Editor’s Note: Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum culminates each March with a school-wide week of global explorations, this year including an Upper School trip to South Korea.
South Korea is a high-tech, trend setting nation with a reverent, old soul. With a rich cultural history, delicious local cuisine, a bounty of the latest technological advances, fashions and more, a visit to the Land of the Morning Calm was a unique experience that blended the old and the new.
Students visited Seoul, a capital city where modern skyscrapers, high-tech subways, and pop culture meet Buddhist temples, palaces, and street markets. This huge metropolis is considered a leading and rising global city with five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Students also appreciated extensive historical remains through two cities, Gyeongju and Andong. Gyeongju is a city on South Korea’s southeast coast and known as a museum without walls. Visiting the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to view North Korean territory from the Dora Observation Platform was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
VIDEO BY SAMARIA HARRIS ’20
Annyeonghaseyo from South Korea! Our first day began with a tour at Changdeokgung Palace, which was constructed in 1405. We learned so much about its rich history. After the palace, we enjoyed an authentic, Korean lunch. After lunch, we headed to Myeongdong National Gugak Center for a Korean music and dance performance. Then it was off to Samsung to have some fun with technology. Our trip was off to a great start!
Our day began with a tour at the Seodaemun Prison history museum. We then made our way to the Korean Cuisine Culture Center, where we were able to cook our own meals under the expertise of a professional cook. What an experience! We made bulgogi ssam and sukju namul; it was just delicious. After lunch, we visited a traditional village. Finally, before a delicious dinner of Korean barbecue, we went to the Korean War Museum. We also found some time to do a little shopping in the marketplace. All in all, a great day!
After breakfast this morning, we boarded our tour bus and headed to Andong, which is located in the southern countryside of Korea. We toured the Hahoe Village in Andong; this village was the place of residence for the Pungsan Ryu family for over 620 years. The Queen of England toured this historic village in 1999. We then headed to a traditional Korean paper factory where we learned to make paper. Finally, we headed to Gyeongju City; this city is 2,000 years old and is one of the oldest cities in Korea.
On this beautiful day in South Korea, we traveled uphill to a grotto. The scenery was amazing as we enjoyed mountain top views and ornate surroundings. We then saw a pottery demonstration by Mr. Yu Hyo Ung at Shilla Kiln Pottery. After a Korean buffet lunch, we headed to the Daereungwon Tomb Complex where we saw the Tomb of King Michu. This tour was absolutely fascinating! Our final stop of the day before dinner was the Gyeongju National Museum; it is one of Korea’s largest and most prestigious museums. We were able to see some of the real artifacts from the tombs in 1973.
We went to the Bulguksa Temple this morning and enjoyed a tea ceremony with a Buddhist monk. We were able to ask the monk questions and interact with him freely. Students posed some great questions to the monk that opened up a wonderful, philosophical dialogue. After tea, we had a tour of the temple grounds and then made a locust flower in which we all placed our wishes in the bottom of the container. What a great souvenir from our time at this temple! After lunch, we drove back to Seoul. We really enjoyed the scenery along the way as the mountains in Korea are breathtaking. Another fantastic day!
Today we headed to the DMZ. The DMZ was established by the Armistice in 1953 at the end of the Korean War. As we headed near the border that separates North Korea from South Korea, we were in awe of the significance of our proximity. We visited the Dorasan Station and also walked the length of one of the underground tunnels that were secretly constructed by the North Koreans. This tunnel is called the Third Tunnel of Aggression and was discovered by the South Koreans in 1978. We had to wear hard hats inside the tunnel and walking from one end of it to the other was no easy feat! We then went to the top of an observatory to view the remarkable landmarks below; it was quite the experience to see the national flags of both North Korea and South Korea flying in such close proximity. A wonderful lunch followed this amazing experience. After lunch, we enjoyed green tea and pumpkin punch on a rooftop, which the students loved. We headed back to Seoul and enjoyed some shopping and free time. Finally, we had dinner and went to Seoul Namsan Tower and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. What a day!
On our final day in South Korea, we took a tour of a rice museum and then we saw the Blue House, which is where the President of South Korea lives. We also saw the changing of the guards outside Gyeongbok Palace and got our pictures taken with the guards. After our tour of this beautiful palace and grounds, we enjoyed lunch and some free time before heading to the airport.