As some subscribers know I returned to Korea over the Christmas/ New Years period to visit the country that I still view as my home away home.
Being a former Korea expat who spent three years living in the land of kimchi I would say that I know Korea very well. In a previous post shared last November I wrote about my My Top 5 Favorite Cities in Korea (한국에서 내 5개 좋아하는 도시). To follow that previous post, which I had promised, I would like to talk about my top 5 least favorite cities in Korea. For any foreign expat readers, Korea travelers, or visitors interested in learning about a few of my least favorite towns/ cities in Korea please see my list below. If you agree or disagree feel free to comment and please keep in mind that these 5 least favorite cities/towns mentioned were chosen based on my own personal experiences (*＾∀゜).
1) Yongin (용인), Gyeonggi-do (경기도)
Located directly southeast of Seoul in Gyeonggi-do province, Yongin is a satellite city approximately one hour from central Seoul and connected by subway. It is a suburban city full of greenery and home to Korea’s most well-known and famous Everland Resort parks where Everland & Caribbean Bay are located. Yongin is also home to the country’s largest Korean folk village and historical drama movie location Daejanggeum Park (용인 대장금 파크) that each offer traditional life experiences through replica houses, traditional street markets, outdoor performances (i.e. including traditional Korean marriage ceremonies), and have a Korean & Wood Folk museum and small scale amusement park.
Yongin is still viewed a developing city with an area circumference almost as big as Seoul. Having lived & worked in the city between 2014-2015 I found the suburban city to be quite quaint and family oriented. I also found the city to wide-spread and inconvenient for non-car residents. Additionally, relying on bus transportation and multiple transfers was very inconvenient at times. However, recently more subway stations have been created within Yongin’s regional districts to provide more accommodating transportation options.
As a suburban city Yongin is a city that appeals to families with children. Possessing big department store complexes, restaurants, and some boutique shops not found in Seoul Yongin offers little for expats or tourists to see or do outside of its Everland Resort parks and folk village. On former date nights I would eat-out and go on walking dates around my apartment complex. Another time we visited a jjimjilbang(찜질방) and ran into so many families I thought I might see some of my students.
After moving to Yongin I quickly learned that many residents worked in Seoul. These residents lived out in Yongin due to cleaner air and more affordable housing. Outside of those perks residents also enjoyed the subtle hometown environment in district neighborhoods. With not much to offer Yongin is my top least favorite city in Korea. Aside from some salty memories during my time there I would not recommend visiting unless you are interested in its few attractions.
2) Sejong (세종), North Chungcheongbuk-do (충청북도) and South Chungcheongnam-do (충청남도)
Sejong city is located in the North Chungcheong Province and South Chungcheong Province area between Daejeon, Cheonan, and Cheongju. Designated as a new capital city Sejong is the latest location of many government ministry, agency, and affiliated organizational offices that relocated to Sejong from Seoul. Viewed as a spacious area for future governmental offices Sejong is still undergoing major construction to accommodate more relocated government offices and transfer employees.
I visited Sejong city in late summer 2015 for a university interview at my alma mater Korea University’s second campus. Taking a 75-minute Mugunghwa-ho line train from Yeongdeungpo Station in Seoul to Jochiwon station in Sejong I was surprised upon arrival how small the city central area was. Seeing only a handful restaurants and shops on the few main streets surrounding the station I could see that Sejong was still an up and coming city. At Korea University’s second campus I learned that the school provided all essentials on campus grounds to dorming local & international students.
Since Sejong is still a developing city and majorly governmental office location I would not recommend visiting unless you happen to be passing through to other area cities. I have one Korean friend who resides in Sejong, but leaves almost every weekend due to the slow and quieter lifestyle that the city emulates. Sejong is accessible from Seoul via the KTX Gyeongbu line train to Osong Station(*which is a station in nearby town Osong) or directly via a Mugunghwa-ho line train from any major Seoul based station.
3) Icheon or Ichon (이천), Gyeonggi-do (경기도)
To begin Icheon or Ichon should not be confused with Incheon, which lies west of Seoul and is the area where Incheon International airport is located. Icheon is a smaller city located southeast of Seoul in the Gyeonggi-do province. Though connected by subway via the Korail Gyeonggang (from Seongnam-Yeoju) line the fastest & most convenient way to travel to Icheon from Seoul is by inter-city bus or by car.
Nestled among Gyeonggi-do provinces mountainous terrains Icheon is considered the cradle of Korean ceramics and pottery and has been recognized as a UNESCO cultural city. Widely recognized for its craftworks Icheon possesses many ceramic workshops, stores, its own Ceramic (folk) Village(이천도예마을), a museum dedicated to Korean ceramics called Haegang Ceramics Museum (해강도자미술관), and a World Ceramic Center called Icheon Cerapia(이천 세라피아), which annually hosts events and features craft exhibitions organized by the Korea Ceramic Foundation. Icheon is also home to its own hot spring resort called Termeden Spa & Resort (테르메덴), which is a spa, bathhouse, and jjimjilbang facility. In truth, the resort is not built over any sulfur or carburetted springs. In fact the springs are considered ‘simple springs’. Located in the woodlands of Termeden’s Spa & Resort was style based off of German inspiration.
During my few visits to Icheon back in winter 2013 I never had the chance to visit Termeden, however, I was able to sight-see around the city central area and see a few ceramic workshops and stores. My reasons for visiting Icheon, however, were not tourist oriented. Instead I visited the city to assist a friend of one of my professors who students needed tutoring in history. Thankfully, I received transportation to and from the city bus terminal as the local buses were few in number and unreliable according to some fellow expats I had met while there.
