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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
DISCLOSURE: I may be an affiliate for products that I recommend. If you purchase those items through my links I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. In fact, I oftentimes am able to negotiate a lower rate (or bonuses) not available elsewhere. Plus, when you order through my link, it helps me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff. Thank you, in advance for your support!