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The Scent of Spring in the Distance: Incheon Gaehangjang

The cherry blossoms are expected to bloom at the start of April this year, according to 153 Weather, a center for weather information. There are brilliant scenes of cherry blossoms on the campuses, usually in spring, but this time, considering the disaster that Kingos have had to face in terms of the little fluctuation in their lives, how about taking a one-day trip to Incheon to see the cherry blossoms? This time, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) visited Incheon Gaehangjang (open port), the place packed with spring feelings and modern Korean history.

Incheon Gaehangjang Preview

Modern Korean History within Incheon Gaehangjang

In 1876, Japan and Korea signed the Treaty of Ganghwa Island, also called the Japan-Korea Treaty of Amity. It resulted in the opening of Incheon Port in 1883, after Busan Port and Wonsan Port. After the opening, the world powers competed with each other to build modern architecture in Korea, such as consulates, administrative organizations, and so on. In other words, the port transported exotic culture to Korea at that time. Korea, however, suffered during that period because it was the start of Japanese imperialism. Japan had a de facto authority on Korea at that time, so Japan exploited Korea in many ways, such as grain extortion. The whole area of Incheon Gaehangjang is part of the painful history of modern Korea.

Panorama of the Incheon Gaehangjang

The Incheon Gaehangjang in Panoramic View (icloud.incheon.go.kr)

Incheon Gaehangjang consists of three parts, Chinatown, the Open Port, and Sinpo International Market. The SKT, however, will introduce this place through four parts, subdividing the Open Port into Freedom Park and Incheon Open Port Museum.

How to Get to Incheon Gaehangjang

Humanities and Social Sciences Campus

>Board a Seoul Subway Line 4 train at Hyehwa Station.

>Transfer to Seoul Subway Line 1 at Seoul Station.

>Board the train bound for Incheon and alight at the last stop, Incheon Station. (Estimated time of arrival (ETA): about 90 minutes)

Natural Sciences Campus

>Board a train at Sungkyunkwan University Station and get off at Guro Station.

>Take a train bound for Incheon and alight at the last stop, Incheon Station. (ETA: about 90 minutes)

Taking a Closer Look at Incheon Gaehangjang

1. Chinatown

The Entrance of Chinatown

After the Imo incident, a riot staged by the Korean army in 1882, plenty of Chinese merchants came here, which is nowadays called ‘Chinatown’. This inflow resulted in prospered harbor trade in Incheon. Therefore, the increased number of harbor workers needed food that was cheap and easy to eat. At that moment, the Korean history of jajangmyeon, a noodle dish mixed with tianmian sauce (sweet bean sauce), that is one of the favorite Korean national foods, began. Gonghwachun, a famous Chinese restaurant and the so-called father of jajangmyeon, also started their business in Chinatown. It has gone out of business now, but the venue is used as the Jajangmyeon Museum.

Chinatown Street

As history proves, Chinatown is well-known for Chinese food along with jajangmyeon. Other famous Chinese restaurants, such as Sinseungbanjeom and Mandabok, are also located there, which were once on the air in the television show called Wednesday Food Talk, a Korean food-talk show. Let’s satisfy the appetite in a restaurant here and begin the journey in Incheon Gaehangjang.

2. Freedom Park

A Clear View at Freedom Park

Freedom Park is the first Western Park in Korea, and it had been for foreigners whose number soared after the era of the opening of the port. There are Samgukji (a romance of three kingdoms) Mural Street and Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village near Freedom Park, where travelers can obtain priceless memories with unique scenes.

Cherry Blossom at Freedom Park (itour.incheon.go.kr)

Furthermore, if Kingos visit Freedom Park on the cherry blossoms’ blooming day, there will be snow in spring, and a scattering of cherry blossoms. Kingos can take a rest at one of the cafés right below Freedom Park, looking at the magnificent landscape packed with cherry blossoms, a clear view of the sea, and the beautiful night view of Incheon Bridge.

3. Incheon Open Port Museum

The Exterior of Incheon Open Port Museum

The museum is furnished with a variety of modern cultural items from the era after the port opened, illustrating the image of modern Incheon. It deals with not only the Port of Incheon but also some modern Korean social aspects, such as the history of modern Korean trains and financial institutions. Moreover, this museum was constructed by conserving the former First Bank of Japan’s Incheon branch.

The Stairs Dividing Area of Japan and China at the Past

Examining modern Korean history in this place is especially meaningful in that the museum is original modern stone architecture. The museum opens from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. except for Mondays, and the entry fee is 500 won.

4. Sinpo International Market

The Landscape of Sinpo International Market

Sinpo International Market is the first modern-style permanent market in Incheon. It started after opening the port, and it has kept its place for more than a hundred years. The origin of the market is Puseonggwijeon (a Chinese-operating vegetable market) at Sinpo-dong in the late 19th century. It has kept its fame as the hometown of jjolmyeon (a Korean noodle with a very chewy texture), dak gangjeong (sweet and sour chicken), and gong-galbbang (crunchy balloon bread).

All Kingos, from freshmen to seniors and all other members of Sungkyunkwan University, are faced with a semester full of i-Campus inevitably because of the outbreak of COVID-19. Many Kingos might be in an uneasy or even distracted condition as the semester starts. Taking a long journey on a slow train to Incheon station, where express trains do not stop, can be a nice break to organize your worries. Likewise, looking at the vast sea, which is about 10 minutes away from Gaehangjang, may help Kingos refresh themselves. The SKT wishes the Kingos to stay as healthy as possible and have a successful semester.

신주영  poowooho3@g.skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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