Visiting Icheon for a day might be nice, but visiting frequently or living there might be difficult. Many residents in Icheon possess their own cars due to broad distances in-between stores, homes, schools, hospitals, etc. If you do not have a car or reliable transportation then simple travel maybe hard within this city. Due to city locations being inaccessible and public transportation almost non-existent Icheon is my 3rd least favorite city.
4) Daejeon Metropolitan City (대전광역), South Chungcheongnam-do (충청남도)
Located in the central region of South Korea Daejeon is Korea’s fifth largest metropolitan capital city after Seoul, Busan, Incheon, and Daegu. Viewed as a center city of the country Daejeon is Korea’s major transport route that operates connections(via expressway and railway) between northern, southern, eastern, and western regions of the country. Being a hub city Daejeon is a designated special capital city just like Sejong and home to relocated Seoul government offices.
Daejeon is home to a large number of highly-rated tech schools such as to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology or KAIST and Korea University of Science and Technology, in addition to the National Science Museum of Korea (국립중앙과학관) and Expo (Science) Park (대전엑스포과학공원). Expanding over the years as a science hub Daejeon also possesses numerous private and public research institutes & facilities within a unique research district called Daedeok Science Town(대덕연구단지).
I have had the pleasure of visiting Daejeon two times once back in 2013 and again in 2014. Both occasions were very different. My first time was 3 months after I had just moved to Korea. I was beginning my thesis dissertation research and received a special invitation to meet with a professor from Pai Chai University. While the visit was just for 1 day I found Daejeon to be a large flat city with not too much appeal. During my second visit I simply was passing through the city during my 2014 solo trip around the country. Arriving in the evening on my second occasion I was quite surprised by how early some places closed, which gave the city even less appeal for me. While my experiences were brief I have yet come across Koreans and fellow expats who view Daejeon as anything more than a central city to stop at briefly and/or pass through if commuting elsewhere.
As a connecting transport hub Daejeon is one city accessible via the KTX Gyeongbu line directly from Seoul, Yongsan or nearby Suwon station from the Seoul city region. Being easily accessible makes Daejeon a great city to travel to, however, due to its low appeal on stuff to see & do Daejeon remains my 4th least favorite city.
5) Sokcho (속초), Gangwon-d0 (강원도)
The city of Sokcho is both a coastal and mountainous terrain city located in the far northeast region of South Korea’s Gangwon-do province that is accessible solely by inter-city bus or car, or via railway from nearest train station is in the city of Gangneung(*which is an hour away by bus). As a sea-side city Sokcho’s main industry are its fish markets. However, due to possessing beautiful beaches and being within a close proximity of the renowned Seoraksan(설악산) mountain range Sokcho is among Korea’s top favorite tourist locations for Koreans, expats, and tourists alike.
While Sokcho is a popular tourist destination majorly for its fresh hoe(회)(*raw fish) seafood dishes, Sokcho Beach (속초해변), and Seoraksan National Park(설악산국립공원) it is also home to a variety of other tourist attractions ranging from Abai Village (아바이 마을), a village home to many Koreans of North Korean ancestry, Sinheungsa(신흥사) Buddhist temple, believed to be the oldest Korean Buddhist temple, sea lagoon lakes such as Cheongchoho Lake (청초호), and its very own hot spring resort the Cheoksan (Oncheon Jigu) Spa World(척산온천지구). In addition to these attractions Sokcho hosts a number of annual & seasonal festivals such as the summer Sokcho Korea Music Festival(대한민국음악대향연) and fall Seorak Cultural Festival(설악문화재), which also bring in many visitors.
With all these major highlights mentioned it might seem odd to place Sokcho as an unfavorable city. However, when compared to many other cities in Korea I have visited Sokcho did not have too much to offer on its off-seasons(i.e.spring or winter) and after festivals had passed. During one of my many backpacking trips in 2014 I traveled to Sokcho with a fellow co-worker to visit sea-side city. Sokcho was our first stop out of four cities that we planned to visit along Korea’s East Sea coast. During our 2-day stay in Sokcho we briefly toured the small city, hiked part of Mt. Soraksan, and off-course visited the beach. However, completing everything in a short amount of time left me wondering what else there was to see.
Since Sokcho is a such a small city it should toured at a slower pace, or seasonally to raise more appeal and provide a new outlook for visitors on its bustling days vs off-season days. Having visited during an off-season period (*around hurricane season) I highly recommend that visitors visit Sokcho during its bustling seasons. With that said Sokcho is my 5th least favorite city, however, it may leave the list due to my high interest to hike more parts of Mt. Soraksan and enjoy a slower-pace vacation there in the future.
These are my 5 least favorite towns/cities in Korea. With that said please be sure to read my previous blog post about My Top 5 Favorite Cities in Korea (한국에서 내 5개 좋아하는 도시), which I had the opportunity of visiting, touring, and exploring while residing in Korea.
Out of my top 5 least favorite towns/cities in Korea, is any a least favorite for you? Have you been to all 5? If so, please feel open to sharing your experiences and if you have not been to any please feel open to touring a few if you in Korea for a while (o^^o)
*Note: All pictures posted are owned by the Yeppunshikan author, usage of these pictures without the owners consent is strictly prohibited.