Daegu, the Medical Metropolis

Daegu_map

Daegu, with a population of about 2.5 million people, is the fourth largest city in South Korea. Technically, it is administered separately from Gyeongsangbuk Province, but culturally/socially/geographically it’s part of Gyeongsangbuk Province.

A watercolor painting showing a cluster of tiled buildings surrounded by hills

A picture of 18th century Daegu

Daegu was designated as the capital of Gyeongsang Province in 1601, and it became a proper city around that time. Daegu became an important commercial center, and by far its most famous market was the Yangnyeongsi, which was not only the largest market of medicinal herbs in all of the Joseon kingdom, but one of the most important medicinal herb markets in East Asia, which attracted many traders from China and Japan.

Diorama from the Daegu Yangnyeongsi Museum of Oriental Medicine, depicting the 17th century Yangnyeongsi

Diorama from the Daegu Yangnyeongsi Museum of Oriental Medicine, depicting the 17th century Yangnyeongsi

The Yangnyeongsi flourished until the Japanese took over Korea. The Yangnyeongsi merchants tended to have money and be interested in funding Korean independence movements, so the Japanese suppressed the market, and eventually closed it. It reopened after Korean independence.

On the left is a Joseon woman, and on the right is a Joseon man, and they are busy drying medicinal herbs

Another diorama from the museum

Though the Yangnyeongsi is no longer in it’s original location, it is still in Daegu in a specially designated street full of sellers of traditional Korean medicine.

DSCF6127

I happened to be there when there was some kind of festival so, among other things, I got to sample fried ginseng root and get some kind of massage from a machine (while waiting for the massage, I got to sit on a chunk of pink salt, which many Koreans believe to be healthy).

For more information about the Daegu Yangnyeongsi, you can check out the website of the Daegu Yangnyeongsi Museum of Oriental Medicine

The Nakdong river passes through Daegu, which means that Daegu was on the edge of the Nakdong Defense Perimeter during the June 25th War (a.k.a. Korean war). During the first part of the war, North Korea had a much more powerful military than South Korea, which is why North Korean forces were quickly conquering South Korea. It was obvious that North Korea would conquer the entire Korean peninsula if South Korea did not receive foreign military assistance, but getting foreign assistance required time, especially since the United States had greatly reduced its military presence in Asia after WWII.

A map of the Busan Perimeter (also known as the Nakdong River Defense Line)

A map of the Busan Perimeter (also known as the Nakdong River Defense Line)

The South Korean army, with the American troops which had managed to get to South Korea relatively quickly, established the Nakdong Defense Perimeter defending the southeastern corner of the Korean peninsula (including Busan, which could receive troops and supplies by sea). This was South Korea’s last resort – if North Korea had breached the perimeter, South Korea would have surrendered.

Artillery fire near Daegu in 1950

Artillery fire near Daegu in 1950

As it so happens, the South Koreans and Americans were able to maintain the perimeter, and a North Korean ship which was deployed to attack Busan just happened to be sunk by a lucky South Korean ship. South Korea was able to hold out until large-scale assistance from the United Nations arrived. Thus Daegu and Busan are the only large Korean cities which were never controlled by North Korea.

If you want to know more, you can look up the Battle of Daegu.

I was only in Daegu for a day, so I didn’t get to know the city well. The subway system was actually useful to me, unlike the subway systems in Gwangju and Daejeon. Overall, itt seems like a typical South Korean metropolis to me.

I pulled this photo from Wikimedia, so here's the attribution: "Korea-Daegu-Palgongsan-01" by mumutia - originally posted to Flickr as palgongsan from my dorm... Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I pulled this photo from Wikimedia, so here’s the attribution: “Korea-Daegu-Palgongsan-01” by mumutia – originally posted to Flickr as palgongsan from my dorm... Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in City, Gyeongsangbuk, Joseon, Modern History, Museum and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Daegu, the Medical Metropolis

  1. Pingback: How to Name the “Korean War” | S.K. in S.K.

  2. Pingback: My Life in Gwangju | S.K. in S.K.

  3. Pingback: Trains and Intercity Transit in South Korea, Part 1 | S.K. in S.K.

  4. Pingback: Trains and Intercity Transit in South Korea, Part 2 | S.K. in S.K.

  5. Pingback: Seoul Museum of History | S.K. in S.K.

  6. Pingback: Dragon Hill Spa, Part 2 | S.K. in S.K.

  7. Pingback: SK in SK: Chronological Order | S.K. in S.K.

  8. Pingback: SK in SK: A History of South Korea | S.K. in S.K.

  9. Pingback: SK in SK: Climates of South Korea | S.K. in S.K.

  10. Pingback: SK in SK: The Landscape of Feelings | S.K. in S.K.

  11. Pingback: SK in SK: Discovery vs. Construction | S.K. in S.K.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s