Kaesong, the only major city that changed hands between North and South Korea
as a result of the Korean War.
Kaesong Koryo Museum
The former 992 AD Confucian Sungyun
academy is now a small museum of the Koryo
Dynasty (918-1392 AD) exhibiting historical
objects, statues, pagodas, and porcelain from
that time. Set amongst greenery there are one
thousand-year-old ginkgo and zelkova trees in
The academy still exists today in the form two successor universities: the Kaesong University
of Light Industry in North Korea and Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea. This lineage is
considered one of the oldest continuous educational institutes in the world.
There is an exhibit of old guns and I was told
that the Koreans were the inventors of
gunpowder in the 12th Century (I understood
that the Chinese invented it and my later
research says - “The discovery of gunpowder is
attributed to experimentation in Chinese
alchemy by Taoists in the pursuit of
immortality, and is popularly listed as one of
the "Four Great Inventions" of China. These four are the compass, gunpowder, papermaking
There was a painting on the wall showing some ladies on a seesaw and I was told that the see-
saw originated here as the ladies were raised higher on one side of the plank so they could
see over the wall.
We visited the store at the entrance that sells souvenirs, stamps, postcards, local ginseng, etc.
Nam Gate (South Gate)
Built between 1391 and 1393, at the same time
as the inner citadel of the walled city Nam Gate
is the only surviving gate of the seven gates
built. During the Korea War it was severely
damaged but rebuilt in 1954. It still contains the
14 ton Yŏnbok bell cast in 1346.
Tan Gon (WanGon) Tomb
The tomb of Tan Gon (Wang Gon) and his wife,
Adyu. Tan Gon (877-943) was the founder of
the Goryeo Dynasty and 1st King of the unified
Federal state of Korea. The original tomb was
badly damaged by the end of the Japanese
occupation, so most of the site today is
apparently recently reconstructed. The tomb is
protected by 12 guardian gods with animal
heads, 2 council officers and 4 guards. A small museum displays artifacts from Tan Gun times.
I was told that Tan Gon’s ashes were found in 1993 and his DNA was identified as being 5011
years old. It was later claimed that he was a member of the ‘Kim’ family.
There is a village near the tomb where, apparently, all relatives with the name of Wang (Tan)
are housed. The village was built in 1992.
From Kaesong, we drove back north for 1.5
hours to Sariwon City, the provincial seat of
South Pyongyan Province. The "Sariwŏn
Folklore street" was constructed during Kim-
Jong-il's rule. Built to display an ideal picture of
ancient Korea, it includes buildings in the
"historical style" and a collection of ancient
Korean cannons. It is considered an inaccurate
romanticized recreation of an ancient Korean street.
Migok Co-Operative Farm
Situated near Sariwon and created as a model
farm to the rest of the country, I was told that
Kim Il Song visited 16 times. Kim Jong Il visited 8
times with the last time being in 2006. Kim Jong
Un has not visited.
I visited a simple farmer’s home which had,
apparently been visited by Kim Il Sung and there
was a photo on the wall of his visit, along with other photos and blessings to the Kim family. I
was surprised to see the cooker just above ground level. The cook sits on the floor and
shuffles on her bottom between the pans and the cooker. I’ve not seen that before and can’t
imagine how difficult that is with hot pans.
I then visited the farm in the Chaeryong Plains,
one of the DPRK’s main agricultural regions. We
were joined by a guide who told us that the
Migok Co-operative has 1000 workers in 17
workteams with 10 areas of rice (750 hectares)
and 7 of vegetables (50 hectares) plus an area
of fruit (30 hectares). Before liberation the yield
was 1 ton per hectare and now it is 10 tons per
hectare. There was very little farm equipment to be seen in the fields.
Located just north of the Korean DMZ,
Kaesong was the ancient capital of the
Koryo Dynasty (918–1392 BC).
The street lights are powered by solar
panels and most of the apartments have
solar panels hanging off the windows - an
indication of an unreliable power supply.
With its topography, climate and soil,
Kaesong has advantageous conditions for
agricultural production. Rice, maize, wheat,
soybeans and barley are the main crops.
The area is known for cultivating the quality
Korean ginseng called Goryeo Insam. I was
told that Ginseng originated here.
Kaesong has many cyclists and few cars.
In 2005, North & South Korea jointly
operated an industrial complex in the
Kaesong Industrial Region. In 2012 there
were over 53,000 North Korean workers,
typically working for about 20% of the
South Korean minimum wage, in lots of
textile and other labour intensive factories
operated by more than 120 South Korean
companies. In April 2013, North Korea
recalled all 53,000 North Korean workers
from the Kaesong Industrial complex,
effectively suspending all of its operations.
In response, South Korea withdrew all of its
citizens working in Kaesong and threatened
to give up on the venture. Following failed
negotiations, on February 10, 2016, the
South Korean Ministry of Unification shut
down the joint project as the South Korean
government believes it is serving as a
source of hard currency to bankroll the
North's nuclear weapons programme.
The small stone bridge, built in 1290 is 7m
long and 2.5m wide. Lee Bang Won, the
third king of the Chosun Dynasty and son of
first king of that dynasty, had his opponent
Jong Mong Ju executed on this bridge in
1392. It is named after a bamboo that grew
where he was killed.
Korean Royal Lunch
I went to the Kaesong Folk Hotel for a
traditional Korean Royal Lunch ‘pansanggi’,
where 12 dishes are served in small gold
bowls. Unfortunately, the food was spicy so
I couldn’t eat much of it.
The Hotel has 19 traditional hanok-style
courtyard houses, many of which date to
the Joseon Dynasty and retain their original
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