My hometown, Byeonsan
I live in Sydney, Australia. In October I had a chance to visit my hometown, Byeonsan, North Jeolla Province.
Thirty-eight years have passed since I left there in the mid-70s. Byeonsan is an attractive place that fills my mind with beautiful memories. As soon as I arrived at Incheon International Airport I headed down to a resort located in Gyeokpo Port with a friend of mine.
In retrospect, every summer school holiday, I used to spend many days at Byeonsan Beach with my family and friends. My childhood recollections at the beach made me smile and miss my childhood pals, giving me flashbacks to my primary school days. Unlike many well-known Australian beaches, Byeonsan beach is famous for its extremely gentle and evenly sloped sea bottom, providing us with an ideal and safe water playground.
When I visited the beach, a group of local junior high school students were playing there, catching shellfish as a field study assignment. Just a few words with them reminded me of my childhood. It was also at this beach, forty years ago that I first witnessed the live performance of a legendary Korean singer, Na Hoon-a in a summer special show sponsored by a local radio station.
Surprisingly enough, I found that the beach had changed little, if any, except for a new shower facility over the decades. Whereas the accommodation, restaurants and other recreation facilities at the beach have stayed the same, Gyeokpo Village has turned into a flourishing town with abundant facilities.
Chaeseokgang, Local Natural Monument No. 28, was purportedly formed by uniquely accumulated rock layers created by seawater erosion over seventy million years. Its spectacular view still caught my eye even after 40 years. However, a regretful sight was taking place with a new five star hotel under construction just right above the rocks, jeopardizing its conservation. I am sure something must be done about it.
Byeonsan Peninsula National Park consists of around 300 mountain peaks, picturesque coastline roads, stunning beaches and historic temples. Among others, Naeso Temple whose main building is screened by several striking mountain peaks, takes pride in the fascinating view.
The road from the ticket office to the main gate of the temple, flanked by grand firs and maple trees, was more than enough to enjoy the forest bath. The cloudy weather, with a little bit of rain, gave an exquisite and mysterious atmosphere to the mountains.
The next day was a perfect sunny day. The drive along the coastline was extraordinary, but beyond description was the sunset viewed at the Wolmyeong hermitage located in the deep inner part of the national park.
The Saemangeum land reclamation project also attracted my interest. It looked like a huge project at a glance. In the middle of my drive to the 33-kilometer seawall linking Byeonsan and Gunsan, I stood on the sea barrier with astonishment at its magnificence. Lamentably I saw a flock of sea birds on the mud flats bewildered as what to do or where to go. The ecological niche of the area seemed to be dramatically changed by this project.
On the last day, a visit to my primary school and hometown village was exceptional, refreshing my childhood memories. I have missed my hometown a lot. Regretfully I could not find my childhood traces at all. I realized what I was truly reminiscing on was not the physical place, but the cherished childhood memories of a boy 40 years ago.
Two things that have not changed are the kind-hearted attitudes of the people in my hometown and the gorgeous cosmos flowers. There is nothing like cosmos flowers in full bloom along the roads to feel autumnal sentiments in Korea. These made my journey special. The latest trip to my hometown was an unforgettable journey that will remain in my memory for quite some time.
The writer is an accountant and has been living in Australia since 1987. He can be reached at: email@example.com.