Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An Outing at Bugak-san

After Nam-san, Bugak-san is arguably the most conspicuous mountain in or around the downtown Seoul area. Every pedestrian heading north on Sejeong Road, toward Gyeongbok Palace and the presidential Blue House, is facing the bald, streaked crown of Bugak-san.

I tried to hike Bugak-san during the last period when I was living in Seoul. Not knowing that the mountain was closed off to the public and patrolled vigrously by heavily armed soldiers, I had to beat a hasty retreat.

In 2006, however, the mountain was opened up to hikers, who may now follow a strict course along a rebuilt fortified wall. The gates close at 3 pm and all visitors must bring an identification card (or passport) for signing in.

Here is Sukjeongmun (Sukjeong Gate), the most northerly of the gates of Seoul's old wall.

There are ten semi-wild deer living on Bugaksan. After years of hiking remoter Korean peaks without spotting a deer, I never would have expected to see three at the same time within the Seoul city limits.

This is the statue marking the reason why Bugaksan was closed off to the public. Police Chief Choi Gyu-sik was the one who led an attack on a band of North Korean guerillas who had made it into the south. They were well on their way to the Blue House to assisinate President Park Chun-hee.

The spot where the gunfight showdown took place. Now the Chung-un Silver Center (read: an old folks center).

One of the many fine views of Sam-cheong-gak, a former kisaeng (courtesan) mansion for top-level government business. These days it functions as a restaurant-teahouse.