Introduction to Gangwon-do
Gangwon-do, which is also known as Gangwon Province in English, is located in the northeast region of South Korea. To the west lies Gyeonggi-do, to the south is Gyeongsangbuk-do, to the southwest is Chungcheongbuk-do, to the east is the East Sea, and to the north is the DMZ. Originally, and before the division of Gangwon-do in 1945, Gangwon-do formed one single province. Historically, it was one of the eight traditional provinces of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). In 2018, Pyeongchang, a city in Gangwon-do, hosted the Winter Olympics.
The province of Gangwon-do was first formed in 1395, and it gets its name from two of the major cities in the province: Gangneung and Wonju. In 1895, Korea was divided into 23 districts, which were known as “bu” in Korean, as part of the Gabo Reform. As a result, Gangwon-do was replaced by the Districts of Chuncheon in the west and Gangneung in the east. This resulted in Wonju becoming a part of Chungju, as each “bu” was named after the city or county that was its capital. This change was short-lived because in 1896 Korea was divided into thirteen provinces. And the two aforementioned districts were merged to reform Gangwon-do. However, even though Wonju rejoined Gangwon-do, the provincial capital shifted to Chuncheon. Chuncheon remains the capital to this day instead of Wonju. And during Japanese Colonization, Gangwon-do was known as Kogen-do until 1945.
Sadly, Gangwon-do was divided in half, like the entire Korean Peninsula, in 1945 across the 38th parallel. This resulted in the American and Soviet zones of occupation in the south and north. And in 1948, the southern half of Gangwon-do became a part of the new Republic of Korea. Then, as a result of the Korean War Armistice Agreement of 1953, the boundary separating South and North Korea was shifted northward to form the DMZ.
In Gangwon-do, there are 7 cities and 11 counties. Of the cities, Gangneung, Sokcho, Wonju, and Donghae are the largest. Chuncheon is the provincial capital with a population of 284,000. And the largest city in Gangwon-do is Wonju with a population of 341,000. As for the counties, the largest is Hongcheon with a population of 71,000. And the smallest county in Gangwon-do is Yanggu with a population of 24,000.
In total, and because of the mountainous topography, Gangwon-do is home to four National Parks. These parks are some of Korea’s most famous. These four National Parks are Seoraksan, Odaesan, Chiaksan, and Taebaeksan. They are also home to Gangwon-do’s most famous temples.
According to a 2015 religious census, the majority of Gangwon-do residents are irreligious at 58.7%. This is followed by Christianity at 24.1%. The third largest religious group is Buddhism at 16.4%. And the fourth largest group is other religions at 0.8%. This group includes Korean shamanism.
Gangwon-do is home to some of Korea’s most beautiful and historic temples. These temples include Sinheungsa Temple, Naksansa Temple, and Guryongsa Temple. Gangwon-do is also home to three Jeokmyeol Bogung (temples established by Jajang-yulsa to house the holy relics of the Buddha). These three temples are Woljeongsa Temple, Beopheungsa Temple, and Jeongamsa Temple. Below are a list of some of the amazing temples that await you in Gangwon-do.
- 1. Sinheungsa Temple – 신흥사 (Sokcho, Gangwon-do): 9/10
- 2. Woljeongsa Temple – 월정사 (Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do): 9/10
- 3. Naksansa Temple – 낙산사 (Yangyang, Gangwon-do): 9/10
- 4. Beopheungsa Temple – 법흥사 (Yeongwol, Gangwon-do): 8/10
- 5. Guryongsa Temple – 구룡사 (Wonju, Gangwon-do): 8/10
- 6. Jeongamsa Temple – 정암사 (Gohan, Gangwon-do): 8/10
- 7. Hyuhyuam Hermitage – 휴휴암 (Yangyang, Gangwon-do): 8/10