Posted by: Matt Kelley | 12 February 2009

Romantic Holidays and Destinations

20090214_whitedayA snapshot of a sidewalk “White Day” sale near Ewha Woman’s University (sic) from last year.

No, Valentine’s Day isn’t an indigenous creation, but Koreans have embraced the holiday fully.  And beyond being just a day for shops to sell anything pink or red, it’s also a special time to tell someone in your life, saranghae (사랑해), or “I love you.”

Actually, there are many quasi-official days for love in Korea. Youth and marketers have conspired to designate the 14th of almost every month a special day, with very specific rules to follow.

For example, although today is observed as Valentine’s Day in Korea, traditionally it’s when women give chocolate and gifts to their significant others. On March 14th, which is called “White Day,” the roles are reversed, and get this, some say that men are supposed to give gifts that are three times the value of what she gave you the previous month! Clever ladies.

But that’s not all. May 14th is supposedly “Rose Day” while June 14th is “Kiss Day” and in July you’re supposed to exchange silver rings on “Silver Day.” My favorite, however, is August 14th, also known as “Green Day,” when you ditch the gifts and drink from green soju bottles while on a walk in the woods. Now that’s love.

But since this is a travel show, after all, here are a few ideas about romantic destinations in Korea, whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any day of the year.

20090214_namidoNami is a crescent-shaped island in the middle of the Bukhan River. The city in the upper right is Gapyeong (가평).

Nami Island (남이섬)

One of Korea’s best-known spots for lovers is Nami Island. Located in the middle of the Bukhan River in Gangwon Province, Nami Island was made an international pilgrimage site thanks to fans of the 2002 Korean drama, “Winter Sonata” (겨울연가).

If you’re one of them, you’ll know the island’s oft-photographed central pathway, which is lined by tall Metasequoia trees. If you and your lover want to visit the precise point where actors Bae Yong Joon and Choi Ji Woo first kissed, there are plenty of signs and statues to guide you. The small, crescent-shaped island is accessible via a short ferry, and is free of cars.

Jeju’s Jeongwol Daeboreum (정월대보름)

Much further away is the very romantic island of Jeju.  This year the traditional Korean holiday Jeongwol Daeboreum (정월대보름) falls near V-day. Begun 1,000 years ago during the Silla Dynasty, the holiday celebrates the lunar new year’s first full moon. Jeju hosts an annual festival that is sure to light your fire… and I mean that literally!

On Valentine’s night, an 82-acre parasitic volcano will be set ablaze beneath a fantastic fireworks show. The spectacular event is in its 12th year and is one of Korea’s most popular events. 

20090214_cheonggyecheon1The always romantic Cheonggye Stream (and it’s free).

Seoul Spots

Now, if staying put in Seoul sounds like a better… and perhaps safer plan, virtually all of the major hotels are offering special romance-themed packages. For example, the Sheraton Walker Hill’s Italian restaurant “Del Vino” has a 7-course meal that’s served with a bottle of wine and a chocolate dessert. But get this, the dessert is engraved with you and your partner’s names and the bottle’s label features a photo of you both.  But, it doesn’t come cheap. Dinner will run you 240,000 won, or about $175, per couple.

map_200902142

If that doesn’t fit your budget, I’d suggest a romantic walk along the Cheonggye Stream (청계천) or a gondola ride up Nam Mountain (남산) to N Seoul Tower. But whatever you do, and whomever you’re with, I hope you are feeling especially loved today.

Getting There:
→ To Nami Island from Seoul, take the 1.5 hour train to Gapyeong Station. From there, take a taxi to the ferry wharf at Gapyeong parking lot. 

→ To Saebyeol Oreum from Seoul, Jeju Air offers the cheapest fares to Jeju City. The 65-minute flight runs between 50-75,000 won. From there, shuttle buses take visitors to the Jeongwol Daeboreum.

(A version of this text will air on KBS World Radio on February 14, 2009.)

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Responses

  1. Saebyeol Oreum was good! thx for ur recommendation, i had a good time with my Boyfriend !:) thank you so much! i love this site!

  2. Hi again, Narsha,

    I’m glad you enjoyed Saebyeol Oreum. Tomorrow I’ll post a review on the big fire festival they had last weekend, so I hope you’ll check it out.

    Best,
    Matt


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