Yeongju: Korea’s Academic Capital

Korea has one of the toughest result driven education systems in the world. Recently for the Seollal extended weekend I travelled to Yeongju, a small city with firm roots in Korea’s academic history. 

Lying below Sobaek mountain in the northernmost part of Gyeongsangbuk-do, Yeongju is small town with a rich history. It is significant in Korea’s history as the birthplace of its intellectual culture- Confucianism. The Chinese Confucius school of thought has had a heavy influence on Korean philosophy and culture, instilling values of hard work, strong family bonds and an emphasis on education and personal advancement. 

Buseoksa Temple (부석사)

Founded in 676 AD and housing multiple national treasures, Buseoksa is one of Korea’s oldest and most important temples. 

Translated as ‘Temple of the Floating Stone’, the source of this title comes from a love story between lady Seonmyo and Uisang (founding monk of Buseoksa). They met briefly and fell in love before being separated. After being reunited but learning they could not be together (due to Uisang now being a monk) lady Seonmyo drowned herself out of grief. She was reincarnated as a dragon and protected Uisang. When Uisang’s proposed temple was met with hostility from local people, Seonmyo frightened them away by levitating a heavy stone into the air three times. This floating stone now rests behind the main and oldest building at Buseoksa, Muryangsu-jeon Hall. 

Buseoksa is renewed for it’s beautiful ancient grandeur and it’s winter scenery. Extending three levels, the temple offers breathtaking views of the valley below and surrounding Sobaek mountain.

Getting there: Take bus 27 from Yeongju or Punggi Bus Terminal

Seonbichon Village

Visitors can take a short bus ride (bus no.27) from Buseoksa Temple to the nearby Seonbichon village in Pungi county. Seonbichon Village is an example of what the scholar’s village would have looked while it housed Korea’s first Confucian students. The village also offers exhibitions and hands on activities that allow guests to experience Korea’s traditional culture. These activities include games, performances, crafts, and demonstrations of traditional trades. 

Sosuseowon 

Adjoining the Seonbichon Village is Yeongju’s Sosuseowon. Korea’s first private/confucian Academy that now preserves significant academic materials. These ancient buildings and grounds are especially beautiful and well preserved.  

Opening hours: November-February: 09:00-17:00
March-May & September-October: 09:00-18:00
June-August: 09:00-19:00

Admission: Adult 3,000 won / Children 1,000 won (The last Wednesday of every month is free)

(Admission includes access to Sosuseowon Confucian Academy, Sosu Museum, Seonbichon Village)

Yeongju Seonbichon

Getting to Yeongju

Express/Intercity buses for Yeongju leave Seoul daily from Gangam and Dong Seoul taking approximately 2 hours 20 minutes. Trains depart Chungryanri station 8 times a day and arrives in just under 4 hours. 

Buses leave East Daegu and Daegu terminals 20 times a day taking approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. 

9 buses leave Busan for Yeongju daily, taking around 3 hours. 

For more information on Yeongju and its attractions visit here