Travel Destinations

Korea, Gwangju From Mount Mudeung National Park

Written by Carl Hedinger

The mountains and land south of the Geum River [sic] are so treacherous that its inhabitants are treacherous as well. King Taejo, Goguryeo Dynasty. Translation by Djun Kil Kim in The History of Korea.

Gwangju From Mount Mudeung

The struggle begins as soon as I sit down – intent on illustrating my favorite Korean city. I’ve never struggled to write about a place more than this one. The words just won’t come and I can’t understand why this is happening. They are lost but mostly because there’s so much to tell. I scramble to find the letters that will make up some sort of coherence. Thinking back to our time at the top of a peak doesn’t help, even this time.

Not City-Side at Mt. Mudeung, Gwangju

Gwangju is special in so many ways and I want to shout it out, yet can’t. It will always hold a huge part of my heart, tugging harder than others. The “City of Light” was our first home upon arriving in Korea and though the time spent there was short, we keep coming back. Looking down at Gwangju from Mount Mudeung National Park on a clear day, I can have a brief and concise look into the city. Towering over Gwangju and known as its guardian, the mountain was thought to have godly powers that protected the region.

Looking down on Gwangju from Mt. Mudeung

I know good things are always happening down there. It all comes down to the people – who work to make Gwangju a better place for everyone living there. I’ve learned from experience because this was where I first understood what “community” actually meant, and how to become a part of something bigger than myself.

Hiker at a Peak of Mt. Mudeung, Gwangju

Gwangju always stood out to me as a beehive full of creative and genuine people, not as concerned with being listened to as much as heard. Yet others have never really trusted this area, perhaps for good reasons. As the Southwest’s largest city, Gwangju possesses a fighting and regional spirit that pours out into the neighboring Jeolla Provinces. The people here don’t accept the status quo and when pushed too far, they fight.

Friends talking under trees at Mt. Mudeung, Gwangju

This mountain might have provided spiritual protection but the city below has lived through a chaotic and sometimes miserable existence. There are reminders throughout the city of those trials and tribulations. What’s clear is within those buildings and people below. Things keep happening and boundaries are pushed towards the right thing. The city’s spirit will never stop – never quit.

Gwangju from Mt. Mudeung

How can one keep such an interesting group of people confined to such a short story? As we walk down to the park entrance, one thing becomes clear. Gwangju’s story has barely been told. The words are starting to flow again. They are coming back – more to be told. It’s not over.

Want to read more about Korea? 

South Korea, Gwangju from Mount Mudeung National Park by Duke Stewart

 

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About the author

Carl Hedinger

I’m a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family’s travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

15 Comments

  • Ah, leaving your readers wanting more, excellent! I am very curious to know about this fighting that goes on in the city. And as for not having the words to write about a place that is very special to you, I totally understand. Sometimes you just can’t construct words that will appropriately describe a place or experience!

  • I’m just about to go to Gwangju for the first time, I’m really excited now! There isn’t an abundance of information on the city, so I’m excited to see it for myself 🙂

  • I know that you often refer to Gwagju as your favorite city which makes me ask two questions: 1. Why did you never choose to move to Gwangju. 2.Have you visited other cities in Korea equally as much?

    I do like Gwangju myself but I have only visited it once. I would like to see this beautiful mountain view if I ever go back.

  • That view of Gwangju from Mudeung-san is incredible! Was it an easy climb to the top? I hope to spend more time when I visit your City of Light again. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Alphonse! That was not the highest peak so I can’t really speak to that.

      People seem to enjoy that one though it’s only accessible during certain times of year. I couldn’t find out exactly when but if you look into it before going, I’m sure you can find a time to get to the top.

      The peak I chose was pretty easy to reach and only took 3-4 hours. The views are awesome as you can see the city below on one side and basically mountains on the other. I absolutely recommend visiting Mudeung again if you get the chance to visit Gwangju. Thanks for the comment:)

  • Really, really wish I had a chance to visit Gwangju. It was at the top of the list for a while but other things always came up. Looking forward to when you can find the words so that I can experience what seems to be an awesome city vicariously!

    • Thank you Matt. Yeah, Gwangju isn’t high up on people’s radars in Korea. It’s easily forgotten among the other highlights for sure. Don’t worry, I’ll be back with some more words about it in due time:)

  • What a cliffhanger!! Haha I was expecting more, but I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more about Gwangju. It’s really nice that you have such a special connection with your first “home” in Korea. The neighborhood we lived in in Seoul our first year has a special place in my heart as well, but I much prefer where we live now! We’ve never been to Gwangju, but everyone we know who has lived there seem to really love it! It seems like the foreigner community there is really awesome.

    • Sorry to leave you hanging but don’t worry, there’ll be more. I really struggled with this one for so many reasons. Was also worried about getting into TLDR territory with it because the stuff that’s happened in Gwangju such a dense and long story. Thank you for reading and commenting though. I really appreciate it:)

  • It’s clear that this place is dear to you. Isn’t it funny that sometimes the things we love most are the ones we can’t talk about? I find that the less I love something, the freer I am with my words.
    That being said, my curiosity is piqued. Can’t wait to hear more about this beautiful place.

    • I agree. I struggled with this, honestly. Sometimes the words just flow like water into a glass. With Gwangju, there’s something getting in the way and I hope that doesn’t become a recurring problem:) Thanks for commenting!

  • I agree with the previous comment, tell me more, please!

    I didn’t explore Jeolla-do very much, and now I’m starting to think that was a mistake. It’s quite famous for food, right? Anyways, great writing (as always), and I can’t wait to read more about Fightin’ Gwangju 🙂