Although much of old Korea has been lost through war and an insatiable desire to modernize, Andong’s Hahoe village is a time capsule to a distant world.
It’s not a secret that South Korea has been developing fast. Very fast. After decades of rapid development, Seoul is one of the most modern cities in the world. And while slivers of the past can still be found in small parts of the city, it’s sometimes hard to ignore the skyscrapers in the distance and lose the feeling of being in a hypermodern metropolis.
But there is a remedy. Far from the crawling traffic and apartment cities of Seoul and just outside the more modest city of Andong lies a small village wrapped in mountains that has preserved the ancient architecture of Korea’s rich past. The Hahoe village lies along the Nakdong river, patiently sitting in a state of unchanging beauty.
This is what one thinks of when they think of the Land of Morning Calm.
The village is peppered with traditional 민박 (minbak) housing, the Korean equivalent of a bed and breakfast. These straw roofed houses provide cheap accommodations for travellers who wish to spend the night in the quiet serenity of rural Korea, far from the loudspeakers of trucks hawking vegetables and fish, from the perpetual hiss of bus airbrakes, and all the other forms of noise pollution found in cities across Korea. Be sure to visit the lookout point where you can see the entire valley from on high.
The area is so beautiful that it has attracted visits from Queen Elizabeth II, and George W. Bush. You can visit trees they had planted during their visit, if you’re so inclined. It isn’t hard to see how the village is on the itinerary for queens and presidents, and long ago it was the home of prominent Joseon scholars such as Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong and Gyeomam Ryu Un-ryong.
And if that’s not enough notoriety for you, consider the 도산서원 (Dosan Seowon) an confucian academy dating back to 1574. The academy is famously depicted on the old thousand-won bank note, and houses the memorial tablet of the renowned philosopher 이황 (Yi Hwang) who’s portrait still features on the modern thousand-won bill.
A stunning hiking trail stretches from the Hahoe village to the Dosan Seowan. Those who are in relatively good shape should take advantage of the hour and a half hike through the mountains that offers stunning vistas of the mountain ranges that surround the region.
Andong’s Hahoe village is a place frozen in time where you can quite literally become lost in Korea’s glorious past.