South Korea


Places of Interest in Korea
Travel Guide

Gangwon (Kangwon) Do

Gangwon-do is located at the middle of the eastern half of the Korean Peninsula. Dominated by the Taebaek Mountain Range, most of the land of this province is thickly-forested mountain slopes or scenic coastal strips. Thanks to its splendid landscape, Gangwon-do is equipped with better conditions for tourist attractions than for residential areas. The Gangwon citizens are very proud of this natural beauty, and consider it a gift from Heaven.

Gangwon-do has a small population compared to its land size, and has therefore developed relatively slowly. Its importance, however, now gains more significance and recognition than ever before, with the approach of the Age of South-North Korea Re-unification and the Age of the East Sea Rim Zone.

Before the division of Korea in 1945, Gangwon and its North Korean neighbour Kangwon formed a single province.


The Ye-maek tribal states consolidated here more than two thousand years ago. Their power stretched over the whole province, even when the Wiman Kingdom (a proto-Korean state) established its capital in Pyeongyang.

After King Jumong established the Goguryeo Kingdom in 37 BCE and expanded its power over northern Korea and Manchuria, the northern part of Gangwon-do belonged to Goguryeo, while its southern part belonged to the southeastern Shilla Kingdom and what is now the Wonju area became part of the southwestern Baekje Kingdom.

Thus, Gangwon-do became the battlefield of the "Three Kingdoms" in the 5th through 7th Centuries. When Shilla unified them into what we now know as Korea, the Gangwon-do areas became part of Shilla's regional governing system of 9 provinces and 5 minor capitals. The Chuncheon area became Suyank Province, Samcheok and Gangneung became Haseo Province and Wonju became the capital of Bukwon.

When Shilla's power declined in the 9th century and the short-lived "Later Three Kingdoms" period took form, Cheolwon was chosen as the capital of the Taebong State. But when Founder-King Taejo of the Goryeo Dynasty unified the Later Three Kingdoms and established his capital in Gaeseong, the Gangwon-do area became two provinces of Goryeo.

In 1178, during Goryeo King Myeongju's reign, the east-coast area was called Yonhae-Myongju Province while the inland Chuncheon and Cheolwon areas were called Chunju Province. In 1236, they were renamed as Gangneung Province and Gyoju Province, respectively. In 1314, Gyoju was renamed as Wheyang Province.

After these repeated changes of names, the province was at last united under its present name Gangwon [River Origin, or Origin of the Rivers] in 1395, the 4th year of Joseon King Taejo, with its capital in Wonju.

After national liberation and subsequent division in August 1945, 11 Counties and 82 Towns to the north of the 38th Parallel Line were taken over by North Korea backed by the Soviet Union's military. Of these, 7 Counties, 3 Towns and 37 Districts north of the 38th Line including Goseong, Inje, Yanggu and Hwacheon were declared liberated and reclaimed in November 1955. The provincial capital moved to Chuncheon City.

On January 1, 1995, Chuncheon-gun County, Wonju-gun County, Myeongju-gun County and Samcheok-gun County were integrated into Chuncheon City, Wonju City, Gangneung City and Samcheok City respectively. Since March 1995 Gangwon-do Province has been divided into administrative districts of 7 cities and 11 counties.

Gangwon-do declared the 8th of July 1995, which was the 600th anniversary of its becoming a province, as the "First Gangwon People's Day." Through various commemorative events including the publication of a Gangwon-do History, this civic holiday could be a turning point to recognize the long history of Gangwon-do, the diversity of its landscapes and the unity of its populace.

What to see

Gangwon Province contains some of the country's most impressive mountains and national parks, including Sorak-san and Odae-san National Parks.

The mountainous terrain also provides excellent slopes for several ski resorts. The east coast has many sandy beaches. The De-Millitarized Zone (DMZ) divides the province to the north.

Buddhism in Gangwon-Do

Gangwon-do boasts its heavenly-blessed natural environment such as beautiful mountains, sea, river, valley, lake and natural cave. Approximately 80% of the area consists of mountainous district and various kinds of animals and plants are distributed around the clean and clear rivers that flow around the mountains. Also, with 3 national parks of Mts. Seoraksan, Odaesan, and Chiaksan, several natural treasures and picturesque places, it can be said as the natural treasure. It is also designated and protected as a natural preserve.

It is therefore not surprising that the most stunning Buddhist temples in Korea are found here. Amongst the most famous ones are:

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