On February 9, the Winter Olympics will begin in PyeongChang, South Korea (to be totally accurate, competition begins on February 8, but the opening ceremonies are February 9). What do you know about PyeongChang?
- PyeongChang is in South Korea (aka “the safe one”). Don’t confuse it with Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea (aka “the one you don’t want to visit”). Just to eliminate some confusion, PyeongChang has even changed its name for the Olympics by capitalizing the normally-lower-case-“c.”
- PyeongChang is the smallest city to host an Olympic Games since Lillehammer Norway hosted the winter games in 1994.
- These Olympics are not the first that South Korea has hosted. They held the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988.
- PyeongChang is a 2 1/2 hour car trip from South Korea’s capital, Seoul. A new high-speed railway cuts that travel time to just an hour.
- The area is dominated by the Taebaek Mountains, which should make a great venue for the skiing events. It is a popular tourist region, since it also is home to pristine beaches and woodlands. It is popular with winter sports enthusiasts as the area gets a lot of snow.
- The most dominant religion in the province is Buddhism, which is practiced by 47%. 32% have either no religious affiliation or follow indigenous religions. 21% are Christian.
- The language of PyeongChang, not surprisingly, is Korean. However, signage will be available in many languages during the Olympic Games to accommodate the 80,000 visiting participants and 1.5 million tourists.
Since PyeongChang itself is rather small, visitors may want to venture out a bit to explore more of the province.
Nearby the town is Odaesan National Park (“san” means mountain in Korean). In the park you’ll find Woljeongsa, a temple founded in 643. Also nearby is Ojukheon, home of a famous 16th century Confucian scholar.
PyeongChang is located in the Gangwon Province, in eastern South Korea. The province borders North Korea.
The Gangwon Province is known for its mountain vegetables and hanwoo beef. In case hanwoo beef is new to you, it is tender and similar to Wagyu beef. Cucumbers are a popular vegetable here, and people often take them along to snack on during hikes. Dakgalbi, a fiery chicken dish, is also popular.
What do you know about South Korea? Have you ever visited?
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