Geumsan, Goldmine of Ginseng
By Shim Hyun-chul
"Shimbatta!'' is a cry shouted by ginseng diggers when after a laborious search they stumble upon a precious piece of ginseng. It's not every day they get to shout this out. But in Geumsan, South Chungcheong Province, that shout is often heard as the region is full of the valuable herb.
Located at the southern most tip of South Chungcheong Province, ginseng excavation first began 1,500 years ago. Its name ``Geumsan'' is short for "geumsugangsan'' which refers to a place with beautiful scenery.
Ginseng is highly affected by geography, environment and the time of harvest. The climate conditions of Geumsan make it the best place to grow ginseng. In Geumsan, digging for ginseng begins in July, and the harvested herb is processed through the end of October, making it one of the most priceless ginseng products in the nation.
With a high content of saponine, ginseng is known for fighting cancer and boosting immunity as well as relieving fatigue. It has long been used in medicine and cooking. In summer, samgyetang, which is boiled chicken with ginseng, is considered a summer stamina-booster dish.
The ginseng-herb market in Geumsan is one of the nation's top three traditional outdoor markets; the other two are the Gyeongdong market in Seoul and the Yaknyeong market in Daegu. But in terms of ginseng trade, it ranks top, with 80 percent of the nation's ginseng traded here. People can buy precious ginseng at a relatively affordable price at the markets in Geumsan.
The city became known internationally when it hosted the Geumsan Ginseng Expo in 2006, attracting many foreign visitors. The Geumsan Ginseng Festival, which enters its 28th year, will be held Aug.29-Sept. 7 in Geumsan. Festival organizers have arranged various events, such as ginseng liquor making, and digging for ginseng, which is one of the most popular events.
For more information, visit www.geumsan.go.kr or call 041)751-2392.