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Home of ‘The Hourglass’ looks to expand tourism reach

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Published : 2014-07-04 21:00
Updated : 2014-07-04 21:00

For years, the East Coast beachside area of Jeongdongjin in Gangneung City, Gangwon Province has been riding the coattails of one of the nation’s most popular 90s TV dramas, “The Hourglass,” featuring Choi Min-Soo, Lee Jung-Jae and Park Sang-won.

The SBS political crime series first aired in 1995 and is still considered one of the most significant and highest-rated TV productions in Korean drama history and had drama fans flocking to the coast to see first-hand some of the show’s iconic filming locations.

Among some of Gangneung’s most popular tourist attractions is the picturesque beach-front Jeongdongjin train station ― the on-site location of a popular scene from “The Hourglass” where Park, with the wind breezing through her hair, waited at the platform for her train with the thrashing ocean waves behind her, before being taken into custody by the police right as her train arrived. 
A view of the Korail “Seatrain” in Gangwon Province (Korail)

Since the airing of the show, the famous train station has managed to attract more sight-seers wanting solely to visit the station than passengers who were there to board a train. Last year alone, more than 174,000 visitors paid the modest 500 won entrance fee just to walk along the tracks and take photos, compared to the some 116,000 train ticket holders.

The Hourglass Park located at Jeongdongjin Beach is also a big tourist hot spot in the region, highlighted by the world’s largest hourglass sculpture as its centerpiece. The larger than life hourglass is filled with approximately 8 tons of sand and weighs some 40 tons.

In keeping with the park’s theme of time, visitors can also stop by the Jeongdongjin Time Story museum and take a step back in “time.”

The Time Story museum is located inside a seven-freight show train right next to the hourglass sculpture and showcases antique clocks and timepieces from all over the world in three separately themed exhibitions: Time and Science; Time and Art; and Time and Passion. The museum showcases a wide variety of rare timepieces including the world’s only “Titanic pocket watch,” indicating the exact time when the Titanic sank.

For those taking a relaxing stroll by down the beach, the museum can be a nice educational aside to one’s trip. Travelers can stop by the museum’s quaint caf in the first freight car and enjoy a variety of espresso and non-coffee drinks before learning everything there is to know about time.

However, despite the number of attractions Jeongdongjin Beach has to offer, it’s almost needless to say that the one feature that first catches most visitors’ attention, aside from beaches’ pale blue water, is not the park’s giant Hourglass or the Time Story museum; surprisingly enough, the most eye-catching structure in the area is a well-known cliff-side hotel, located right at the edge of a coastal cliff. While it may not carry the name of the Ritz Carlton or the Hilton, it has still managed to attract flocks of on-lookers and guests for the simple fact that the hotel is shaped like a giant yacht.

Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht is the world’s first on-land cruise-themed resort and is said to have some of the best views of the sunrise in all of Korea, giving travelers yet another reason to visit the coast.

Building onto the Jeongdongjin’s Oceanside theme, Korail has recently established a new rail biking path right alongside the beach. Expected to be opened sometime next month, the 5-km-stretch of rail circles around the whole of the Hourglass Park, giving visitors a more active option to sightseeing. While it’s certainly not the most thrifty option to seeing the area ― with prices listed at 20,000 won for a two-seater and 30,000 for a four-seater ― it can be a fun alternative, although the views are far from being spectacular.

The Korail Sea Train, which first launched in 2007, is also a popular activity on many tourists’ to-do list in Gangneung City. The quick-trip sightseeing locomotive has large windows and seats strategically adjusted to face them for the purpose of providing riders with the best views of the coast.

The train follows along the East Coast traveling from Gangneung to Samcheok Station. Similar to the soon-to-be-open Jeongdongjin Rail Bike, while the Sea Train does indeed offer travelers an alternative way to see the coast, the overall scenery is not exactly breath-taking enough to the point where it is recommended that travelers should make a special trip to Gangwon Province solely to take this train.

A one-way trip from Gangneung to Samcheok Station takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, for only half of which one can actually see views of the ocean in between the intervals of tunnels and other local train station pit stops. Ticket prices range from 10,800 won to 15,000 won. For more information on the Sea Train or the Jeongdongjin Rail Bike, visit www.seatrain.co.kr or www.sunbike.kr, respectively.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)

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