When people get tired of their usual routine, they search for something that will refresh their tedious life. Among the things that bring about refreshment is travel. People travel to feel alive, even if it is for just one 24-hour day. Even though one is not leading a productive life and may not be happy, it does not matter. The person may still long to spend one pleasant day away from all and make their existence different from that of their banal days. SMT reporters left behind their typical daily lives and went to Gangneung. They made a special end to 2019 and vibrant start to 2020.
How to greet New Year
To end the old year and to start the new year, SMT reporters took a 2-day 1-night trip to Gangneung on December 31, 2019, to January 1, 2020. People around the world spend the last day of one year and the first day of another year uniquely. People in France typically gather in a huge city square and countdown to the New Year. They kiss one and greet each other with ‘Bonne année’. Germans gather to watch a black and white film on December 31, and once the movie has finished, they predict events for the upcoming year. The people of Brazil spend the night dancing the Samba wearing white clothes, and for the people of the Netherlands, they gather for a swimming competition at the beach. Though people of the world celebrate the New Year differently, one thing remains constant. It is a time to send off the old year and welcome in the new one. Korean people enjoy counting down together and watching the bell ring at Bosingak Pavilion or watching the first sunrise of the new year with family or friends.
Korea has many tales about why it is important to see the first sunrise of a new year. Some people claim the custom comes from the days when Koreans used to praise the Sun and the Sky. The Sun was believed to be the place of the gods and as such, the Sun would bless people. This belief in the Sun blessing people led Koreans of the past to migrate to the mountains on the east coast in the morning and on the west in the evening to bow before the gods. On the other hand, some people relate the viewing of the first sunrise to the story The Heritage of the Three States. The ancestors believed New Year’s day represented the longest night of the year, and that the Sun would rise again that day after dying the night prior. Koreans would perform ancestral rites to ensure the spirit would return, and success was determined to have occurred with sunrise. As the above stories demonstrate, there is no one concrete and accurate reason for viewing the sunrise on New Year’s day in Korea. Still, it is a hot travel destination each year. Gangneung, located on the east side of the Korean Peninsula, is a popular tourist destination for viewing the sunrise. The Deepen sea, strong waves, and a strong ocean sound is a typical reason.
A trip to the New Year
SMT reporters arrived at 12 p.m. on December 31, 2019, in Gangneung on an express bus. Immediately they headed off to Ojukheon & Municipal Museum. Ojukheon was the home of Shin Saimdang and her son Yulgok YiI. Their home Hanok is divided into several sections, and each section is separated with a QR code that has been attached to a column. The QR code enables visitors to connect to an Internet dictionary that explains the section. This was convenient to get information without the need to borrow an audio guide or join a docent tour. Next, the reporters went to Gangneung Coffee Street, a street lined with cafés that look out to the beach, and enjoyed a chat drinking coffee. As SMT reporters took pictures on the beach, the ocean waves continuously crashed along the shoreline. Reporters had to quickly take a photo and run inland to avoid the incoming water. Next, reporters went to Gangneung Joongang Market. The Market has two main divisions: dried fish and agricultural products on its ground floor and fisheries wholesale markets where customers can purchase raw fish to be eaten on the underground floor. Reporters ate Flatfish and Rockfish sashimi as well as spicy soup for dinner at the fisheries market. They then purchased snacks for the night at a nearby flea market and hopped in a taxi to their accommodation for the night.
At 12 a.m. on January 1, 2020, SMT reporters together counted down and celebrated the arrival of the New Year. Around 6 a.m., reporters arrived at Gyeongpo Beach. To their surprise, the beach was already full of people waiting for the sunrise, which was expected to be at approximately 7:40. Reporters wore two layers of socks and gloves to avoid frostbite. Still, their feet and hands were suffering from the cold. As time passed, the sky over the sea started to turn a vibrant red. SMT reporters had been standing right along the waterfront, but people started to push their way in front. By 7:39, the sun had begun to rise, and it was fully visible in just two minutes. People were heard making wishes for the New Year and many took photos and videos of the rising sun. SMT reporters also took pictures of the sunrise and made wishes.
Gangneung is a good place to travel. It offers visitors plenty of tasty cuisine and its tourist sites are visitor-friendly. However, because Gangneung has a much smaller population than Seoul, its public transportation was a little inconvenient. The buses were not frequent, and some buses are only running on weekends. Except for transportation, it was a worthwhile trip. In particular, the highlight of this trip was watching the first sunrise of the year. SMT reporters had never seen a sunrise at a beach before, but watching it with so many other people made them ‘feel’ the start of a new year. It was a good time for SMT reporters who made new commitments to decide to live harder than the last year.
Before a new start
While traveling, SMT reporters were able to have dynamic experiences, and they learned a number of valuable lessons from this journey. A new semester is upon us, Sookmyungians. In 2020, every Sookmyungian will encounter unexpected hardships as well as pleasure just like the journey these SMT reporters had. However, every experience led them to maturity and refreshed them. With the new semester, SMT reporters recommend Sookmyungians taking a day trip from time to time and retake the power they need to follow through with their days on campus.
Ahn Ha Yura / Culture Section Editor
Kwak Lee Shinyoung / Woman Section Editor