Kaesong

Overview

Introduction

Just a few miles/kilometers north of the 38th parallel (which divides North Korea from South Korea) is this impressive ancient Korean capital. Because the city (pop. 346,000) was the site of early armistice talks, it was spared from destruction during the Korean War; consequently, it's the only city that most tourists visit that still has neighborhoods with authentic traditional housing. Because it was also the capital of the Koryo Dynasty (AD 918-1392), there's an ancient palace complex, as well as assorted temples, pavilions, pagodas, stelae and statuary. The most impressive of the antiquities is actually in the countryside: the tomb of King Kongmin, a double burial mound guarded by well-preserved statuary of soldiers and civil officers and ringed by representations of tigers and lambs (demonstrating the dual nature of the king). Take a moment to pause and examine the ginseng growing in the fields below the tombs—Kaesong ginseng is the most potent (and highly coveted) in the world. As Kaesong is very near Panmunjeom, most people visit both on the same day. Plan one to two days in the area. 85 mi/137 km southeast of Pyongyang.

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