Top 10 Reasons to Live in Gangwondo

Located in the Northeast corner of South Korea, the rural province of Gangwon-do has been my home for the past seven months. Although its characterized by breathtaking mountain views, quiet beaches, exciting cities, Olympic-grade ski slopes, and some of the best festivals (especially in winter), Gangwon-do is one of the least popular choices for EPIK teachers. Throughout my orientation week, many people were surprised to hear that this province was in fact, my first choice. After diligently researching all of the options, it was the obvious choice for me, as I will explain in this top ten list. With more than half a year of experience here, I can confidently say it was the right choice for me to live in this province!

Places like Seoul and Busan tend to be top choices due to amenities and excitement that comes with big cities. While they are both fantastic places to live in this country, Gangwon-do offers up some pretty special sites that aren’t necessarily accessible from other parts of the country. So in no particular order, I present to you, in my opinion, the top ten reasons to live in the province of Gangwon-do!


1. A breath of fresh air:

Being the most rural province in Korea, Gangwon-do offers some of the freshest air in a country where extreme population density means concentrated pollution and the health problems that come along with it. Although I love travelling to Seoul, I’m always thankful to return to the fresh mountain air of Taebaek.

Taebaek

2. Cultural Immersion:

If you come to Korea with a goal of immersing yourself in the culture and learning the language, Gangwon-do is one of the best places to live. While the big cities offer of the comforts of home, whether in the form of your favourite food, clothing chain, or just another person who speaks your language, Gangwon-do tends to put you in a position where immersion is unavoidable. Don’t get me wrong–I still have access to pizza and there are some locals who can have a basic conversation with me in English. But some of the comforts of home are just a little out of reach. This has enriched my experience here substantially as I have no choice but to learn more about Korea if I want to thrive in my community.

3. Olympics!

As you probably know, Korea will be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Gangwon-do! The province is completely Olympic crazy right now. Olympic characters can be spotted all over the province and students have found the Olypmics creep into their curriculum for over a year. Besides the obvious advantage of having close access to the 2018 Olympics, the Winter Games also mean improved infrasrtucture for the area. For example, a Korean Xpress Train (KTX) running from Incheon International Airport to Gangneung will be running in time for the games.

4. Money money money:

Many foreign teachers choose Korea for the financial opportunities it presents. What better way to maximize that opportunity than to live in Gangwon-do? With the exception of a few cities, most places in Gangwon-do offer up a rural allowance for EPIK teachers of 100,000\ per month. In addition, many teachers in the province teach at more than one school, with means an extra 100,000\/month for the first travel school, and 50,000\/month for any additional travel schools. Beyond the increased financial opportunities, living in a rural province can be a great way to save money. With fewer places to spend money, cash tends to stay in the bank.

5. Hiking:

My number one reason for choosing this province as my new home was the hiking. As a country 70% covered by mountains and more than 60% covered by forests, there is no shortage of hiking anywhere in Korea. However, Gangwon-do is famous for its offerings of mountain hiking. While I still have yet to climb many mountains in the province, my favourites would have to be Seoraksan (near Sokcho) and Taebaeksan, located right down the street from me here in Taebaek. There’s another great mountain called Yeonhwasan, which is a two minute walk from my apartment door.

Taebaeksan

Taebaeksan

 

Seoraksan

Seoraksan

Seoraksan

6. Rural Lifestyle:

Being the most rural province in the country, Gangwon offers up some unique living experiences. For one, the province is covered in farms. Most of the farms are relatively small scale, growing root vegetables and other hardy produce like cabbage.

In terms of teaching, Gangwon-do consists of relatively small schools with the exception of a few bigger schools in the cities. This means teachers can have classes of two students, which is a great opportunity to get to know students.

One of my favourite parts about living in this province is some of the interesting sights I witness in my daily musings. One day, I saw a walking down the street with two sawn-off shovel handles in place of canes. He crossed the street fearlessly despite oncoming traffic, the ends of his shovel-canes klonking alongside him. It’s also typical to see tractors rolling down the streets, and in some areas, even tanks! (Don’t be alarmed by the tanks, they’re often out and about for training purposes).

Jeongseong County

Jeongseong County

Jeongseong County

Taebaek

7. Caves:

Gangwon-do is home to loads of caves, all offering exciting views of the world underground. Daegeumgul and Hwanseongul are located near Samcheok, Cheongok Cave is near Donghae, and Yongyeon Cave is in Taebaek, to name a few. The caves range in sizes and geological formations, each offering a different experience for the underground adventurer.

Yongyeon Cave, Taebaek

Yongyeon Cave, Taebaek

Yongyeon Cave, Taebaek

8. Festivals

Like everywhere in Korea, Taebaek is home to a myriad of festivals. Perhaps most famous through, are the winter festivals that take place all over the province, such as the Taebaek Snow Festival, Inje Bingeo Fishing Festival, and the Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival. These festivals draw millions of visitors from the Korea and beyond each year, and offer cultural experiences, delicious eats, and local celebrations.

Taebaek Snow Festival

Taebaek Snow Festival

Taebaek Snow Festival

(Thanks Luc for the photos!)

9. Beaches

Gangwon-do doesn’t just shine in the winter. The impressive coastline makes the province an appealing place in the summer too. From rocky beaches with great climbing to white sand perfect for a day of swimming and picnicking, Gangwon has a perfect mix of beach-going oppportunities. Unlike some of the other beaches in the country, Gangwon has loads of beaches that are quiet and secluded, while also having some more popular areas with busy boardwalks.

Haesindang Park, Samcheok

Haesindang Park, Samcheok

Sokcho

Sokcho

Sokcho

10. Skiing/Boarding 

With the PyeongChang Winter Olympics fast approaching, its no surprise that Gangwon-do offers up some impressive slopes for skiing, snowboarding, and even tubing. From High1 resort in Gohan which provides affordable winter fun, to the Olympic-grade slopes at Yongpyong Ski Resort in Pyeongchang, Gangwon is the perfect destination for lovers of winter sports.

High1 Resort

High1 Resort

(Thanks Matt and Stephen for the boarding photos!)

Yongpyong Resort (source)

Overall, Gangwon-do is an exciting, beautiful, and culturally rich province. If you enjoy adventuring, being immersed in Korean culture and language, and meeting great people, it might be the province for you!

If you’re worried about access to some of the amenities in the city, remember that public transportation is extensive and affordable throughout the entire country, and ordering products online is fast and efficient. On that note, its also very accessible to visit this amazing place if you’re living in another area of the country, and I highly recommend it!

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Reasons to Live in Gangwondo

  1. Hello there! Thanks for this great post. I’m just getting started teaching EFL, I’m in Da Nang right now, but I’m very interested in Korea and especially in Gangwon—even more so after reading this! Do you have schools or programs that you recommend? It looks like you were with Epik? I’ll have to check that out, but also just wanted to say hello and connect with you. I’d love to ask you some questions if you’re up for it! Anyhow, thanks so much and thanks again for this blog post. Cheers! Cindy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Cindy!
      I would definitely recommend teaching through EPIK. It’s a lot more secure than going through private schools (hagwons). While some private schools can be great, there’s no guarantee that they won’t end up being another hagwon horror story. With EPIK, you’re housing is arranged, pay is good and always on time, we get health insurance, and there’s a lot more support should you run into any problems.

      If you have any specific questions, feel free to send me an email!
      maggie.edwards94@gmail.com

      Like

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