandy

Hi,
I have been to Havoe Village nearby Gumi in South Korea. Its just just awesome. I liked the place, views and the trekking. Thanks to Ms.Choi who took me to that place. Friends I will be in Gumi for one more month. Please suggest some good places to and enjoy. It could be dance pubs, Trekking place, Bunji jumping, adventurous like, Sky diving, strip clubs. Please do reply.Thanks for the nice article writing.

March 26 2012 11:14 am

Matt

Hi Nandy,

Glad you made it to Hahoe Village. To be honest, I've never been to Gumi, so I can't suggest much. Closer to Seoul, however, there are companies that lead skydiving, paragliding and other adventure sports. Some specialize in working with foreigners. Here's a link to an article I wrote for the Korea Tourism Organization about related companies. Click on page 2 and look for the article titled, "Great outdoor activities by Air, Sea or Land." I haven't used most of them before, but have heard good things. In terms of strip clubs, I don't have any suggestions.^^ Have fun!

Best, Matt

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